Biz Buzz: Playing favorites? | Inquirer Business

Biz Buzz: Playing favorites?

/ 05:33 AM April 08, 2015

One of the more tedious responsibilities of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is making sure that it handles the insurance coverage of all government-owned properties.

Considering that the public sector involves virtually the entire range of the country’s goods and services, this translates to a whole array of insurance products as well—fire, property, aviation, marine, automotive, industrial all-risk, sabotage and terrorism, among others. There’s also the personal accident and liability insurance that some government employees receive as part of their package.


Given this, GSIS president and general manager Robert Vergara may be too busy improving the fiscal position and growth prospects of the pension fund to notice that one of the country’s biggest non-life insurance companies has been getting a significant share of the GSIS’ reinsurance business.

Of course, this is not a particularly alarming red flag until one considers that one ranking GSIS official just happens to be a former top executive of an insurer that’s been raking a lot of contracts.


During the previous administration, this insurance firm supposedly used the same “inside man” modus operandi. But when President Aquino took over, their man at the GSIS promptly returned to the mother company.

Naturally, other insurance companies are crying “conflict of interest” in this set-up involving the insider. There are even whispers that the GSIS official is unusually severe when it comes to claims, denying them on various technicalities.

Of course, this allows his former employer to maximize profits by keeping premium payments intact. Even reinsurance premiums are allegedly not remitted, resulting in a truly lucrative endeavor.

The question now is: How can the public be sure that GSIS is getting the best service for its stakeholders’ money? Daxim L. Lucas


TWO YEARS after heading Citi’s business in the Philippines, Batara Sianturi is returning to his home country as Citi’s country chief for Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest market.

Batara, a homegrown Citibanker, will report to Michael Zink, head of Citi’s Southeast Asian business and Citi Country Officer (CCO) for Singapore. This will be Batara’s third country officer and country head appointment in his nearly three-decade international career with Citi.


Batara serves as CCO for the Philippines as well as cluster head for the Philippines and Guam. Prior to his current role in the Philippines, he was CCO for Hungary as well as cluster head for 12 other countries in Central-Eastern Europe.

Zink said in a statement issued in Jakarta: “We are delighted to appoint Batara, a 27-year Citi veteran, as CCO for Indonesia. He is really coming home, with a wealth of global banking experience to lead our very important franchise in the Asean region. The appointment of a senior Citibanker in Batara to lead our business in Indonesia signals the priority we place in a market where we plan to invest and grow in the years to come.”

Batara’s appointment will be effective after regulatory approvals were obtained. The next question is: Who will be Citi’s successor in the Philippines? Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Recycled mobile numbers

WE THOUGHT we heard it all as far as complaints go against our telco providers.

This one is quite interesting as it deals with an often overlooked aspect of the business—the recycling of cell phone numbers when accounts are closed.

Apparently this is a standard and routine practice, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Except nowadays, with the popularity of messaging platforms like Viber, Facebook Messenger and so many others, your number is basically your identity when registering.

Before we continue, we should stress that problems like these are in the minority but when they do happen, boy, do they make subscribers angry.

The complaints—mainly from postpaid subscribers—usually go the same way: A subscriber is issued a new SIM card but the mobile number turns out to be a hand-me-down linked to the previous owner.

They are, thus, prevented from registering with their over-the-top messaging platform of choice, which limits the utility of their mobile phone.

One situation involved a father securing a postpaid line for his daughter just two months after he closed the account.

He was denied his old number and was issued a new one. So when this problem arose, he told Biz Buzz he had sought a totally brand new number but was informed this was a special request like a vanity number and he would have to pay a few thousand pesos.

So who should shoulder the blame? Should messaging platforms also be more aware of the status of their users, for example? Or should there be closer coordination between telco firms and these over-the-top players?

One telco told us the complaining party merely has to get in touch with them and the error can be rectified. But based on this father’s experience, that might not happen as fast as one can hope.

In any case, one particular telco might have erred since the standard time before reissuing a SIM card was at least six months, way longer than the time given to the father we spoke to.

So which telco was it? We’d like to keep this a blind item so we’ll just leave you with a clue. It was the leader in postpaid in 2014. Oh wait, didn’t they both claim that title? Miguel R. Camus

FED play 2

NOT TOO long after a group of mass housing developers took an interest in this dormant company, Federal Resources Investment Group Inc. (FED) is widely expected to be flipped to a local logistics company that has long wanted to debut on the local bourse.

Backdoor-listing candidate LBC Express Inc. currently holds bulk of all the daily cargo space allocation of carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. It was the first to introduce 24-hour air service delivery in the country. In terms of distribution capability, it has more than a thousand branches in the Philippines and about 60 branches in the United States, Canada and a host of other smaller countries.

LBC Express had earlier wanted to embark on an initial public offering but was sidelined by the woes of an affiliate bank, which was shut down by banking regulators. LBC Express now strives to stand on its own merits and is pitching a logistics play to the local market. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert)

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TAGS: Batara Sianturi, Citi, Fed, Federal Resources Investment Group Inc., Government Service Insurance System, GSIS, Insurance, LBC, Robert Vergara
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