OpinYon Back-Page Stories: I-Remit Makes OFWs Lives Easier

By James Veloso

AS HARD as it is for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to earn their money, it is even harder for them to ensure that their hard earned money is being managed effectively– both for themselves and especially for their relatives back home.

“You can imagine, they work hard abroad, and when they come back, they have nothing,” Bansan Choa, the current CEO of I-Remit Inc., once said. The reason: unscrupulous individuals and groups who would cheat on OFWs and their relatives through various forms and schemes including among others lost or stolen remittances.

That’s what I-Remit wants to change. From its humble beginnings in 2001, I-Remit Inc. – currently billing itself as the largest non-bank Filipino-owned remittance company – has gone a long way in easing up the lives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

FAMILY BUSINESS

I-Remit, founded in 2001, is just one of the many holdings owned and/or operated by business magnate Ben C. Tiu.

Prior to starting his business career, Ben Tiu earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from Loyola Marymount University, USA, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Ben first became active in the family business – the JTKC Group of Companies – in 1981, under the tutelage of his father, John Tiu Ka Cho.

FROM HARDWARE TO A CONGLOMERATE

The elder Tiu had built up the family business from a single hardware store in Manila, founded in 1947, to a diversified conglomerate engaged in the manufacture of steel products, chemicals and plastics.

By the time Ben (with his brothers) took over the family businesses after John Tiu’s death in 1987, the JTKC Group of Companies had expanded into real estate, with a string of apartment complexes in Metro Manila.

The real estate arm of the JTKC Group of Companies further grew with the birth of the Discovery Suites hotel chain in Metro Manila, Tagaytay, and Boracay.

Ben Tiu is currently the Chairman of JTKC Equities, Inc. and Union Pacific Ace Industries, Inc. He is also the Chairman of the Discovery Suites Hotel, The Country Suites and Discovery Shores. He is also the Executive Vice President of Hotel System Asia, Inc., JTKC Realities Corporation and Treasurer of Aldex Realty Corporation, Inc. and TERA Investments, Inc., Chairman and CEO of TKC Metal.

ONE STEP FURTHER

In 2001, the JTKC Group of companies took a step further and diversified itself into banking and finance with the incorporation of I-Remit Inc.

In an interview with the Manila Times, Choa related that the remittance company was founded after Ben Tiu, who was one of his business partners saw the plight of OFWs converging in the same building where their offices were located. Ben also served as I-Remit’s CEO until 2004.

Since then, I-Remit has revolutionized the remittance industry by employing the latest in IT technology and utilizing the Internet platform making it possible to cut down the usual remittance period to only seconds. The nationwide coverage of I-Remit's iDelivery (Door-to-Door) remittance mode reaches more beneficiaries than other remittance companies with an area spanning 17 regions, 80 provinces and 138 cities and municipalities in the country.

The iNotify (Remittance Pick-up) is an alternative service mode where beneficiaries in the Philippines can claim remittances from any of I-Remit's more than 17,000 designated pick-up centers nationwide within 24 hours after receipt of the remittance from the its foreign offices.

I-Remit also opened new remittance corridors by introducing iNotify Foreign, a method of remittance from one country to another. Both Filipinos and non-Filipinos abroad can remit money from their country of origin to selected countries where the designated beneficiaries can pick-up the proceeds from an I-Remit office.

Going back to Tiu, he is also the founder and Vice Chairman of International Exchange Bank (IBank)

GLOBAL PLAYER

It has taken another major step in its drive to be a global player in June 2012, when I-Remit sealed a strategic partnership with Bank Internasional Indonesia that will allow remittances from Indonesian workers since it is poised to be a major player in the global labor export market.

Earlier in 2008, I-Remit also forged a similar partnership with the Bank of China to service the remittance needs of overseas Chinese in Europe.

Aside from physical expansion into different national territories, I-Remit has also embarked on using innovative technology to allow its customers to utilize alternative remittance channels that allow easier and faster fulfillment of remittance transactions.

TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS

During the same year, I-Remit introduced another innovation called iDOL, which stands for I-Remit Direct Online, an online remittance facility that seeks to complement the company’s brick-and-mortar outlets and allow customers to conduct remittance transactions through the use of any Internet-enabled device.

iDOL was initially launched in Canada, where using the Internet for sending money has proven to be a huge convenience to its large migrant population owing to the nation’s vast territorial expanse and seasonal extremes. I-Remit also aims to introduce the new remittance platform to Filipinos in other countries that has large Filipino communities.

I-Remit currently maintains its presence in 26 countries and territories throughout the world through its network more than 1,400 remittance outlets consisting of subsidiaries, joint ventures, strategic partnerships, and tie-ups.

Also, through IRemit health concerns of OFWs and their relatives are now easier to address since payments on services rendered by medical institutions can now be settled with just a click of a finger.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS

In 2004, IRemit was cited by the Asian Development Bank as a significant non-bank player in the remittance industry and its I-Remit Visa Card was regarded as an innovation.

It is the fastest remittance service mode that features real-time crediting of remittances from abroad. It enables both senders and beneficiaries to easily withdraw cash from more than 14,000 BancNet, Megalink and Expressnet ATMs in the Philippines.

It also provides global access to over 2,000,000 Visa ATMs in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

In 2007, it became the first publicly-listed remittance company through its successful initial public offering in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

It has about a 7.0 percent share of remittance inflows into the country.

I-Remit was named the 2011 Most Innovative Company by Asia CEO for having revolutionized the local remittance business by being the first to utilize the Internet platform in providing remittance services.

*****

Note:  In the previous version of this article, the photo of  Mr. Ruben Tiu was mistakenly used instead of the photo of his brother Mr. Ben Tiu who is the true subjec.t. To correct the mix-up we are now publishing the photo of Mr. Ben Tiu. (The Editors)

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