US BUSINESS process outsourcing (BPO) company Afni said that it is scouting sites outside the National Capital Region (NCR) to support growing demand for Philippine-based services.

“Afni is eyeing expansion beyond Metro Manila as we support the government in its goals for regional growth,” Khalid Khursheed, senior vice-president and country manager of Afni Philippines, told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of an Afni site in Laguna on Friday.

“Diversifying our footprint in the Philippines allows us to bring jobs closer to where our employees live. This also makes perfect business sense by creating redundancy in our operations across the country,” he added.

On April 13, Afni opened its third site in the Philippines at SM City Santa Rosa, which has a staffing target of 3,000 by the end of 2024.

The new site spans 9,400 square feet across five floors and will be serving various US clients, with the first being in the telecommunications industry.

“The Philippines continues to be a prime location for companies seeking skilled and dedicated professionals,” according to Ron Greene, president and chief executive officer of Afni. 

“Afni’s expansion into Santa Rosa demonstrates our commitment to supporting our clients and boosting the country’s economy by establishing our presence in major hubs outside of Metro Manila,” he added.

Mr. Khursheed said that Afni’s clients are demanding more agents even after the additional 3,000 that will be set to work this year.

“Our clients want us to actually add more agents. So we’re looking at Tower 3 of SM Santa Rosa, which will add another 1,000 seats (by) mid- or third quarter of next year,” he said.

“And outside Luzon… we are looking into going to Cagayan de Oro or Roxas City,” he added.

Afni currently has over 8,000 employees at its Fairview and Commonwealth sites. By 2025, AFNI hopes to increase staffing to around 12,000.

“We’ve been managing Afni for the last 12 years. So, I know what the country has to offer, and I know some of the challenges and restrictions, and I’ve worked around all of these,” Mr. Khursheed said.

“We know what we need to do to get to these numbers. And the infrastructure is there, the talent is there, so I don’t think there’s much to stop unless we have another COVID-19 situation, which I don’t think is going to happen,” he added.

Afni said it will require employees in Santa Rosa to work on-site, as it is required by the company’s US client.

When asked if this could hinder their plans to fill the 3,000 seats, Mr. Khursheed said: “I don’t think so because in Metro Manila, we have over 8,000 employees, and they prefer to work on-site because 80% of our employees live within a 30-minute commute.”

“And also, sometimes we have noticed that the employees do not have the right set-up to work at home because, you know, we need specific requirements, so we’ll bring them on-site,” he added.

He said that most of Afni’s clients require employees to work on-site for data privacy, while a small percentage, or 10%, allow working from home. 

“The work we do is highly complex, and our clients are very premium; they are among the Top 50 Fortune companies. They’re blue-chip companies, so really, really top-of-the line. The data that our employees are exposed to is very, very critical,” he said.

“As you can see, there are a whole bunch of cyberattacks happening in the Philippines and around the world. We do not want to have the data exposed elsewhere. On-site, we have strong security controls in place so no one can get in,” he added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile