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Biz Buzz: It’s more fun in PH, especially for the rich

/ 12:19 AM November 16, 2015

It’s more fun in PH, especially for the rich

THE ECONOMIC expansion and political stability under President Aquino’s term means high net worth individuals (those with liquid investments of $1 million or more) will see their wealth double from $60 billion in 2010 to $121.6 billion by the end of the President’s term in 2016, Swiss private bank Julius Baer said.

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Biz Buzz obtained the bank’s latest Asia Wealth Report, now on its fifth series, which also projected that the richest in the country would see their fortunes soar to almost

$197 billion by 2020.

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Not bad compared to many of our bank accounts here, though still pale in comparison to others in the region, like China’s richest, who will amass $8.25 trillion by 2020.

Manila, meanwhile, is a haven for certain bargain luxury goods, based on the Julius Baer Lifestyle index. That’s basically a basket of services and items that wealthy individuals buy, like jewelry, luxury cars, tailored clothing and high-end property. Think of the index like inflation—but only for the wealthy.

Apparently, even the moneyed set think about finding bargains and if it’s erasing years from your face or adding watts to your smile, Manila versus most other Asian cities is the place to go.

Botox treatments here cost about $153 versus the other end of the spectrum, Shanghai, where they cost $1,293. A dental implant here would set you back $1,120 versus $4,893 in Tokyo.

James Bond is a dapper fellow, and in Manila you can look like him for less. Baer said an Armani suit here is the most inexpensive at $1,256, well below the regional average and the top tier, which is Shanghai, at $3,878. Jewelry is also relatively inexpensive at about $32,475 against $523,136 on average in Bangkok.

There are things to avoid for the budget conscious millionaire or billionaire. High-end wine is the most expensive here at $3,405—best to head over to Seoul where you would “only” spend $1,685 for a comparable experience. The same goes for pianos and cars.

“People can live a life of luxury for less in the Philippines than many places in Asia except Mumbai and Jakarta,” Baer said.

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Now, if only they would fix the traffic. Miguel R. Camus

The ‘ex-future BSP governor’

BANKING circles—specifically the tightly knit circle of treasury professionals—were caught off guard by rumors in recent days that one of the most important up-and-coming officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) had quit his job.

We’re talking about BSP Deputy Director Alphew Cheng, head of the monetary authority’s Investment Risk and Analytics Group under its treasury department. His title basically means he’s the brain behind the moves the central bank makes in financial markets to keep foreign exchange rates (specifically the peso-dollar rate) and interest rates stable.

How important is he to the institution? Not too long ago, the BSP leadership discreetly put word out to the banking community at large to not even think about poaching the talented Cheng, who is only in his early forties. Of course, banks pirate talents from the central bank’s treasury department every now and then, but no less than Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. ordered the financial community to stay away from trying to tempt away the in-house whiz kid this time around.

This is because Cheng was one of those BSP talents identified early on by the top brass as having the potential to go “all the way to the top,” according to our sources. So valuable was Cheng that he was seconded to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just a few years ago to serve a tour of duty with the multilateral funding institution, becoming the youngest Filipino to be sent on a two-year stint in Washington D.C.

Cheng joined the BSP in 1996 and served as chief reserve management officer in its treasury department prior to his IMF stint. “He headed reserve management front office operations, assisted in overseeing the domestic market and foreign exchange operations and participated in various meetings and committees on reserve management, monetary policy, financial markets, risk management,” his BSP profile read.

And more importantly, the institution invested heavily in him, helping him get masteral degrees in Economic Policy Management and Computational Finance from Columbia University in New York and De La Salle University.

And in the banking community, they know that only the most elite group of central bankers get sent to Washington where they get to meet fellow central bank rising stars from around the world.

In fact, we’re told that his central bank path was being closely engineered to mimic that of another former rising star who now runs the institution—Tetangco himself.

“He’s the ‘niño bonito’ of the BSP top brass and we all know it,” said one ranking banker. “So it’s shocking to all of us that he quit so abruptly.”

Why? Well, various sources from in and outside the BSP say that Cheng’s sudden resignation was due to an internal feud with one of his superiors, which started as a small irritant then grew until the situation became “untenable” and “unbearable” for him.

“Some superiors were getting upset that he had a direct line to Tetangco and that the BSP chief tended to value his counsel more than the others,” said one source familiar with the situation. “Naturally, his other superiors would make life difficult for him so he left.”

In any case, Cheng is young and talented and would make a great asset to any bank who would make use of his talents. The only problem is… what bank would hire him and risk upsetting the BSP superiors he fled from? Daxim L. Lucas

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: Aquino administration, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Business, economy, Edsa traffic, News
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