‘Internet improves investment initiatives’


Ed. — Mr. Antonio Ranque worked for nearly two decades in Saudi Arabia and is project development officer of the NGO Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos. He also shares insights and tips on financial literacy to OFWs and their families here and abroad, such as during recent financial literacy seminars conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Cebu, Laguna and Pampanga.

QUEZON CITY – HE’S his own guinea pig. Former overseas Filipino worker turned stock trader Antonio V. Ranque applies his trial-and-error style on the Philippine Stock Exchange trading board on himself first before giving solicited advice.

DDE: I heard you traded in stocks while working in Saudi Arabia.
AVR: No, no. It was after six months when I arrived after working in Saudi that I went into online trading. My entry into stocks was due to difficulties that I saw start-up businesses experienced. Mabuti kung mahilig sa negosyo ang maiiwan mong pamilya dito; yung sa akin wala. Personally, I also experienced that when I went into a taxi business years ago, but the driver I hired cheated me on many things. I lost P200,000 and the parcel of land I sold for that business. From that experience I learned it’s difficult to go into the taxi business, especially here in Manila. Kung gusto mong kumita dito sa taxi, kailangan big time ka kaagad: minimum na 3 to 5 ang taxi units mo. Isipin mo, you’re parting with hard-earned money on a vehicle that would depreciate in the long run e yung amortization mo di naman bumababa so dun lang mapupunta yung kinikita mo.

DDE: But I heard you’re in online trading and it began in Saudi.
AVR: Ah, yes, I’m really into the Internet even when I was in Saudi. I was involved in a computer society and my line of “specialty” there was Internet for communication. I started with electronic mail, chatting, and then joining e-groups. Besides that, ang pinakamaganda talagang gamit ng Internet for OFWs like me is online news and online banking. I usually use my bank account to send money, especially to my children. For example, I send them allowance through an online bank transfer service called third-party enrolment. They’ll send me an email and then I transfer money from my account to their savings account. From online banking, nagtuloy na ko sa online investment but months after I arrived here in the Philippines.

DDE: How does this online investment work?
AVR: You need to be an account holder of that bank to open a separate account for trading. Hindi pwedeng walang benefiting account because if you’re withdrawing from the trading platform, where would the bank place your money? Ganun din sa time deposit, kailangan may benefiting account. So what I did was apply online or through the Internet for the platform. I printed the application and submitted it to the bank’s branch. A week later, they sent me an email saying my account for trading has been approved and they gave me my username and password. It’s basically like a savings account where you need a maintaining balance.

After that, you could already buy stocks or shares in publicly-listed firms. May lot number yan. For example, the price of a stock is P100 and below, ganitong number of shares ang minimum na dapat mong bilhin. Kung mataas, pwedeng sampu lang. Halimbawa, PLDT, which has a price per stock of above P1,000 each, 10 ang minimum shares na dapat mong bilhin. Pero dun sa iba, kailangan 100 or 1,000 shares.

You could also see your account’s activated when you check your online savings account where you get your money to trade in your trading account. Real time iyung trading ha. Meron din syang ticker tape for monitoring your stock’s performance.

DDE: How much did you initially trade?
AVR: Maliit lang, mga P50,000 kasi balita ko that time the market’s volatile. Minsan, nagbabawas ako; aabot ng tatlo. Hindi ko pinararami kasi I noticed my stocks were just compensating each other: minsan negative yung isa, yung dalawa positive, so balewala. Hindi pala advisable na maliit ang pera mo: you spread yourself thin. So I just monitor two to three stocks at the Philippine Stock Exchange Index. Unless mahilig ka kumuha ng maliliit na aalagaan mo, I suggest maintain two stocks, and maximum of three. Siguro sa US (United States), puwede yung mag-alaga ka ng maraming maliliit na stocks. Pero ang problema dito sa Pilipinas, hindi naman lumalaki ng ganun kalaki ang mga stocks dito.

DDE: Why did you go into this type of investment?
AVR: I’m trying to find an alternative to entrepreneurship. Before I left for Saudi, my problem 20 years ago was that I didn’t have that much money. Sure, I earn as an employee but I didn’t get my share when the business of my bosses was booming. Pag kumita yung kumpanya, hindi ako kasama sa hatian; kung may bonus, bonus lang sa akin kasi nga empleyado lang ako. So naisip ko, pag-aralan kung pano ba nagpapatakbo ng negosyo. I was 23 years old that time but I’m one of the few subscribers of Business Day newspaper. [Business Day is the precursor to today’s Business World broadsheet founded by the late Raul Locsin. -Ed.]

That time, late 1970s, I always read the financial pages so I was amazed with the zooming earnings from the stock market. Even when I was in Saudi, the first section I read is the business pages. So, deep in my mind, one of the options to grow money is to play in the stock market. But it was cumbersome that time because trading was manual; wala pang Internet. E kung malayo ka tulad ko?

After two years of working in Saudi, may pera ka nga di ka naman makauwi kasi nakapanghihinayang umalis sa trabaho. Plus, your priorities change: bili muna ng lupa, patayo ng bahay, paaralin mga anak. Naudlot nang naudlot iyung pagpapatayo ng negosyo, laluna’t wala naman akong mapagkatiwalaan na syang mag-uumpisa dito sa Pilipinas e wala pa akong anak at asawa nuon.

Even when the Internet came to Saudi, and it came early, before the new millennium, online trading didn’t hit me that time because the environment was for fund transfer. Even the VOIP [voice over Internet protocol], which was already prevalent in Saudi that time, was still relegated to lesser priorities.

But after leaving 20 years of employment as a migrant worker, and because of kinks in my plan to migrate to another country, I was left with a substantial amount of money I saved. May dala akong pera pero hindi ko alam kung saan ko dadalhin, until I discovered the stocks and equities markets.

DDE: How much are you earning from this investment?
AVR: It’s not really the earning but the learning. I’m a person who wouldn’t recommend to you anything until I tried it myself. Hindi ako nagre-rekomenda based sa theory especially if it concerns money. There are OFWs in Saudi trading in stocks but in the US market but I didn’t go into that because I haven’t tried it myself. Nonetheless, I will not use that experience to convince others. The reason why I go through all these hassles is because I really want to be familiar with the ins and outs of business. If you’ll ask me which stock to buy, I won’t tell you: you have to find it out yourself. Kasi, parang nagtanong ka rin kung ano ba ang magandang negosyo ngayon. Mahirap sagutin yun. Pero, if you want to be familiarized, I can share my experience. I won’t tell you which stock to buy or business to put up. I will not expose myself. ‘Di bale nang maging genius, pero ang guinea pig ako para kung may nagtanong, meron akong maitutulong.

DDE: You’re connected with this NGO called Ercof (Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos). How much of your market participation is due to your work there?
AVR: You can say I do this partly for myself, partly because Ercof promotes financial literacy among OFWs. What I want is for OFWs to see that there are better investments of their money than putting it in a savings account or time deposit. But I’m not the only OFW who worked in Saudi and played in the stocks. There’s a friend of mine, an advocate for absentee voting who has majority of his investment in the US. I believe that majority of OFWs wouldn’t go into business, so that’s one of the challenges facing us in Ercof: to make them shift from consumer to saver to investor.

DDE: Is there a secret ingredient in your investment?
AVR: Wala naman. Just read. When I was in Saudi, ang una kong binabasa business pages. At least, alam ko kung ano nangyayari sa mga kumpanya, sa ekonomiya. The fundamental analysis has become automatic for me since I’m aware of what’s happening.

DDE: You still found time for reading while working abroad?
AVR: Marami namang time ang Filipino worker abroad. Actually, uwi ka sa bahay, wala ka namang ginagawa diyan. Yun naman ang advantage ng mga OFWs: wala yung better half nila so they can focus on thinking about business.

DDE: But you have access to the Internet, others have not.
AVR: Kahit naman nuon naging problema ko na yan dahil before 2000, wala akong telephone sa bahay na tinitirhan ko sa Saudi. It was rare during that time for expatriates to have telephone lines in their homes. So, basically, I access the Internet at the office during break time or before going home. Saka may diyaryo naman and I also read books. Pinag-aralan ko ang stocks and mutual funds. Pagbalik ko, nagpasok ako ng pera sa isang equity market trader kasi doon, malaki-laki ang kita. But, admittedly, the Internet made investing easier since kung manual, tawag ka pa ng tawag sa broker mo. That’s why the online trading is really better.

DDE: How much time do you devote for online trading?
AVR: I spent a lot of time during my familiarization with the stock market; it took me six months of self-study. But after buying stocks, usually I check it online not more than 30 minutes daily during trading days. But because the bank offers a free service of sending messages to my mobile phone, I rarely go online. Malayo din kasi ang Internet café from my house in Bohol (Ed. – He lives in the town of Jagna, some 63 kilometers from the provincial capitol of Tagbilaran City}. So as a subscriber to its alert service, the bank would send a message showing my stocks’ performance: kung low or high. Tapos ibibigay rin sa iyo ang closing prices. Kung sumobra ang baba ng presyo, punta na ako sa Internet café before trading from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. But your bids wouldn’t be entered into the trading floor until half-past-nine; nakaabang lang yung offer mo to sell or buy. For example, I’m selling a stock at P100, until there’s no buyer for that, my offer remains on queue. I monitor the screen for my purchases or sales. For example, if prices dip too low from my initial selling or buying price, I cancel that offer tapos hahabulin ko. Dito, I have a stop gap: I see to it that the prices don’t go below 10 percent; that’s my loss threshold. But if the prices continue to pick up, I just allow it to rise. Pero pag hindi ko mahabol-habol ang presyo at maganda ang trading, I usually stay at the Internet café until the trading ends, roughly four hours.

Kaya di pwede ang buy and hold sa akin; mauubos lang ang pera ko. Kasi, in five years of hold, your money would just earn 10 percent. E di ilagay mo na lang sa ibang instruments kaysa sa stocks. What for na papasok ka ng stock market and you’re just going to sail on averages. For me, I ride with the tide: buy low, sell high.

DDE: So how’re your stocks performing?
AVR: Minsan may kasama ring luck. Nagtataka nga ako minsan because in my analysis, ang lakas-lakas ng stock pero ayaw pumanhik. I bought one stock at P44 but it didn’t go higher despite the company being one of the biggest food manufacturers in Asia. So I had to sell it at a loss of P35. May nakakalusot din like my bank the stock price of which soared to P51. Another stock of a bank I bought I thought was good because that time it was buying into another listed firm. But the stock price didn’t move. There’s also some stock I bought like this that I believe would rise sooner or later. I’m thinking of selling my stock in a telecommunications firm na matagal ko nang nilalaro kasi tingin ko nag-peak na.

DDE: Aren’t you afraid of losing money?
AVR: I’ve already lost money. Remember the taxi business I went into? That was four-fold the amount I invested in the stock market today. Ganito siguro ang risk profile ko the fact na yung una kong negosyo hindi naman kumita. I’ve exposed myself to a start-up business that was more risky compared to what I’m doing with my stocks. And I bought shares of these big firms that I believe wouldn’t crash overnight unless the whole market crashes. If that happens, I wouldn’t be the only one affected.

That’s also one attitude that OFWs wanting to go into business should learn: if they want to go into business, they should be ready to lose money. From the start, they should accept the possibility of losses. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture of business because there are fundamentals in doing business and one of the fundamentals is the preparation against losses, against risks. If they are ready to soar high, they should be ready to land. Hindi pwede na gusto mong malaki ang kita, mababa ang risk.

DDE: What do you suggest for OFWs wanting to go into investment or into the stock market?
AVR: To gain confidence, they should start in a savings group that invests on low-risk products. Huwag muna silang pumasok sa investments that have higher risks, like the stock market, kasi kapag napaso, baka hindi na sila tumuloy. So as OFWs gain confidence and knowledge, slowly enter into the stocks and equities market. But they should always remember there are risks involved.

DDE: But some investment products could wipe out their savings.
AVR: Kapag sinabi mong wala nang matitira, e kahit naman lumaki yan wala namang matitira unless OFWs change their habits and lifestyles. They can’t start sooner or later. Kapag gustong simulan, simulan mo na ngayon. Kung hindi sa kanila, sa kanilang mga anak. Kasi dalawa naman ang income e: earned and unearned. E yung mga anak, may unearned income ang mga yan: you’re giving them allowance money.

Somebody told me, “Tony, we’re already old. Can we still go into this?” Sagot ko: posibleng hindi na sa atin. Pero, sa mga bata puwede pa. Because if we don’t help our children gain consciousness on savings and investment and the proper handling of money, they will end up in the same situation that we’re in. Sure they will earn but their income would also be depleted. The cycle has to be broken.

OFW Journalism Consortium Inc. in partnership with the Ateneo de Manila University-Economic Policy Reform and Advocacy (EPRA) consortium