Michelle Fiegehen – Establishing BPO Company in the Philippines
Last updated August 21, 2019
In this podcast, Derek is joined by Michelle Fiegehen, an Australian who is based in Cebu. Michelle owns and founded Yempo Solutions, a BPO service provider that has 5 sites in the Philippines. In the discussion, Derek taps into Michelle’s vast business and outsourcing experience to give a little bit of insight into how she started her own BPO Company.
- Michelle used to be employed in Macquarie Banking Australia before starting her own BPO Company.
- When her employer sent her to the Philippines, she never expected to be sitting with her own business in Cebu. It’s been quite a journey for Michelle.
- Michelle shares that Makati is such a wonderful sophisticated and vibrant city and then of course on the weekends she could get out and visit any one of the 7,107 islands out there so it was just the first year she spent here was probably the best year of her working life.
- One of the reasons Michelle jumped ship from corporate life and started doing this because she saw at Macquarie this wonderful harmonious business with such harmonious relationships between the Filipino workforce
- For Michelle, there is a definitely seen a massive upskill but the reality for her is she has always been exposed to a very high level of capability.
- Helping businesses to transform everything about themselves by exposing this something about they potentially even they’re bored about.
- Manila is all over the place. It is a truly global business at outsourcing to a place like the Philippines such a central location such great English, 24 by 7 was a natural decision for them to take.
- A lot of companies used to sell the concept of outsourcing to a place like the Philippines to their workers.
- This whole resourcing strategy that just opened up a whole new global market to them or opened up a whole new mechanism for them to increase their competitiveness.
- Filipinos have a great culture.
Derek: Hi and welcome to another episode of the outsource accelerator podcast. This is episode number 87 and today I am joined by Michelle Fiegehen of Yempo Solutions.
So Yempo is a BPO service provider. She has 5 sites in the Philippines. Michelle is Australian and she comes from a corporate outsourcing background so you learn about outsourcing and Michelle and her journey in the Philippines and India in this podcast episode so a lot to learn and I certainly had a fun and a good time talking to her so if you want any of the show notes and get in touch with Michelle then go to outsourceaccelerator.com/87. I’m sure you will enjoy.
Derek: Hi and welcome back everybody and today I am joined by Michelle Fiegehen of Yempo Solutions. Hi, Michelle.
Michelle: Hi, Derek.
Derek: Just to get a brief background of Michelle I’ll allow her to introduce herself she’s probably better at that Michelle is an Australian sitting down in Cebu with a BPO all of her own and outsourcing them you know later we’re going to have her back to really explore the offerings that she has but I just want to get a bit of a backstory about Michelle and discuss why she is now finding herself in Cebu owning and running a BPO so, hi Michelle, thanks for joining us and can you give us a little bit of background about your career that brought you here?
Michelle: Sure Derek would love to. Yes, when I first sent to the Philippines by my employer Macquarie Banking Australia almost 8 years ago I never expected to be sitting here with my own business in Cebu it’s been quite a journey for me. Macquarie asked me to come up to Manila to set up the IT engineering function they already had a small function up here and they asked me to come up and kick off for function for them for 3 months and after I arrived and spent a few months here they asked me to stay on so my 3 months turned into 3 years which I enjoyed very much they then asked me to go over to India to do the same thing and I spent 12 months in India building up kinda of a secondary site to what I build for Macquarie in Manila and at the end of 12 months they said ok we want you back in Sydney now I said no thanks I’m going back to the Philippines so I left my job and packed my bags and returned to Manila and pretty much then almost a year thinking about what I wanted to do next and that was altered in me starting my own business and relocating to Cebu.
Derek: Wow, so I have so many question in that but just to provide a bit of context to people out there, Macquarie Bank is an Australian bank, you’re Australian but Macquarie staff is kind of a high-end investment booted bank but then it grew hugely and they now have a lot of infrastructures here in the Philippines don’t they?
Michelle: Correct. They are Australia’s largest investment bank and they are global when I was both in Manila and India I also ran teams in the UK and New York and Hong Kong, India, Manila are all around the place it is a truly global business so looking at outsourcing to a place like the Philippines such a central location such great English, 24 by 7 was a natural decision for them to take.
Derek: Wow, and you were sent to the Philippines what were your initial thoughts and feelings about going to a freaky place like the Philippines and what year?
Michelle: It was 2009. It was August 2009 so I just had my 8th year anniversary I knew nothing about the Philippines before I came here. I had been angling for an offshore gig with Macquarie for quite some time and I did particularly want to come to Asia but I thought it would be most likely Hong Kong cause we have a Macquarie has a very large office in Hong Kong. When we started doing a little bit of outsourcing in Manila about 6 months before I was asked to come here. I went to my boss and I said look really want to be involved in this. I’m really interested which is what resulted in them asking me to come and I got on a plane and came here with a couple of suitcases and just locked it from the get go, just to really connected with the people liked the environment, Makati of course is such a wonderful sophisticated and vibrant city and then of course on the weekends I could get out and visit anyone of the 7,107 islands out there so it was just the first year I spent here was probably the best year of my working life I think the most daring job the most interesting I learnt so much it was fantastic.
Derek: Did you share any of the apprehensions of that most people looking into the Philippines have were you concerned about? You sound pretty kind of free-spirited but a lot of people you know I’m in a bit of a mission to tell people that the Philippines is a great place it’s safe there’s a lot of great employment opportunities here and others few labor resources. Did you have any concern about the Philippines?
Michelle: No, None whatsoever. I think, things gets blown out of the proportion in the press and also there are parts of there’s certainly parts of Manila even here in Cebu that I wouldn’t go walking around by myself at night but there are places in Sydney there are places in Melbourne I wouldn’t walk around at night. There’s crime everywhere and I’ve traveled quite a lot on my own. I know how to take care of myself I don’t go to dodgy places, I don’t put myself in a risky situation so now I have absolutely no concerns about coming here at all nothing and I still know nothing that bad has ever happened to me here touch wood.
Derek: Amazing. So you do IT development within the finance sector which is I suppose the more kinda technical of them all complicated aspects in any business, but there’s also another impression by people overseas that the Philippines is a bit of sweatshop and you know at best you can get a few failed call center agents and VA’s but actually you know you are representing the high-end, high value, high-quality kind of provisions that are available in the Philippines. How do you find that contrast in people’s impressions?
Michelle: Yeah and I think that is an unfortunate perception but it’s also a mechanism that a lot of companies used to sell the concept of outsourcing to a place like the Philippines to their workers, certainly that’s how I’ve seen it done many times your employees back in Australia or wherever in the world are nervous about this plan to move some work offshore and it’s sold to them as “hey look we are going to get some really cheap resources and they’re going to do all the rubbish work that you don’t like doing” and that makes the employees a little bit buy into it “oh great I don’t have to do weekend work anymore” “I don’t have to do this boring stuff anymore” but of course what happened is the company discovers that these lower cost people that they hired are really dedicated committed and have their own career aspirations and there’s so much more that can be done than menial process following type work as you say in my business, my background actually isn’t an IT development it’s more on infrastructure and engineering side so when we started providing services to other companies it was more on engineering but we’ve now gone into solutions architects and other very very senior people that work they’re every bit as talented and dedicated and technically capable of what you could get back on your own location
Derek: And I find because outsourcing started in about 20-25 years ago it was all call center but now with 25 years of collective experience, there’s so much more depth in terms of roles and the pool of people to choose from. Are you seeing in your time here what is that almost kind of 8-9 years that there is an upskilling?
Michelle: I’m not sure I have, just because right from the get go I was recruiting very highly skilled people. My whole mission when I first came to the Philippines with Macquarie was to hire IT Engineers so I’ve never been in the business either on my corporate life or in my current company in Yempo, never really been in the business of hiring junior workers, call center workers, lowest skilled people for lowest skilled jobs so I’d love to say yes I’ve definitely seen a massive upskill but the reality for me is I’ve always been exposed to a very high level of capability.
Derek: Right and just digging into Macquarie little bit that was 2009 I might set of think recollection Macquarie they grew hugely and I think in the financial crisis I actually really got stunned bad, Is there any correlation between 2009 and Macquarie really needing to dig deep and find economic solutions to running their business? Was that any correlation to you than building teams out here in the Philippines?
Michelle: What actually happens so in the GFC under the first round which I think was 2000 in Australia anyway he does see about 2007, 2008 Macquarie didn’t actually fail too badly, we were one of the companies that continue to be profitable through that awful downturn
Derek: Because it was known as the millionaire factory the Macquarie isn’t it?
Michelle: Yeah exactly. Wow it certainly wasn’t that while I was there unfortunately, but the entire function that we built offshore was based on business growth, it wasn’t about displacing people at all so when I first moved to Manila I’ve had 0 staff in the engineering space, and within 12 months, I’ve hired 250 people that was all funded out of business growth nobody lost their job out of that of course around about 2010, 2011 there was another economic downturn and at that point we, unfortunately, did, the company did start downsizing another location and we’re expanding in that offshore locations of the Philippines and India. It was a lovely time to be recruiting in a period of such growth not related to an economic downturn.
Derek: Right. Interesting. And then now moving right along, you are sitting in Cebu and you got Yempo Solutions. We will actually get you back we’re going to dig in to Yempo Solutions and it’s not an infomercial but it’s so that you know I can give people an insight into what services there are out there, but you have a corporate background working in the high end of town of to sort of highly technical activities and now you find yourself sitting in Cebu with a BPO. What is it about outsourcing that seems to, people get addicted to outsourcing it’s a bit like crack right as soon as people figure out how amazing it is they’re like from certainly outsourcing and now you are owning and running an outsourcing service provider yourself. What is it about outsourcing that attracts people?
Michelle: Certainly one of the reasons i’ve jumped ship from corporate life and started doing this because I saw at Macquarie this wonderful harmonious business with such harmonious relationships between the Filipino workforce and the offices, their virtual teammates in Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, New York, London wherever we taught a really really great culture which is something I learnt a lot about Macquarie and the benefits that Macquarie reaped from having this offshore team were massive. They’ve been trying to do a follow the sun model for IT support for many years, so what I wanted to do in starting my own business is really expose those same benefits to smaller businesses, not the global banks, not the global insurance company, not the massives corporations but the companies that a small businesses or companies that doing it really hard they’re struggling to compete in a global market and they just don’t know how to get their costs down, they don’t know how to survive with all the competition that’s out there, so that’s what really attracted me to expose to smaller perhaps struggling businesses or innovative businesses. This whole resourcing strategy that just opened up a whole new global market to them or opened up a whole new mechanism for them to increase their competitiveness
Derek: It’s amazing, this is one of the main messages I try to get to people. It is outsourcing is transformative, there’s probably no other business strategy that is as transformative and offers quite so many strategic opportunities and advantages other than this.
Michelle: Absolutely yeah, transformative was exactly the word I’m struggling to find yeah, helping businesses to transform everything about themselves by exposing this something about they potentially even they’re bored about. I mean introducing them to offshoring and seeing how rapidly they get it and they build this strong relationship with their offshore teams and it’s a wonderful business to be in.
Derek: Fantastic, So we are going to get you back we’re going to talk about Yempo Solutions so anyone eager should look out for that episode but in the meantime, if people want to get in touch with you Michelle how can they do that?
Michelle: Easiest way. My surname is a bit frightfully spelled, so easiest way is to visit our website www.yempo-solutions.com. You can find all our contact details there or email me directly at [email protected]
Derek: Fantastic. I like where you have done the initials there to keep it short all of those details will be in our show notes so go there if you need more information. If you want to get in touch with Michelle or any of the show notes then go to outsourceacellerate.com/87 and if you want to ask us anything please drop us an email just send us the email to [email protected] See you next time.