Monday, May 9, 2011

Now, Pinoys Abroad Can Invest in BPI UITFs through BPI Express Online (Well, Sort of...): Part 2

This was my email to BPI Express Online right after I found out that I could not complete my investment account application online. I have also attached a screenshot of the final page of the online application process to the email (view the screen cap here.)

Seriously BPI? After all that time I spent filling out forms, you want me to print them and deliver them by hand to the nearest branch? This is what you mean when you boast that you have "the country's first full-service online investment platform" on your press releases ( You really think this really is the best way to tap overseas clients like myself? I mean, I have already verified my identity when I applied for my savings and expressonline accounts right? Is there really a need to see me in person one more time?

I maintain a personal finance blog that talks about these things. If nothing is done about this soon (like, next week), maybe I should let my readers know that your claim is false and they should not even bother filling out those forms since they would have to go their "nearest branch" to do these things anyway.

I really hope you can fix this annoying, unnecessary, and ridiculous "bug" soon, for both our sakes.

After reading this email several times over, I now feel deeply embarrassed for making that not-so-subtle threat: it just sounds so cheap and hollow. Even if I felt it was necessary and justified at that time, I know that I could have phrased my intentions and emotions better. For that, I apologize. Anyway.

This was BPI Express Online's a couple of days after (May 3).

And BPI Asset Management's email on the same day (view the screen cap here).

We appreciate your effort of raising your concern to us. You do not have to submit personally the forms. The following options are available for you:

         1. Personally hand carry the documents to the preferred branch
         2. Mail the documents to the preferred branch
         3. Send the documents to the branch via a representative

The branch needs to receive the documents so we can facilitate creation your investment account.

Please let us know should you be needing anything else regarding the matter.

Thank you.

Finally, my response, which is the final piece of this drama (view the screen cap here).

It's unfortunate that the other alternatives you have provided still involves significant costs, like cash to pay for a courier service or loss of goodwill (from a "representative" who would be so kind as to deliver documents for me from Hong Kong to Manila). I must admit that the idea of being able to finally manage my BPI accounts and avail of the bank's other services, particularly the one your division provides, with just one online platform, and remotely from anywhere in the world, made me feel more than a bit excited: I mean, finally, a Philippine bank is able to implement a bank service delivery system that is already standard in Hong Kong and many other countries.

Had you been able to roll out this system the way you made it seem in your press releases, you would have gotten a lot of business from me and many other overseas Filipinos looking for convenient and inexpensive ways of investing in the Philippines. But alas, that is not the case. So until that happens, I guess I will have to take my business elsewhere, and advise the people who ask me questions about such matters to do the same.

Thanks for the prompt replies, though. :)

As a post script, let me just say two things. First, in fairness to BPI, this inability of the platform to complete investment applications online is more a reflection of the limitations of existing banking laws in the Philippines than any fault on the bank's part. Second, BPI is the first Philippine bank to offer such a unified online banking system in the Philippines, regardless of its imperfections; whatever inconvenience its account approval processes might entail, the resulting improved efficiencies in making future transactions should more than make up for it.

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