Biz Buzz: ‘Dig­i­tal dream team’ vs COVID-19

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - BUSINESS - —DORIS DUM­LAO-ABADILLA —DORIS DUM­LAO-ABADILLA INQ

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

Cen­ten­nial stocks

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.

Ftse4­good

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.

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