Saturday, July 3, 2010

"First Country Bank" Part 1: A Closer Look


Dear Investor Juan,

What do you think of the 5 years time deposit, 10% interest tax-free offer of First Country Bank. You can check out their website at



Hi Henry!

Wow, that's a very good offer. It beats all available time deposit rates of all commercial banks, and even yields on similarly-tenored bonds, hands down. At first glance, the offer looks too good to be true; so good, in fact, that it deserves a second, closer look.

A Closer Look

This is the first time I've heard of "First Country Bank," so before we discuss "what I think" of the offer, I have to check out the website first:

Wow. It looks nice, doesn't it? It has a familiar and homey feel to it... something one feels when one looks at a blog site... Maybe, just maybe, that's just exactly what it is!

If you take a look at the upper-right hand corner of the image, you'll see a WordPress search bar, which should be enough evidence that it is a blog. If you want further evidence, take a look at the bottom of the page and you'll see another reference to WordPress (that Ocean Mist theme looks mighty crisp, though ;)).

But if you want unassailable evidence that what we have here is a blog masquerading as a commercial site, try googling "First Country Bank" and the top result you'll see is

Okay, now that we have already established that, so what? It does not necessarily mean that the bank is a fraud, does it? Well, no, of course not. It can mean any one of several things, like maybe the bank's just trying to control its marketing and advertising spending. But whatever the reason, First Country would do well to come up with a more professional-looking website, especially if that website is the bank's primary means of introduction to its potential customers.

On the "About Us" page of the website, we see that the bank's primary thrust is to be "a catalyst in uplifting the lives of the unsung heroes of our country" by providing "relevant and innovative financial services to underserved niche markets at a fair return to [the bank's] shareholders and depositors." Well, that sounds noble, and doable enough. We also see that the bank plans to provide these "fair" returns through microfinancing, or as I understand it, by lending money to individuals or small businesses without collateral.

We also see the bank's board of directors, accomplished individuals, all, with very respectable resumes. Unfortunately, I'm not really familiar with any of them. I tried googling the names, but apart from finding out that some of them have active Facebook accounts, not much else came out of doing that.

So moving on, let's now take a closer look at the offer:


So this is what Henry was talking about: 10% per year, 100,000 pesos minimum deposit required, tax-exempt for 5 years, and even covered by PDIC! Which basically means if you deposit 100,000 now, you'll get around 160,000 after only five years! Now that's un-fucking-believable!

And even if you can't afford a five-year investment horizon, the bank has several other alternatives that are almost as attractive:

Again, these rates and terms are.. just... AWESOME.

Unfortunately, there remains this persistent, nagging feeling that things can't be as easy and simple as this; I still believe there's no such thing as a free lunch, which is precisely what this offer is being advertised as. So before you whip out your wallets and start running to Ortigas to open an account (I'm looking at you, Sam), let's delve deeper and try to find out as much as we can about "First Country Bank."

Click here for Part 2: A Deeper Look 
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