Lester Tay – Outsourcing is a Natural Progression
Lester is co-founder and Managing Director of Atticus Advisory Solutions Inc., a remote staffing company that helps companies primarily in Australia, New Zealand and Europe set up a dedicated team of talents in the Philippines.
- Lester had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He did his MBA in London.
- He had worked in Australia for a year when an opportunity opened up for him to start-up his own BPO business in the Philippines. He grabbed that opportunity, returned to the Philippines, and co-founded Atticus Solutions.
- Lester believes that in the future, there will be a lesser demand for lower skilled outsourcing models, but higher value service models, like IT, financial and analytical service models will still be in demand.
- Outsourcing is going to be a major driver in the Philippine economy as it allows global exposure and meritocracy. Someone sitting in Manila can earn as much as his Wall Street counterpart if he is competent and can prove his worth.
- Outsource Accelerator is branding the Philippines as the Swiss bank of the outsourcing industry. According to Lester, this is sustainable for as long as the Philippines level up its education platforms for technical and analytical skills. Language skills alone is not a sustainable competitive advantage.
- There is incredible support from the Philippine government for the BPO industry.
- In the Philippine, the BPO or outsourcing industry is a major economic driver. This is sustainable for as long as there is support from the government and levelling up of the educational system.
- Philippine talents must learn and develop highly competitive technical and analytical skills to allow more meritocracy.
- There will always be a demand for higher value service models, like IT and financial service models.
Derek: Hi. And welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore, and this is episode number 169. So today, I am interviewing Lester Tay again of Atticus Solutions. We spoke to Lester back in episode 160 and also 164. It’s an interesting back story how Lester was doing his MBA in London and followed his dream of becoming an entrepreneur but also returning back to the Philippines. And he runs Atticus Solutions, which is a BPO service provider here in the Philippines. If you want to know any more about Lester or Atticus, of course, go to our show notes, which is at outsourceaccelerator.com/169. Enjoy.
Derek: Hi, and welcome back, everybody. Today, we are joined by Lester Tay again of Atticus Solutions. It’s an outsourcing solutions partner. Hi, Lester. How are you?
Lester: Hi there. How are you doing?
Derek: Yes. Great. Great. Thanks for joining us again. We have spoken previously to Lester. So, go back and get those episodes, the back story about Lester, and also, we deep dive into Atticus. But I wanted to get Lester back to talk more broadly about the Philippines and outsourcing and potentially some of the future potential there for you guys out there, businesses. So, thank you so much, Lester. I suppose, initially, can you just give people a brief introduction into yourself and how you came to be running Atticus Solutions.
Lester: Sure. So, I did my MBA in London a few years back. Afterwards, even before I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I mean, that’s the main reason. And when I did my MBA, I worked in London for a few companies, then worked in Australia for another year. And then while I was in Australia, I’ve always wanted to do a business, but I wasn’t sure what. Then, one day, our very first outsourcing client who was just referred to me in Australia just approached me and told me, “Hey, Lester. Why don’t you set up a BPO in the Philippines? And we’ll be your first client.” So, I resigned from my very comfortable job without any knowledge on how to start the business, even about the industry. And I just said, “Hey, this is the only time in my life I can start something.” So, I came back to the Philippines and started the business with just one person. And I mean, can you imagine, I go to the office, and you have one employee. And then I’m there. Right? So, I was the HR. I was the accountant. I was the sales.
Derek: And then so, the massive learning curve starts, huh?
Lester: Yes. Yes. Yes. And then, yes, it’s just been a blessing that we’ve grown this much. So, we’re going on to a hundred people.
Derek: Yes. That’s incredible. And congratulations. And well-done for taking that first step. And I certainly think the toughest part is behind you now. And so, you started in 2014. How have you seen the industry evolve in that time? Are you seeing things speeding up or slowing down? Because some of the commentators are concerned that it could be a sunset industry. Everyone that is going to outsource has already done it. What are your feelings on the ground?
Lester: Yes. I think it depends on the types of outsources services that the company’s engaged in. It’s very different, So, for example, I believe, like, voice, medical transcription, I guess the lower skilled outsourcing models might be…won’t likely be as in demand in the future. But I believe the IT services, the financial services, the higher value services will still be in demand.
Derek: Yes, absolutely. It’s still going to be a long time. And the clients that you deal with, are they mainly small to medium size businesses? What source of demographic do you deal with in the West?
Lester: Yes. So, they are small to medium sized businesses. There were many started by entrepreneurs as well, so I think that’s what we understand how hard it is to start a business and also the value of people in business. So, most of our clients, I mean, they’re not very small, I would say. Maybe medium sized, especially the ones in Europe.
Derek: Right. Right. Well-done. We’ve spoken, in the first podcast we did, about your impression of outsourcing, but how do you feel that outsourcing is evolving within the Philippines? Is it becoming recognized as a key driver of the economy? Or is it still considered that it’s kind of just a place for call centers? What are kind of people thinking about the outsourcing world now?
Lester: Yes. I think it’s going to be a major driver in the Philippines in the future for very simple reasons. Well, it allows people to be exposed to greater things outside the Philippines. Secondly, the wages in higher value services are very competitive as well, so it allows people to work in the Philippines without having to leave the Philippines as compared to when people were doing the OFW roles. And then, yes, so, at least, there’s more knowledge that’s being developed because, for example, if an employee works for a foreign company that has a lot of IT, so the staff gets developed and the knowledge is spread around. So yes, it will definitely grow, and it will be a very important industry in the future.
Derek: Yes, that is a huge opportunity, isn’t it, that people can sit here in the Philippines but have the exposure to, like, a Silicon Valley company or a Wall Street company because the geography isn’t so relevant anymore. And more and more, I’m excited for the Philippines because it sort of means that there’s a meritocracy. And someone sitting in Manila can earn just as much as someone sitting in Wall Street if they are as good and if they can prove themselves. So, it’s certainly an exciting prospect for the Philippines. Yes.
Lester: It is. And that’s a good word there. Right? Meritocracy. Meritocracy as well.
Derek: And are you seeing more and more, like, of your peers? What sort of work are they involved in? Are you seeing more people being aware of this opportunity to not necessarily work for Philippine domestic companies but any company all over the world?
Lester: Yes. I think that what’s interesting about the labor force right now is it’s less, I would say, traditional. I mean, people are going into the traditional huge multinationals less. And then they’re exploring working for companies where they can develop themselves and where they can increase in market value. So, I think people are more adventurous in terms of finding the types of jobs that they look for.
Derek: Right. Yes. And do you see kind of a bright future for the Philippines outsourcing? Do you think that it will kind of continually grow? Do you see any threats from sort of the AI or automation?
Lester: Yes, I believe that the industry will grow. AI, I mean, I’m not an expert, but from my very limited knowledge, I think AI will have an impact in the outsourcing world, especially with, again, the traditional outsourcing models, such as transcribing, a few voice call centers, but I think where knowledge like, the IT services, financial services or the more analytical skills, I think they will still be very valuable.
Derek: Cool. And what are your sense of the education as well? Because the Philippines produces about 500,000 graduates a year. Because actually, at Outsource Accelerator, we try and brand the Philippines as, like, the Swiss banking of the outsourcing. We really think that it’s a high value proposition compared to India, compared to Vietnam, compared to Eastern Europe. These are listed as outsourcing destinations. But do you see the educational system kind of providing the market with what it needs in terms of outsourcing skills?
Lester: I think that’s a very good question. I think, traditionally, the advantage of the Philippines was the language, but I think that’s not a very sustainable competitive advantage. So, I believe that there’s a lot of schools that are developing really good education platforms for technical skills. I mean, in fact, some of our employees just do not come from the traditionally well-known universities in Metro Manila, but they’ll often come from the provinces. So, I see there’s a lot of opportunity for that kind of talent.
Derek: Fantastic. And, of course, for those foreigners overseas listening, there is incredible support from the government, whether it’s this administration or the next one, but generally, the government has huge respect and support for the BPO industry.
Derek: Yes. So, it’s certainly moving in the right direction. Fantastic. Thank you. Thanks so much.
Derek: I’m sorry. Go on. Go on. Sure.
Lester: Yes. Because after the education, what I realize is that even though schools teach well technically, there’s a lot to be done in terms of life skills. Meaning, like how to deal with different cultures, how to manage people. I think there’s a lot of things that aren’t taught in university that’s super important to work in a global marketplace.
Derek: Yes. Yes. Do you think people are getting more used to working more, seeing foreigners now? Kind of 20 years ago, I assume when there was less YouTube, less Western TV, less American basketball on TV, there was so much more cultural divergence whereas now, it’s kind of it’s only going to get more and more normalized and modernized, do you think?
Lester: Yes. I think it’s just a natural progression of society. Like before, there was huge barriers in the exchange of goods, exchange of capital. Now, there’s none. So, I mean the future, there’s less barriers in terms of exchange in talent. So yes, that’s why I think the focus is not only teaching technical skills, but the skills that you don’t learn in school are actually very important to thrive in a global marketplace
Derek: Absolutely. Fantastic. Thank you for your insight, Lester. And, of course, if anyone wants to reach out to you or know more about Atticus Solutions and what it does and what it offers, how can they get in touch?
Lester: Yes. They can just go on to our website, www.atticus.ph or they can add me on LinkedIn.
Derek: Fantastic. Thanks, Lester. And, of course, all of that is in the show notes.
Derek: Okay. That was Lester Tay of Atticus Solutions. If you want to get in touch with Lester or know more about Atticus, then go to our show notes at outsourceaccelerator.com/169. And as always, if you want to ask us anything, then just drop us an email to [email protected]. See you next time.