The United Kingdom has found a trusted teammate—the Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad in an interview with Inquirer said, “When you talk about the BPO industry in the Philippines, we can’t think of anything better than what we are running here.” Ahmad likened the UK BPO center in Manila to a “hospital pass”. “It comes from the game rugby. If you see a big opponent coming near you, you pass the ball to a teammate,” he said.
UK’s own BPO center in its embassy in the Philippines, the first to be run by a diplomatic office, handles the key office transactions for the British government’s offices in almost half of the world. The Shared Service Center in the British Embassy, run by a 50-member team, has taken over all the financial processing and purchasing among other government-related operations the UK cannot handle alone and is serving 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia.
2.3 million pounds in savings
Since the first BPO hub for the UK’ s foreign offices was set up in the Philippines two years ago, the British government saved roughly 2.3 million pounds (P192 million).
Trevor Lewis, British Deputy Ambassador to the Philippines, said the primary reason for setting up its BPO hub in Manila was to reduce overhead costs and improve efficiency in all office systems. “It is about money to a certain extent and then it is also about the efficiency of services.”
Pioneer in Manila
Lewis said the UK was the first foreign office in the Philippines to outsource jobs to Manila. “It’s the first time we have done this. It has been two years [since] we started the whole process for the Asia-Pacific and it turned out to be a success. That is why we are expanding and taking over other countries.”
Currently, the British Embassy’s BPO center team consists of 47 Filipinos and three British nationals. To allow an expansion that will take over office work that is not geographically specific in 12 more countries by the end of the year, the center intends to hire 20 more people by September.
Catherine Day, regional corporate services director for the Asia-Pacific Regional Corporate Services of the UK foreign office, said that in the two years that the center has been operating, it barely suffered setbacks and resistance from UK diplomatic posts in other countries because of the efficiency of its team.
The Philippine advantage
With an annual revenue of $5.7 billion and an industry population of 600,000, larger than the Indian BPO sector, the Philippines overtook India in 2010 as the No. 1 business outsourcing center in the world.
The UK sent all the workload that the British office could not handle to the Philippines. Even some of the operations in the British Embassy in India, a global leader in the outsourcing industry, have started to be done in the center in Taguig. Ahmad said that the full financial processing transactions in India would be absorbed by the Philippine team in May.
The UK takes pride in the satisfactory results of the center. There is less chaos in the systems today. Lewis said that before the new setup, British embassies and diplomatic posts in different countries were “doing things their own way.” He added, “There was no standardized processing. Now we have been able to standardize the systems we are using. And this has been giving us savings as an organization.”
The UK looked at other Asian cities, but chose Manila for the BPO center. “The reason Manila was chosen was because of its big BPO industry. It has a good reputation and the Philippines has overtaken India in terms of the number of people employed in this industry,” Day said. Apart from the competitive labor rates in the Philippines, the UK banked on the country’s “good, skilled workforce” made up of English speakers, she said.
Growing interest of other foreign governments
Because of its success, Lewis said that some foreign government officials had been visiting the UK BPO center to see how it worked. “Quite a few embassies are interested in moving here in Manila,” he said. Lewis noted that mainly due to the success of their UK BPO hub, more foreign offices in Manila are following suit.
The British Embassy doesn’t consider the typhoons and flooding problems in Manila as a downside. “Even if there were floods in Manila in the last two years, we were able to keep the operations running. Actually, there was no major downside. Even in the UK, we have snow that affects the people’s ability to go to work,” Day said.
As a BPO company based in Manila, transcosmos takes pride in the growth and the success of the Philippine BPO and honored to be part of this industry.