Biz Buzz: ‘Digital dream team’ vs COVID-19
Two of the country’s top tech guys, Brian Cu and Ron Hose, recently left their nests—grab Philippines and Go-jek, respectively—but we heard from the grapevine that these guys aren’t likely sitting out this coronavirus crisis.
The buzz is they have joined a “dream team” that’s pooling their expertise and resources to give the country a better fighting chance against COVID-19. This is by developing a much-needed local contact tracing app that will ride on the exposure notification system jointly developed by Apple and Google (Google/ IOS EN API).
Aside from Cu and Hose, we heard that the team also includes David Almirol, founder and CEO of Multisys Technologies, whose Staysafe.ph has been accredited by the Department of Health (DOH) and the only developer with access to Google/ios EN API; Joseph Lacson, former chief investment officer at Metro Pacific Investments Corp., where he was one of the highest-paid executives; Gary Lauriano, the founder and CEO at Apollo Technologies, the largest wallet payment processor in the country and a native of Davao; and businessman Victor Paterno, CEO at Philippine Seven Corp., operator of leading convenience store network 7-Eleven Philippines.
Philippine Seven’s charity arm Philseven Foundation has committed up to $1 million in seed funding for this nonprofit tech project that hopes to “disrupt” local COVID-19 infection.
After all, Oxford University studies suggest that a country that achieves 60 percent penetration (of contact tracing and isolation) will no longer need a vaccine.
What the team seeks to develop is a mobile contact tracing app that tracks whom each person has been in proximity to. This app can then alert all affected users when one of them tests positive for COVID-19 infection.
The app will measure the distance between one person and another and for how long such distance had been kept. All apps typically use GPS (global positioning system), Bluetooth, or both. However, GPS won’t work indoors, while Bluetooth only works as long as the app is open (By design, when you answer a Viber message, it closes). The only exception will be apps based on Apple-google’s Android/ios exposure notification API.
Google and Apple only grant access to one developer per country, as endorsed by the DOH. Almirol-led Multisys has that access via staysafe.ph, which is, however based on Bluetooth and GPS, but not the EN API.
Recognizing that Multisys had too much to do building out DOH other systems (as well as staysafe.ph), the buzz is that Almirol had agreed to be a cofounder and give the group access to the EN API. The group will likely incorporate a nonprofit vehicle.
Will the dream team succeed in disrupting COVID-19? Hopes are high but we heard that they are likewise cognizant of the fact that other countries who started earlier with much larger budgets are still in the early stages of adoption. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA
Sy family-led China Banking Corp., which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this challenging year, has decided to commemorate this milestone through a centennial stock grant plan.
The bank’s board approved a plan to give eligible employees 100 China Bank shares for every year of service, subject to the approval of regulatory agencies.
China Bank chair Hans Sy said the bank couldn’t have achieved this milestone, anymore, without the commitment and hard work of employees. “This gift of equity ownership is our way of thanking them for their part in China Bank’s success and resilience,” he said.
It’s a bank with a rich history entwined with the success story of a number of tycoons, including the late Henry Sy Sr. who would not have succeeded in building SM without funding from China Bank.
“China Bank is where people come to build careers. I take great pride in our loyal employees and in their deep sense of ownership that they always do what’s best for the bank and for our customers. Now, they’re not only emotionally invested in China Bank, they own part of it,” Sy said.
The centennial stock grant plan covers employees, including those of China Bank subsidiaries, who have rendered at least one year of service as of Aug. 16. Grantees have to hold on to the shares for at least two years.
The stock grant will be presented to the stockholders for approval and ratification at the special stockholders’ meeting on Oct. 1.
“We have a lot of employees who are already shareholders— some started buying even before they joined the bank. With this stock grant, we are building a culture of ownership. For me, the best part of growing a company is attracting and retaining upstanding and talented individuals who share the mind-set of working together and are personally invested in the bank’s success,” Sy said.
The China Bank group has a total of 9,741 employees nationwide as of end-july. As of Friday’s close, China Bank’s shares were valued at P20.05 per share.
The SM group may have been bludgeoned by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the country’s leading conglomerate has strived to fare well in environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarks.
SM Investments Corp. continues to be recognized as a constituent company in the FTSE4GOOD Index Series for ESG performance, securing its status for the second consecutive year. Its property arm, SM Prime Holdings Inc. and banking arm, BDO Unibank, have likewise been reconfirmed as constituents of the FTSE4GOOD Index Series during the June 2020 index review.
“We are honored by this recognition to be a part of the FTSE4GOOD Index Series for the second straight year. This reflects confidence in our holistic approach and integrated thinking to sustainability. We continue to drive significant progress in ESG initiatives across our portfolio to ensure business sustainability, support the national agenda and create stakeholder value,” SM Investments president and CEO Frederic Dybuncio said.
The FTSE4GOOD Index Series is designed to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong ESG practices.