Ortus Round Table: The New Administration and the Philippine’s BPO Sector

by OrtusClub on 22nd November 2016

The BPO sector contributes a staggering 17% to the country’s national GDP, 77% of which is from US companies alone. However, today the sector’s future is uncertain. This is due to the highly debated new administration, both in the Philippines and the US, and the impact it’s going to have on outsourcing operations. President Duterte surged to power 4 months ago but has remained strangely apathetic to the sector, especially considering its importance to the national economy. His war on drugs has left many foreign investors concerned about safety and stability. At the same time, the recent election of Donald Trump, with his strong views on “giving jobs back to Americans” and promises of imposing higher tariffs, has created concerns.

In light of recent changes in world politics, Ortus Club brought together leaders of the BPO industry to share their views and opinions on recent developments and what it means for the Philippines. In this brief article, we have taken the liberty to present some of the most interesting and prominent themes and ideas that came out of the discussion.

Due to the sensitivity of what was being discussed, Ortus Club has had to remove all mention of names from this article. Please note that any opinion shared here does not reflect the opinions of The Ortus Club or any of its employees.

 

“Now more than ever, clients need to be reassured with clear plans”

Many at the table talked of the increasing demand for reassuring back-up strategies and detailed relocation plans to countries such as Columbia or South Africa should the situation escalate. Priority by members was being put on reassuring and having open conversations with all clients in the wait for the situation to stabilize or become more transparent.

“We must improve the Philippines’ image abroad”

There was increasing concern in the way the Philippines is being portrayed by international media. One country manager remarked, “the media’s depiction of the troubles in the Philippines has created genuine concerns for our client base. People abroad are completely out of touch with what is truly happening on the ground here and it is doing us no favours.” When a brand outsources to the Philippines, the country consequently represents their firm and any bad press reflects negatively on their operations. One of the firms shared that they publish a good piece of news about the Philippines every week as an attempt to soothe the country’s image.

 

“We need more statements coming from both government and associations”

The sector was eager to hear official statements on the BPO sector from the president. However, last week, a very short and generic statement was shared at the international outsourcing summit. This was taken by many BPO leaders as a signal to stop knocking on the president’s door and start focusing on coming together as an industry to take charge of official communication. One of the participants shared the frustration: “I can only do so much to reassure my clients. But, at the end of the day, how can I convince them if I don’t know what is really going to happen myself. I am not sure what the administration is thinking or what they are planning to do. It is all a complete mystery, a black box.” Many of the members are relying on business associations such as the IBPAP and respective chambers of commerce to help open the dialogue and release more official statements. A couple of members at the table shared that there was a session arranged for an open dialogue between industry leaders and the President, however he failed to show up.

 

“We can be worried today, but we won’t be tomorrow”

Despite many of these concerns, nearly all members in the room were confident in the future of the BPO sector in the Philippines. Many were quietly confident that business will continue as usual because “change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” America’s upcoming protectionist policies, ironically resulted in increased sales for one of the firms at the table. It was agreed that the economics for outsourcing in the Philippines will continue to make sense and trump politics. “A lot of us have been specializing in investigative research for public companies and the introduction of new regulations will produce more demand for outsourcing the research this way” said one of the guests.

The Iris Dinner discussion was held on the 16th of November at the Blackbird restaurant in Makati, Manila. The hosts were KMC Savills and it was organised by Ortus. To participate in one of our upcoming dinner discussion or host a discussion for your target audience, please do get in touch!

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