By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
Financial literacy is one challenge in a developing economy. In the Philippines where there are lots of Filipinos working abroad, financial education should be a must.
OFW Filip “Floi” C. Wycoco has embraced this advocacy and founded The Global Filipino Investors Inc. (TGFI) to pursue his goal of making Filipinos, particularly OFWs, become savers and investors.
TGFI is a subsidiary of Januarius Holdings, Inc., a company owned by businessman JJ Atencio although it was the first kind of a project JJ ventured into.
Floi explained that TGFI started as a community of people who love to share ideas on entrepreneurial successes and tips on how to become one. OFWs are interested in financial education, too. They would like to ensure that their hard-earned money does not go to waste but lack the knowledge how to manage their resources and how to invest wisely.
So, TGFI focuses on financial education, teaching Filipinos how to save and invest initially tapping the social media.
“Then we figured that we were already getting bigger and with bigger impact as we cater to events focusing on financial education like investing in the stock market, mutual funds, and other investment opportunities in the Philippines,” says Floi. So, they started to formalize into a corporation with the objective of teaching financial literacy to Filipinos, particularly the OFWs.
Aside from conducting big conferences, TGFI is also doing small coffee talks of a group of 20-50 people across the globe via the social media platform. TGFI offers free basic seminars on investing, but the modules on stock market with advanced formal and learning the fundaments of different companies already come with a fee.
“We are earning money through our events and ticket sales,” says Floi. But they also earn from their online digital version of the conferences.
“Since lots of our members are OFWs, we conduct virtual conferences in the office with a set of speakers,” he adds. OFWs can subscribe to any of these modules for a fee starting ₱3,000 to ₱4,000 per subscription for webinar.
“We make this financial literacy advocacy as affordable as possible because our goal is to make people realize that they have to invest their earnings so they have to learn these investment tools,” he adds.
Slowly, TGFI has realized that some OFWs have started opening their accounts online for stock market investing.
“We also accredit companies to avoid scams. This way, OFWs have a selection of investments to choose from,” says Floi.
Their FB Page has already one million reach in one week and its marketing arm is spending to reach out to more Filipinos. The FB Page is where people interact. Since, they have a big following already it would be easy for the company to launch an event. “We have a big community waiting to participate in these events,” he adds.
“The more advanced OFW community is Singapore,” says Floi. This could be because they are closer to the Philippines and more advanced in their understanding of the companies in the country.
“OFWs in Singapore are more open to venture in companies even if these are just startups or SMEs,” says Floi as he estimated at least P100 million in funds have been invested by Filipinos in Singapore in local companies engaged in agriculture and construction. Floi also noted that OFWs in Singapore that are actively investing in the Philippines are computer engineers and architects, who are paid well.
OFWs from Saudi Arabia are just starting,” says Floi noting they are still in the basic mutual funds. Those in UAE are somewhere in the middle. They are investing in franchises. They pool their resources and form 19 incorporators for one outlet of Potato Corner.
“It depends on geographic location,” he says.
OFWs in Europe and even in the US are somewhat difficult because it is very expensive to go there. So, they are reaching out via webinars. But, Floi noted that real estate companies are targeting these markets. As such, they have also accredited real estate firms. TGFI is also aggressively marketing their webinars to these markets.
“We are letting them realize the webinar is the next thing, there is no need for them to spend anymore on going home, they just have to subscribe for a webinar and watch it anytime at their convenience,” he adds.
“As long as they have the Internet connection, they can log on to tgfiph.com,” he adds.
“In terms of our social media presence, we are doing okay in our performance, we have a reach of 1 million per week,” says Floi noting they are gaining more traction in actual conferences and events but the webinars need more marketing campaigns.
Floi, himself, has conducted and organized finance and business motivational seminars and events in different colleges and universities in the Philippines and headed more than 100 TGFI financial seminars in Singapore, Dubai, Cebu, Qatar, Brunei, Hong Kong, Cagayan De Oro, UK, and the Philippines. There are now a total of 27 existing TGFI communities all over the world.
Based on their survey, 30 percent of their around 10,000 members are already investing in the stock market, 40 percent in insurance, 20 percent in mutual funds and 5 percent in other alternative investments. Their investors range from 25-47 years old.
Floi attributed its growing number of followers to its more layman content. “Investment can be a boring topic, but we’re doing that in the local language Tagalog so people realize it is not boring,” he adds.
They also do field interviews to feature success stories.
What is encouraging is that TGFI has grown organically. In 2018, they hit 500,000 followers and another 500,000 in 2019. In terms of revenue, the company targets a conservative P20 million or 20-30 percent growth versus 2019.
“We are doing break-even but were targeting an ROI this year and net income by next year,” he adds.
Of course, the journey was not a bed of roses. There were lots of stresses and even to the point of Floi almost giving it up, but JJ continues his support financially and morally.
The next ‘Literacy Summit’ this April at SMX Aura is expected to be another hit by TGFI where they have lined up powerful and influential speakers giving would be entrepreneurs business tips and much needed encouragement. They are targeting 3,000 attendees for the 2-day event or 50 percent more than last year.
“I want to contribute something, something good to help my countrymen have a better life. The way we see it, a lot of us are still suffering from poverty. We want to have a more financially educated next generation,” he said.
“The challenge really is to go big time on financial literacy because the culture among Filipinos is not geared towards investments but expenditures and watching telenovelas that portray the rich as villains, which is wrong.”
Everybody wants to have money but the learning process is not inculcated in our educational system, financial education is not part of it. “I am not saying that our educational system is wrong, but it is a challenge,” he adds.
In Singapore, they already teach kids as early as five years old the value of money. A lot of them are not wealthy but they are not poor, they can survive regardless of how because they are taught to survive in a competent and competitive society.
This is one reason that TGFI is now figuring out of giving additional service to its community members. TGFI is now redeveloping its investment platform to allow OFWs, which account for 50 percent of its members to create a wallet that they can send money for their investments.
“The goal is to launch this online wallet feature by April this year. It will be called TGFI Pay,” says Floi. With a new incoming partner, their platform would have a payment capability feature already.
Floi also sees the challenge faced Filipinos with investment scams victimizing hapless individuals. So, there is demand for this kind of advocacy to guide Filipinos and bring financial literacy to the fore through the social media.
While others are holding actual financial literacy events, TGFI combines the actual event and online webinars so subscribers can also watch at their most convenient time.
The challenge though with webinars, he said, is that lots of Filipinos are not yet that open to this new way of learning, the digital way. Still, people would like to go to the actual conference because aside from the learnings, they have the opportunity to see and know the person they patronize and follow a lot of times.
To attract these people to attend their actual seminars and webinars, they would feature movie celebrities who are successful in their own endeavors. So far, they have a list of more than 40 plus resource speakers that they can tap depending on the topic. Floi himself is a regular resource speaker for various finance and business shows.
TGFI also partners with schools and indigent communities teaching them the basics of budgeting. Once they understand budgeting, they would be taught to form a group where they could invest together in a particular project.
“We have to do this to more marginalized communities, our goal later on is to have all our events online and offer it for free. Our goal is to increase our reach to more people,” says the resident Personal Finance Coach of TGFI.
Floi’s advocacy to spread financial literacy was largely fueled by his personal experience of not being able to save anything because of his tendency to splurge.
“When I started, I was bankrupt,” he admits. It took several years of working in different jobs here and abroad, before he finally managed to achieve his financial goals. An Asian Studies graduate, Floi ended up in sales after college.
“I was bankrupt for the first six years because I was enjoying too much. I work hard but I have a party-harder mentality. That’s the reason why I forgot to save to the point that I had to go overseas,” says Floi.
Finally, Floi eventually landed a sales job with a mobile company in Singapore, but even there he also splurged.
Until one day, he was drawn into some sort of a personal finance class that provided him the much-needed enlightenment every OFW must undergo. “They told me how things work, how to value your money, how to make your money grow. That day itself, I told myself ‘Yes, this is for me. This is the one that I need’,” says Floi.
“We need someone to realize us to handle goals and things we want to achieve like when is the right time for an OFW to go home for good. So, by the time we ended the seminar I changed drastically, I allocated my money, we need to pay this and we need to allocate for savings. I saved 30 to 40 percent of my salary,” says Floi.
Floi made sure to prioritize the basics like paying off his debt, getting insurance, having an emergency fund and then investing in mutual funds. He also set aside money to invest in the stock market.
His newly-found group in Singapore gives support to members and organizes seminars for them to attend. He was engaged and was teaching his family how to save and invest.
While the social media is abuzz with brags about things, outfit of the day, vacations, and others just trying to catch and cope up with the social climbing society, Floi was addicted to saving his money.
“Most of us are living beyond our means. No matter how big we get, we’ll lose it in just a span of days if we don’t know how to manage it well,” he said.
“How would I learn if I have this group of friends,” recalls Floi. With this realization, Floi formed a group of friends and added the right people to share ideas about investments. While managing his personal finances, Floi founded the Global Filipino Investors Group.
“So, if I am asked about TGFI I would say that the founder was also a former bankrupt. So, we need someone to remind us on how to handle our money,” says Floi, who has conducted financial seminars to the OFWs in Singapore, South Korea, Brunei, Australia and other TGFI Communities.
This advocacy led him to the community of JJ Atencio, who was also very active with the Filipino community. Their ideas were put together and the partnership came into being. JJ now owns a majority of close to 60 of TGFI and Floi with 20 percent, the rest are individual investors.
Floi said he would always look up to JJ as his number one idol because more than being a successful businessman, Floi said, “JJ knows how to share his time and is so open minded in giving out to more people and making them realize that they too have a voice. That is his advocacy side on why people need to learn about saving and investing.”
This advocacy is paying off.