Thursday, 11 October 2012

FOCUS: In PNG, Western Union is trying to attract Pinoy expats


IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA, particularly in Port Moresby where I reside, Western Union continues to lose big business from the Pinoy community, not over anything anomalous but over some conveniences the company can’t provide.

In my recent talk with Philippine Ambassador to PNG Bienvenido Tejano, he told me that there are about 15,000 Pinoys in the country, with a thousand or more coming in to work in the LNG and fisheries projects.

This sheer number is a big source of remittance business as far as Western Union here is concerned.
But, funny it continued to miss out.

Right now, there are three modes of sending money to the Philippines from here – through the bank-to-bank transaction, Western Union and the two Filipino-operated remittance outfits here – the Peso Padala Ltd and the YES (Your Express Service) Ltd.

Pinoys have shunned the bank services for its outrageous service charge of K50 (50 kina), which is about Php960. 

Now, when the money enters the beneficiary’s bank in the Philippines, another amount as service fee is removed from the remittance. And it takes a few days for the money to be credited as it is allegedly being transacted first in the money market by the bank.

Western Union charges K25 (Php480) on amount from K0.00 to K1,499.00 From K1,500 and above, the charges go up to three to four graduated rates. The company uses Bank South Pacific (BSP) and Post PNG (the government-owned postal services) for its outlets.

As far as Peso Padala and YES are concerned, one can send from K0.00 to K10,000 or more and pay only K20 on remittances to Metro Manila and K25 outside this area (provinces). The prevailing exchange rate these days is one kina = P19.20, or the day’s kina-peso rate set by ANZ bank.

These two Pinoy remittance services have tie-ups with Banco de Oro (BDO), Philippine National Bank (PNB) and pawnshop chain Lhuiller, the dominant remittance outlets in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.

If the beneficiary has a BDO or PNB account, the money will be credited on his/her account (as well as ATMs) on the same day without any deduction or service fee. 

If he has no bank account, he could pick it up from the nearest BDO branch (or any branch across the country which is online) by 3pm that same day. All he got to do is present two IDs and the claim number.

Money is received during the day for as long as it is sent before 11am (9am, Manila time). The recipient could claim the money at any Banco de Oro counters (as long as it is online) and ATMs beginning 3pm until the bank closes for the day.

Puzzled why it cannot make good business with the Pinoy community, Western Union (Pacific and Oceana) headquarters in Sydney, Australia, recently sent a representative to Port Moresby to talk to me.

I happened to have an important contact at Western Union -- South and East Asia operations based in Kuala Lumpur, who suggested to Western Union --Pacific and Oceana ops based in Sydney that I could give some insights, being an old timer in Port Moresby.

Meeting the Western Union rep, I explained to him that the families of PNG Pinoys are actually not in a hurry to get their money. 

They would want it (the money) just to sit in their bank accounts and withdraw it later. 

It’s common impression that you send through Western Union because you want the money received by your family within one minute after sending it.

And pay high Western Union service charge.

The PNG Pinoys being that “kuripot” would opt to use Peso Padala and Yes Ltd for its cheaper rate. Anyway, the money would be available by 3pm Manila time. So why hurry sending it?

Precisely, Western Union wanted to know how they can get business from the Pinoys here.

I told the representative how:

1) Lower their service fee of K25 to a flat rate of K20 (for Metro Manila transactions) and K25 for provincial transactions, for an unlimited amount of remittance;

2) Increase their conversion rate. At present WU has its own rate whose peso conversion is always P1 or more -- lower than the two Pinoy agencies’ exchange rate (for instance, if Western Union rate is Php18, the Pinoy outlets uniformly pays P19 or more for every K1;

3) The Pinoy remittance offices give a credit line of at least four days towards pay day. Meaning, an old timer, or one who has established goodwill with Peso Padala and YES Ltd, could send money on “utang muna” basis (I will pay pagsahod ko sa Friday). 

Can Western Union beat that?

4) At Western Union-BSP, a Pinoy has to fall in line, thus wasting at least 30 minutes to an hour before he could reach the window. 

With the two Pinoy outlets, one has to pickup the phone at home or workplace, call any one of the two Pinoy outlets and tell the counter you want to send this amount. 

If you have the cash, they will pick it up at your workplace. Or you could pay later – maybe tomorrow or a day after tomorrow. Or on payday, which is coming in three or four days from the day you sent the money.

Immediately, the money is sent just before 11am, and becomes available by afternoon.

In most cases, a Pinoy here has no time to go to the bank to waste 30 minutes to one hour of waiting in line. He got only one-hour lunch break to do his remittance. The BSP Western Union outlets are close on weekends.

5) The two Pinoy outlets have collectors. They would pick up the payment for the remittances at the Pinoy’s workplace to save him troubles of coming to the remittance agency.

Likewise, Peso Padala and YES Ltd send staff to meet newly-arrived Pinoys at the Jackson International airport. 

These days, there are at least four flights from Manila every week, arriving at about 5am. 

Here, the new faces (bagong saltang Pinoy) are met by the remittance staff to give them fliers about their services and the staff’s business cards.

Dito pa lang huli na nila ang kliyente.

Most of the arrivals during the past five years numbering by the thousands are workers for the LNG and fisheries projects. Hundreds must have gone home by now after their contract, but hundred new ones continue to arrive with the four weekly flights from Manila and Cebu City.

Since Western Union talked to me last month, it has not come back. 

Maybe, it is trying hard to figure out how to neutralize the two Pinoy remittance services.

Maileen Sulibit, Yes-PNG operations manager told me a few days ago when I chanced on her at the supermarket, as her reaction to Western Union’s attempt to attract the PNG Pinoys: 

“Nagtrabaho ako for YES sa ibang bansa where there are expat Filipinos, pero hindi magawa ng Western Union ang mga gimmick namin …”

Bakit kaya?

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