Second biggest US bank opens BPO hub in PH

In a symbolic rejection of an anti-outsourcing bill currently pending in US Congress, Wells Fargo and Co., the second largest American bank in deposits, home mortgage servicing, and debit cards, has started to relegate some of its non-core, business support activities to the Philippines.

“We welcome Wells Fargo’s launch of an in-house business support center in Manila, following the footsteps of JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.,” said former Sen. Ernesto Herrera, president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

“We are counting on Wells Fargo’s new center to help provide gainful employment to our college-educated, fluent English-speaking professionals, many of whom remain idle,” said Herrera.

The establishment of Wells Fargo Philippines Solutions Inc. has reinforced Manila’s reputation as an exceptional global hub for labor-intensive and information technology-enabled outsourcing services, Herrera said.

The TUCP’s new members include Voice, a labor federation of contact center employees.

The country’s booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which fully employs some 630,000 Filipinos, produced $11 billion in revenues in 2011.

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines sees industry revenues jumping 18 percent to $13 billion this year.

Based on the projected incremental revenues of $2 billion, Herrera said the industry could create around 126,000 new jobs this year.

Wells Fargo’s new Philippine center deals with a variety of functions, including customer service and back office support.

The American bank’s decision to shift more jobs offshore comes amid worries in the Philippines over a US anti-outsourcing bill.

The proposed US Call Center and Consumer Protection Act, introduced by New York Rep. Tim Bishop, would require the US Department of Labor to track firms that shift contact center jobs overseas.

The firms would then be ineligible for any direct or indirect US federal loans or loan guarantees for five years. The bill would also require contact center staff to disclose their location to US consumers, who would be given the right to be routed to a US-based call hub upon request.

Herrera, however, does not expect the US Congress to pass the bill, which he said is being opposed by American corporations that are benefiting from outsourcing.

Founded in 1929, San Francisco, California-based Wells Fargo is one of the so-called Big Four US banks regarded as “too big to fail” at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis. The three others are Bank of America Corp., Citigroup, and JP Morgan.

JP Morgan and Citigroup have long-existing in-house back offices in Manila through JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A. Philippine Customer Care Center and Citigroup Business Process Solutions.

Although Bank of America does not yet have in-house back offices here, Herrera said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender is known to have outsourced some of its customer support activities to an independent BPO provider with extensive Philippine operations.

Wells Fargo is emerging from the financial crisis with a bigger franchise, after it acquired rival banking giant Wachovia Corp., which had been weakened by mounting bad loans.

A highly diversified financial services company with over 80 different business lines, Wells Fargo has 6,335 branches, 12,094 ATMs, 70 million customers, and 264,000 employees.