How does one categorize a businessman whose pursuits run across several industries, and still manage to excel in all of them? This is not the usual path most entrepreneurs take, yet for Bansan Choa, it is a road that he is happily traversing.
Bansan is more popularly known as the chairman and CEO of publicly listed i-remit Incorporated, the largest Filipino-owned non-bank remittance service provider. At the same time, he is also the chairman and CEO of Surewell Equities, which is into property and affordable housing development, as well as one of the directors of Sterling Bank of Asia, a savings bank in the Philippines. During an interview, he mentioned that he sits as board adviser to the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association Inc.
But the one title he cherishes is that of having the “heart for overseas Filipino workers [OFWs].” This is also the reason why his company i-remit has agreed to be one of the sponsors one of the Asia CEO Awards 2015, under the category Heart for OFWs Company of the Year. Bansan says this is in line with his life’s goal of honoring and helping the Filipino overseas workers and their families, by empowering them through sound financial investment advice.
He explains that one of the ongoing projects of i-remit, through their non-government organization partners Kampi and Kabalikat, is to organize events in countries where the OFWs are present. Bansan says “the purpose of the event is to teach them [OFWs] what are the alternative forms of investment that they can invest in.”
He points out that these events do not endorse any particular bank, insurance or real- estate companies as a stand-alone, but as a one-stop shop, for investment instruments, including bank products and other types of investments such as securities or stocks, under one roof. The i-remit chairman proudly states that they have already done these types of events in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
When asked what drives him to do these things for the OFWs, Bansan says as the head of a remittance company, he has seen “how hard it is for them to earn the money. One of the things we see among them, is the problem of continuing payment in the investments they choose.” This is because, he says, sometimes the OFWs get cheated by their agents, while at other times, they send their payment through their relatives, who end up not paying for the OFW’s investments anyway. “You can imagine, they work hard abroad, and when they come back, they have nothing.”
i-remit Incorporated is the largest remittance service provider in the Philippines. It started in 2001 under its parent company called i-Vantage. Back then, this company was a fulfillment partner of Western Union. Bansan says he conceptualized the company, after he and one of his business partners, Ben Tiu, were in Hong Kong and saw the plight of the OFWs converging in the same building where their office for another of their businesses called Surewell Equities was located.
Today, the company has one of the widest distribution capabilities in the country, with a growing network of more than 1,400 remittance outlets consisting of subsidiaries, branches and tie-ups in 26 countries and territories in Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe and the Middle East. According to its corporate data, i-remit was also the first to utilize the Internet platform in order to provide a faster and affordable remittance service, and currently covers approximately 7-percent share of remittance inflows to the country.
These days, Bansan says he is even more focused on the concerns of the OFWs. He gives speeches to other organizations and business forums whenever he can, to bring the plight of the OFWs to an even greater base. At the same time, i-remit has also instituted another program, where they give seminars to distressed children of OFWs. “We give them free trainings twice a year, we gather them for three days and two nights and teach them values and tips on saving.” He explains he gets the children based on the recommendation of their own OFW parents who are currently partners and clients of i-remit. The list has been growing each year, and he admits they can no longer accommodate all the children being recommended to them. Yet they still continue to do what they can, as their own way of giving back to those who are sometimes called the country’s modern-day heroes.