MANILA, APRIL 26, 2006 (STAR) Filipino-American Michael "Mike" Rivera came back to the Philippines in September 2005 and was floored by the country’s teeming talent that he decided to put up the first offshore company that exclusively catered to employee benefits administration here.

Rivera is the president of ProView Global, a company under the US-based ProView Administration, one of the leading employee benefits outsourcing firms in the United States whose clients include leading hospitals, hotels, and manufacturing and real estate companies, among others.

He has been in that industry for over 17 years and has helped developed one of the United States’ first systems for HMO Management, working extensively with Fortune 500 companies for more than a decade.

"I realized that there was an incredible amount of untapped human capital here," says Rivera, who left the country in 1979 and only returned to the Philippines last year. "I read and witnessed the exodus of talent from this country, as I refer to as ‘bran drain’ in search of better opportunities. That’s when I realized that what this country needed were investments to create better job opportunities."

Turning difficulties into opportunities for growth

Rivera is no stranger to adversity. He lived through difficult times himself. But rather than being defeated by them, he turned them into opportunities for growth.

When his family first migrated to Seattle, Washington, he experienced the stigma of racial discrimination as he and his siblings were the only Asian kids in their community.

"I overcame this by focusing on my education," Rivera says. "I remember feeling particularly proud in receiving high honors for US History and English. In a way, I wanted to prove to everybody that I could be better at their own language and their own history."

When he finally finished high school, Rivera’s family couldn’t afford to send him through college.

"I got a partial scholarship in computer science in one of the smaller colleges in Seattle, Washington, but I had to turn it down. I just felt that it wasn’t the thing for me," he says.

As fate would have it, Rivera made the right decision since he eventually got the opportunity to get the college degree he wanted.

Rivera joined the marines at 17, a fact that his mother objected to since she thought that he was very young.

Out of the 160 recruits, only 80 of them graduated. "And I was at the top of my class," Rivera says.

It was this experience in the Marines, he says, that taught him discipline, goal setting, and determination.

"In the military, you were rated based on your performance and that’s what I also want to do with the staff we’re hiring here in the Philippines," Rivera said.

Getting into a booming industry

Right after college, Rivera was hired as an administrative assistant for an insurance company and eventually went on to work for a firm that handled employee benefits management, one of the biggest industries in the United States right now.

Employee benefits administration involves the handling of the insurance benefits of a company’s workforce. In the US, much like here, medical and other benefits are generally provided for by employers, and the cost of administering these benefits can be quite high. These benefits range from the traditional medical and dental benefits to the more complex Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) that provide a continuation of health care coverage even after an employee has left a company.

Prior to joining ProView, Rivera was the National Leader of Supply Chain Management for the Group and Health Care practice at Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

There’s no place like home

Last year, Rivera decided to have some rest and recreation in the Philippines, his first since his whole family migrated to the US.

"I was reading some business papers that time and I realized that the country had a significant amount of intellectual capital here," he says.

This made him decide to create what he calls a "win-win" situation for both ProView and his (home) country.

"Employee benefits administration is highly labor-intensive. Seeing that the Filipinos here can replicate if not surpass the quality of work that we have in the US, I decided that I’d wanted to provide opportunities for the talent here," Rivera says.

And he is not just talking about providing opportunities for his countrymen, but giving them better salary deals as well.

"I wanted to make sure that ProView paid more than the prevailing wages. Our staff’s salaries, depending on the role, can be as much as 30 percent more than the current market average compensation rates. Our human capital strategy is to attract the highest caliber of talent, who will provide more quality service to our customers and at the same time create a much more loyal human capital asset base. The way you take care of your employees will exactly be the same they would take care of your clients," Rivera explains, adding that he is aware that most business process outsourcing companies in the country have a relatively high turnover rate, something he is looking to change.

ProView, which has started operations about a month ago, currently has 20 employees whose ages range from 20 to 45.

"When he started hiring people, what we looked for was their competency and capability in doing the job and not their age," he says, adding that he was at first surprised to learn that Filipino applicants even indicate their height, weight, and marital status in their resumes.

By the end of the year, ProView is looking to increase its employees to 100. "We also might have overnight shifts by then," Rivera says.

But the long-term goal Rivera is focused in achieving is to make the Philippines the leading outsourcing capital of the world. "In many ways, the Philippines has the capability to surpass India as the leading outsourcing capital of the world. I want to be a part of making that a reality. We are well on our way," Rivera concludes.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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