December 21, 2015

FACT CHECK: Mar Roxas the Investment Banker

Mar Roxas: an "economics background" anchored on just a bachelor's degree and a 14-year investment banking career where he got promoted only once.

Whenever JC and I talk about our presidential preferences, the conversation almost always reaches a point where I mention one of Roxas’ biggest mistakes (Yolanda, Mamasapano, etc.) and she quickly replies with something like “it’s easier to point out specific mistakes than to appreciate the big picture”.

JC tells me that despite Roxas’ gargantuan blunders, he still is a great leader who can become a great president. I think this point of view is not endemic to JC, as it appears that many of Roxas’ supporters share a common belief that his accomplishments dramatically overshadow his deadly and costly mistakes.

To say that Mar Roxas never achieved anything as a public servant is a big lie: even I concede to that. After all, Roxas authored the Fair Education Act (RA7880), he was an important part of the BPO revolution, and he was instrumental in lifting the European ban on Philippine carriers.

But these questions linger:
  1. What exactly constitutes Roxas’ main body of work?
  2. What exactly overshadows his deadly mistakes?
  3. Why is he still a viable candidate despite the disastrous errors in the past six years?

Mar Roxas, the Job Applicant

Evaluating a 60-year-old’s achievements is a very complicated task. That’s why we need to make this evaluation process systematic.
With that said, running for the presidency is like a job application, so let's pretend that it's a job interview, with Mar Roxas as the applicant and registered voters like us as the interviewer.

Now, just like any job interview, checking the entries on his curriculum vitae (CV) is the first step. In this case, Roxas’ CV is the contents of

A typical CV is divided into two major sections:
  1. Educational Background
  2. Work Experience and related accomplishments
Unlike regular regular CVs, however, the definition of an educational background can be broadened to include everything that he’s done prior to entering public office. In Mar’s case, it’s everything he did before he became a congressman in 1993.

Now, before we start the interview, let’s first decide what we are looking for in a president.
I have two very simple criteria. I want someone who...
  1. has the basic training and skills to be the country's top leader, and,
  2. has no fear of going against powerful interests for the good of the common Filipino.
Now that we’ve settled that issue, let’s move on to the interview, shall we?

The Formal Education of Mar Roxas

Just like any other job interview, the first thing we check is his formal education.
The first entry in his CV is his claim of having a “Background in Economics” from 1964 to 1979.

"1964-1979: Background in Economics -- Mar graduated from ADMU in 1974 and Wharton in 1979."

Born in 1957, he was just 7 years old in 1964 and just 22 years old in 1979. He graduated without honors from the Ateneo in 1974, and received a bachelor’s degree without honors from Wharton.

Promil Kid yata itong si Mar. 7 years old pa lang, economist na.

Mister Roxas, one’s childhood plus high school plus a bachelor’s degree doesn’t count towards a “Background in Economics”.

Inuuto mo kami, ha. For a presidential candidate, that’s called basic education.

Basically, in as far as a formal education, Roxas is in the bottom 2 among the 5 candidates, alongside Grace Poe.

And by the way, if Grace used Mar's logic, she would then have a “Background in Politics”, even if all she has is a bachelor’s in Political Science. It’s a good thing however, that she had the decency to not do so.

Hindi ganoon ka-feelingera si Poe. Salamat Senator Poe.

Mar the Investment Banker

Now, some Mar supporters will argue that his 10-or-so years in Allen & Company on Wall Street also count towards a "Background in Economics". After all, it’s stated in Roxas' own website that he’s proud of “rising through the ranks to become an Assistant Vice-president (AVP)”.

Allen & Company is a boutique investment bank, with “boutique” being a fancy term for “maliit lang”.

In a 2004 article, describes Allen & Company as:
(Allen & Company) has no research department and has never had a New York Stock Exchange membership. Statistically the firm is insignificant; Securities Data rankings show, for example, that in mergers and acquisitions, Allen has not ranked higher than 11th among all securities firms in any of the past 15 years.

The same article states that Allen and Company's has  a total 175 employees. This pales in comparison to Barclay's 20,500 employees, or Goldman Sach's 34,000.

Now here’s the thing: in the world of investment banking, the title of “Assistant Vice-president (AVP) is essentially meaningless. An AVP, also known as an Associate Vice-president, is a classic example of job-title inflation.

Let me tell you how and why by explaining the basic job hierarchy in a typical American Investment Bank.

Step 1: Investment Banking Analyst

Fresh out of college, every investment banker starts his career as an Analyst.
Analysts do most of the dirty work of Associates and VPs. They are commonly referred to as “monkeys” by higher-ups, as much of their days are spent following orders from directors (VPs) and associates (AVPs). They basically belong to the bottom of the Investment Banking food chain.

Kumbaga sa call center, sila ang mga bagong hire na agents.

After three or so years as an Analyst, he gets promoted to an Associate.

Step 2: Investment Banking Associate

An associate’s job is just like an analyst’s, except that the associate focuses a little more on communication than just number-crunching. Most associates have MBA degrees. Mar does not.

Investment banks classify associates based on the number of the years they’ve spent as an associate.
  • First-year associates are like senior call center agents. They typically do the same things as analysts, with the occasional task of supervising them.
  • Second-year associates are like junior team leaders.
  • Third-year associates are like senior team leaders. They have proven to management that they are loyal to the company. That’s usually when their job title changes to Associate Vice-President, also called “Assistant vice-president”.
Aside from a change in the formal job title, the AVP is still considered an associate.

Basically, an AVP is just a second-tier employee with a fancier job title. It is just a marketing ploy to suggest that an employee has considerable managerial roles even if he doesn’t. AVPs are not given critical tasks, as these are reserved for Vice-presidents (SVP) and up.

To make matters more difficult, gaining an AVP title usually doesn't come with a salary raise.

For example, an AVP in Barclay’s, the 8th largest Investment Bank on earth, goes back to the job title of Associatewhen he transfers to another investment bank.
Para lang ring janitor na tinawag na promote into a  “sanitation specialist”. Mas maganda ang title, pero minimum wage pa rin.

Step 3: Investment Banking Vice-president

This is where an investment banker is given critical decision-making responsibilities. Hindi umabot si Mar sa level na ito. Assistant nga lang 'di ba.
That is, it appears that when Mar said he “rose through the ranks to become an AVP”, he meant that he got promoted only once in his 14 years in Allen and Company.

Mar “Achievements”as an “Investment Banker”

Interestingly, Mar’s Wikipedia page mentions:
 “[Mar Roxas] proposed to his company to set up shop in Asia, specifically in the Philippines, and later his superiors agreed. In 1991, he was stationed in the country under North Star Capitals, Inc. which took Jollibee public. In the United States, he participated in the first financing of Discovery Channel and Tri-Star Pictures.”
Let’s analyze the paragraph more carefully because I am taking these statements with a grain of salt, especially since Mar has a penchant for vague wording.

The paragraph did not provide any specifics about his roles NorthStar Capitals, Inc  (NCI). While Mar used the words “proposed”, “stationed”, and “participated”,  he never used high-impact words such as “directed”, “led”, or “envisioned.”

Pero, any new hire can “propose” something, any security guard can be “stationed” to another place, and any maintenance crew member can participate can participate. Unless Mar gets more specific, it won't mean anything. Mamaya, matulad pa ako kay US ambassador Kristie Kenney na nag-akalang may MBA si Mar noong sinabi niyang "Wharton Education."

At this point, Mar would probably say, “My tasks were more complex than just that.”
Baka nga, pero Mar Roxas, ano ang gusto mo, hulaan na lang namin?

Until Mar mentions a specific, concrete, and management-related achievement during his Allen and Company AVP stint, that AVP title will mean nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, his 14 years at Allen and Company are worth something. But did he demonstrate stellar performance in Allen and Company?

Isang beses lang siyang napromote sa loob ng mahigit sampung taon sa kumpanya. Stellar performance ba 'yon?

Despite a mediocre  background, what made Mar Roxas qualified to be a congressman in 1993? The answer is "His Name".

Sa bagay, kung wala nang pag-angat sa career sa Wall Street, ituloy na lang ang political dynasty.

Pero sino ba ako para ganitong klase ang standards para sa isang presidente? Botante ako. Iyon ang sagot. 

Dahil kung pinag-aralan lang ang paguusapan, si Miriam na lang ang iboboto ko, noh.

Pero siyempre, hindi lang naman iyang natapos ang mahalaga, kaya't sa ngayon, let’s give Roxas the benefit the doubt.

I don't hate Mar per se. I just hate deceitful people. 

Note: Ginawa kong less formal ang language para hindi masyadong nosebleed. Pasensiya na po sa mga may gusto ng diretso na English.

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