Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Authorization to obtain medical reports

A patient made a claim under a medical insurance policy for reimbursement of an expensive hospital bill. There was a delay in the approval of the claim.

Later, she was shocked to learn that the insurance company requested for medical reports from the hospitals and clinics visted in the past years. This was done without informing the patient or getting her consent.

She asked me if the insurance company had the authority to request for the medical information.

I replied that claimant had probably gave the authorisation to the the insurance company when she submitted the claim. This authorisation is probably contained in the claim form.

I checked the claim form of NTUC Income and found the authorisation in the last page of a 6 page claim form.

I was surprised to learn that the claim form has become so complicated. It gives a lot of trouble to the policyholder in submitting a claim.

Financial Planning Video #1

Here is the first video of a series of short videos on financial planning. They contained tips for young people.

Simple suggestions for UPS Courier Service

I have a few simple suggestions for UPS to improve their system:

1) Assign a numeric code for their accounts, e.g. 912345 instead of 91234V (which requires people to pronounce as Victor). The account code should be unique globally. If they have many accounts, they can increase to 7 digits.  If they need to identify the office, it can be done as a suffice, e.g. 912345/SIN for the Singapore office. There is already an internationally recognized system used by airlines for cities.

2) Assign a number ID for each shipment, e.g. 12345678. The ID can be used for collection, shipment, etc. There is no need to give different ID for the different activities. If they need to differentiate between a Collection and a shipment, it can be done by a suffix, e.g. 1234567/C or 1234567/S.

If UPS had designed their system with these suggestions, my user experience would have been easy and they would have got me as a long term customer.

Yes, I know what I am talking about. I do have a lot of experience in the design of database system. You can watch this video about my expertise in this area.

Poor system from UPS courier

An office in Bahrain asked me to sign certain documents and return to them. They arranged with the courier UPS.

I received an email from UPS Bahrain office with instructions to call their Singapore office. Two numbers were given. They also provide a shipping label.

I called the numbers given to arrange for collection. The staff said - sorry, this is the wrong number. I have to call the second number.

(Surely, UPS Bahrain should know which number to call)? 

The staff at the second number asked for all kinds of information. 

UPS: What is the account code of the receiving office?

TKL:  9769 3 V for Victor F for France Y for York, N for Norway 84.
(Why can't they use numbers, without letters?)

UPS: Sorry, the account number should be a 6 digit number.

TKL: The shipping label has a 6 digit number, Receiver 97693 V for Victor. 

(Why can't they use numbers, without letters?)

UPS: Sorry. We cannot locate the record. Can you give the collection number, starting with XX?

TKL: ????. I can't find such a number on your shipping label.

UPS: In that case, I can help you to create the collection record. But you have to provide use with all the required information

(And they asked for much more than really necessary for the collection!)

UPS: Is this the first time that you are using UPS?

TKL: Yes. This is the first time and the last time. 

TKL: The email that I received was from your Bahrain UPS office. Surely, they should know what information is required for the collection?

UPS: Thank you for your feedback. We will pass it to the consumer department.

An IT expert visited my office. He asked how I developed the Business Simulation Game. He knew that the software was difficult to build.
I explained my database technology to him. He was amazed. I showed him this video to explain the technology.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Low claim payout for critical illness covers

Two young entrepreneurs saw me to seek my views about developing a mobile app to educate people on their financial planning and buying of insurance.

They ask if critical illness coverage is important for everyone. I told them to avoid it. The insurance companies are making too much profit from this type of cover.

I showed this website to them. The claim ratio is as low as 20%. If the customer pays $1000 in premium for this cover, the insurance company and the agent makes $800. The customer gets an average of only $200 back in claims.

They were shocked at this high profit margin. Why do consumers buy this policy? I said that they are ignorant.

Expensive to send a document to Bahrain

I called Fed Ex to collect a document to send to Bahrain. They quoted a fee of $150. That seemed rather high.

I checked with TNT and got a quote of $110. It seemed rather high also.

I asked the receiving company to arrange to collect the document from my office, as they are paying for the collection charges.

Why is it so expensive to send a document from Singapore to Bahrain? Does this reflect on the high cost of doing business in Singapore?

Citi Link Express

Citi Link Express has an operating office in Toa Payoh. I used them a few times to send urgent documents by courier to overseas destinations.

I called their hotline to make an urgent delivery. Nobody picks up the phone for the past two hours. I called another hotline number provided by them. Nobody picks up the phone.

I wonder if the employees are on strike? Or is the hotline staff sick and no other staff is able to take over? I suspect that they are short of staff and are feeling the crunch of the manpower shortage.

If they do not have staff manning the telephone, they should switch off their automated system, instead of asking customers to wait for someone to answer the call.

This episode cause me to waste an hour of my time trying to get through to them. I will have to look for another courier. This will require some effort to make the arrangement.

This is how unproductive Singapore has become. This cascades. Their poor service affects my productivity.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Remove the hissing from the audio of a PowerPoint

I created a PowerPoint and added an audio narration to the slide show. On playback, there was a noticeable hissing sound.

I search Google to find a solution. Many users encountered the same problem. They offered quite complicated solutions involving third party software. It was too troublesome for me.

Someone suggested to use a good microphone. I re-recorded the narration with a Logitech mic (the best that I got). I passed the completed work to my colleague to convert into a movie and upload to Youtube. It came out perfect. There was no hissing sound.

A week later, I recorded the audio narration to another PowerPoint with the same Logitech mic. The hissing sound was bad. I re-recorded it a few times. It was still bad. On my last attempt, I switched off the air conditioner in my room. There was still a hissing sound, I converted the PowerPoint into a movie file. The movie file has the hissing sound.

I uploaded the movie into Youtube. Surprise! The hissing sound disappeared.

My conclusion - Youtube (owned by Google) had the technology to remove the hissing sound.  I am puzzled that Microsoft did not use that technology to remove the hissing sound in the audio recording of their PowerPoint.

Now I know why Google is worth many times the market value of Microsoft. Clearly Microsoft has not kept in touch with the needs of their customers.

Seminar on Motor Insurance in 4 cities

I have been invited to give this seminar on motor insurance in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Colombo. It comprises of a talk, Q&A and business simulation Game.

310,000 policies are surrendered each year

The MAS website showed 13,460,000 policies in force at end of 2015. The surrender rate is 2.3%. This means that 310,000 policies are surrendered in a year.

In most of these cases, the policyholder receives a poor surrender value from the insurance company. The surrender value will usually be less than half of the total premiums paid.

Here is some good news. They may be able to get a better surrender value from this "investment company". This is usually higher than the surrender value offered by the insurance company.

Why is this the case? The insurance company is acting like a monopoly - so they offer a low value. The tell the policyholder - take it or leave it.

If the policyholder approaches the investment company, they will usually find a better value.

Here is the link

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Joseph Schoolings story by the Straits Times

Business similation - run a shipping line

Can you run Neptune Orient Lines better than the former CEO who had prior experience in the military? Maybe you could, and if you did, NOL would not be sold away.

If you also have no experience, you can learn the experience from the business simulation game.

Go to and click on Video Guide. It shows you how to play the game.

You can create a new game and choose the Shipping scenario. It allows you to operate a shipping service in Asia, Europe and America.

You are given the market and economic trends and you have to decide on the pricing, capacity and advertising. Your aim is to achieve the highest profit (or avoid a big loss).

Tip - you are given an important information - whether the margin is high, moderate or low for next round. You have to be agressive in changing your business strategy.

Good luck. Enjoy the game.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Traffic restriction in Jakarta

Jakarta has introduced the restriction based on the licence plate number from 1 August 2016. The implementation has been quite smooth. There was no protest.

Vehicles with plate numbers ending with an odd or even number are allowed to use the roads on odd and even days during the peak hours from 6 to 10 am and 4 to 8 pm. There is no restriction during the non-peak hours.

This restriction has led to a boom in car sales. The high income owners bought a second car with a plate that has a different odd/even number than their existing car. This has led to parking problems for the second cars, but it is a different matter.

This restriction is a temporary measure. Jakarta will be introducing electronic road pricing (ERP) similar to Singapore. When ERP is launched, the restriction based on licence plate number will be removed.

Potential partner interested in database technology

I sent this video about my database technology to a potential business partner in Jakarta. He was impressed with this technology. He asked his IT head to study how to collaborate with me.

Tax amnesty in Indonesia

The tax amnesty has started in Indonesia.

An Indonesia tax payer is allowed to declare his past undeclared income and pay a tax of 2% if the money is brought back into Indonesia and 4% if it is kept overseas.

For example, a tycoon had earned income of $100 million and did not pay any tax on it in the past years. He can now declare this income and bring it back to Indonesia by paying 2% or $2 million. He will not be prosecuted for failing to declare the income in the past. If he keeps this income overseas, e.g. in Singapore, he pays a tax of 4% or $4 million under the amnesty plan.

The tax increases from 2% for the current quarter to 3% for the next quarter, then 4% for the following quarter and finally 5%. If the income is kept overseas, the tax is doubled. This gives the incentive for the taxpayer to declare the income earlier and enjoy a lower rate of tax under the amnesty plan.

An Indonesian friend told me that it is better to declare the income earlier and pay 4% and keep the money in Singapore. The taxpayer will become free of future prosecution for tax evasion in the future.

The tax amnesty plan is created by President Jokowi to bring additional tax revenue to the Indonesian budget. The tax authorities were not able to catch the tax evaders in the past. This is a way to bring some revenue, although it is only a small portion of the tax that should have been paid. It is a pragmatic approach.

GST Carousel Fraud

Many people dislike GST for being a regressive tax, which imposes a heavy burden on low income people.

I have a separate issue. I found it to be a wasteful taste. It creates too much unnecessary work and waste for businesses. They have to pay the GST on what they buy and then reclaim their GST when they resell the goods.

If a consumption tax has to be imposed, it is better to impose it at the final point of sale, rather than at all the intermediate points. I described GST as a "bits and pieces" tax.

I now find another reason to dislike this wasteful tax. Some people have taken advantage of its weakness to create the carousel fraud. It is described here.

Some people may be caught. But how many people get away with this kind of fraud or similar evasive activities? We will never know.

It is time to review the GST and find a better way to collect revenue without imposing unnecessary cost to businesses. Already, the cost of doing business is too high in Singapore.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The future for Joseph Schooling

Our Olympic Gold medalist, Joseph Schooling, will be returning to America. He is likely to stay there and make his career as a sports professional.

Many Singaporeans understand and agree with his decision. Joseph and his parents have made tremendous financial and personal sacrifices to bring the coveted Olympic Gold medal to Singapore. The state did almost nothing to support him in this humongous effort. There is no future for sports professionals in Singapore. He has to plan for his future, which must lie in America.

Wait! There is an alternative.

Suppose, Singapore engages him to set up the Schooling School of Swimming (SSS), modelled along the Bolles School in Florida. This is the school that had trained Joseph to win the Olympic Gold. Joseph had trained in that school for several years. He knows the entire training regime inside out. He must have also observed how the training regime impact not only him but the other students in his cohort.

Joseph is most qualified to be the founder and chief trainer of this new school. Singapore can put a few tens of million dollars into this venture. Who can be more qualified that to train our future swimmers than a local and Olympic Gold medalist?

Singapore has a future in swimming. Over the past decades,  we have produced medal winning swimmers in various international events. Swimming is one of the few sports that Singapore can excel in. It is largely an individual sport. It does not require many participants to form a team.

The future swimmers have to be trained from a young age. A young trainer, like Joseph, is more likely to relate to these youngsters than an older guy.

Furthermore, one does not need to be a business or engineering graduate to be an sports professional. Joseph can puruse his degree, but it has to be in the field of sports.

I hope that our minister for sports will consider this suggest and take a bold step to reach out to Joseph Schooling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Difficult to use Singapore Airline website

I have a lot of problem in using Singapore Airline website.

I wanted to know how many Krisflyer miles are required for a return ticket to London. The website asked me to choose Book or Redeem. So, I indicated Redeem.

I have to enter the Departing City and Destination City and the dates. Some of my entries keep disappearing. I get an error. I have to make my entries all over again. They do not remember my previous entries.

I have to try this a few times to get the entries correct. Then they ask me to sign into my Krisflyer account. I cannot remember my number. Furthermore, my points will only be credited later this month. There will be insufficient points to make any redemption.

I just wanted to know the points required. It is really difficult to use.

Two weeks ago, I called the SIA hotline. The staff checked and came back with the wrong answer. If the SIA staff can be confused, it is certainly more difficult for the customer.

I hope that SIA will consider my feedback and make their website more user friendly.

Insurance policies to be in electronic form in India

India is moving forward by requiring certain types of insurance policies to be in electronic form later this year.
They will be way ahead of Singapore.

It is time for our Monetary Authority of Singapore to take the lead and move forward to a more efficient way of handling insurance.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Explaining TPP to LHL

I asked Bernie Sanders to explain to Lee Hsien Loong why the Trans Pacific Partnership is a very bad idea and why LHL should stop advocating the TPP.

Sanders sent this video.

Understand the business cycle

Understanding the business cycle is crucial to the success of any business. Know when there is an increase in demand, when there is increased compeitition from other suppliers and how the market reacts to pricing and marketing. This insight and skill applies to any business, big and small. If you fail to read the cycle correctly, your business can suffer large losses. This is what happened to Neptune Orient Lines.

You can learn how to read and react to business cycle from this business simulation game.

Watch the video guide on how to play the game. It is easy and fun. But you have to practice a few times to get the feel of the game.

Dispute within PM Lee's family

The dispute between PM Lee and his sister is simmering again.…/lee-wei-ling-slam-lee-hsien…/

Problem solving

Develop the skill of problem solving using the shape quiz

Know where to start
Look for the obvious clues
Solve the problem step by step

Scandalizing the judiciary

I consider the concept of "scandalising the judiciary" to be ridiculous in this age of the Internet. I agree with the British High Commission that this concept should be abolished.

Database technology

My expertise is in creating database and in processing the data to get useful results. This video explains my database technology in more detail. I can help corporations to find creative solutions to improve their business.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Quest for Olympic Medals

Singapore embarked on its quests for Olympic medals many years ago. It started a sports excellence program to develop local and foreign sports talents. It imported foreign athletes and gave them citizenship and special training. It must have invested tens or even hundreds of million dollars over the past years in this quest.

This program did produce some results - a Silver medal in the Beijing 2008 Olympics and 2 Bronze medals in the London 2012 Olympics.

It took a young man with a burning ambition and indomitable determination and the selfless sacrifice, support and love of his parents, to bring the most covered Olympic Gold medal to Singapore. This was achieved outside of the state sponsored program.

Joseph Schooling and his parents, Colin and May, deserve our adulation. We are proud of your achievement and what you have done for Singapore.

Ironically, the state almost obstructed this historic achievement. Joseph was required to spend two years of full time National Service, an obligation that is incumbent on all male citizens. If he had been called up, it would have disrupted his training. Most certainly, he would not have won any medal, let alone the coveted Gold Medal.

Joseph Schooling is invited to attend a Parliamentary sitting in honor of his achievement. It is timely for the government to review its national service policy, in the light of this experience.

Here are my suggestions:

The Schooling family has shown, beyond any doubt, what can be achieved through personal ambition and determination, and the support of the family. The government should encourage this initiative and long term commitment.

It should make it easy for these families to receive deferment of the national service obligations, while the young man pursue a laudable goal. If they achieved the goal, they should be fully exempted from national service. They have already served the nation in a more meaningful way.

Most families would find the financial sacrifice to be unaffordable. The government should find some way to help the family in this quest. It will be a challenge to decide who should or should not be supported. This is not easy but we must try to find a formula.

We can find this formula, but it requires judgment, impartiality and transparency from a selection panel.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The lesson from Neptune Orient Lines

Neptune Orient Lines was an icon of Singapore. It was our national shipping line. It was important to Singapore because maritime trade is an important part of our economy. The port of Singapore is one of the busiest in the world.

It is an extremely sad episode for Singapore when NOL had to be sold to a French shipping group. It had sustained large losses in recent years and the shareholders could not bear the loss or see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The CEO of NOL said that the downturn was sudden and could not be foreseen. Was it really the case?

It might be unforseen for someone who is relatively inexperienced in the shipping line, but is should not come to a surprise to someone who has been in the industry for a few decades and had seen the ups and downs of the business cycle.

Unfortunately, the CEO was previously a military person and did not have any experience in this shipping industry. It is a mistake on the part of the major shareholder, namely Temasek Holdings, to put a relatively inexperienced person to run this large company.

The business cycle will affect all industry, not only the shipping business. It will affect airlines, hotels, tourism, manufacturing, retail, property and just about any industry. That is the nature of the free market and competitive economy.

Apart from gaining experience, insight and the feel with decades of experience, there is another way to understand the nature of the business cycle.

If the CEO of NOL and his top management had practised on this business simulation game, they would have known about the market cycle and how they should adjust their pricing, capacity and marketing expenditures under various market conditions and economic cycles.

Watch the Video Guide in the home page. It shows you how to play the simulation game and gain the experience that comes from many years of operating experience. Maybe, you can avoid the fate that brought down NOL.

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Why is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) bad for ordinary people?

Bernie Sanders explain why it is bad. He gave four reasons.

They apply not only to America. They apply to other countries as well. They also apply to Singapore.

TPP is good for the multi national companies, the drug companies, the Wall Street banks.

Avoid Dual Currency Investment - it is a form of financial terrorism

From time to time, some unwary customers invested in a Dual Currency Investment. They did not realize the high risk. They were mis-advised by the bank relationship manager who recommended the DCI to them.

I wrote this article to explain the DCI. I encourage consumers to read it to understand it. After understanding it, most sensible consumers will avoid the DCI like terrorism.

Training of Joseph Schooling

I saw an article stating that Joseph Schooling was trained in USA and his father spent over $1 million (USD) in his training.

The environment in Singapore was not conducive to his training. It must be very costly for his family.

I am glad that this investment is rewarded by the glory of achieving an Olympic Gold and a generous cash prize from the state.

Perhaps our elites in Singapore can reflect on our training system - which seems to be not going well here.

Joseph Schooling and National Service

When Joseph Schooling won the Olympic Gold for Singapore at the age of 21, this question came to my mind - Did he have to serve his full time National Service?

I read that his mother had to ask SAF to allow Joseph to complete his basic training plus three months, so that he can continue to train for this sport.

I do not know if this request was granted. I hoped that it was - and that would demonstrate that the SAF is flexible.

It is a miracle that the first Olympic Gold for Singapore came from a local born citizen, and not a foreign import.

We will never know how many Olympic medals were lost in past years when National Service disrupted their sports training and the young boys did not have parents who fought hard for them to be given "some flexibility".

Congratulations to the Schooling family. Well done. You have made us proud!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mr. Tan
I want to share with you a bad unethical practice from bank X.

They sold a credit card to me at a mall. I don't really need the card, but the sales person was persistent. I obliged to help the young man.

I used the credit card on a few occasions but forgot to pay the bill. They charged a high interest rate on the card.

For my normal credit card, I have set up GIRO to deduct from my account. For the new card, I overlook it. Why did they not tell me to set up GIRO? I suspect that they want to make me overlook the payment, so they can charge a high interest rate on the card. This is how they make money.

I asked for the GIRO form and submitted it. The form was quite complicated. I was surprised to learn that they only deduct the minimum amount each month and carry forward the balance to charge interest. I have more than sufficient balance in my bank account - so I intended to pay each month's bill in full.

Bank X told me that there was a column in the GIRO form to pay the minimum amount or in full. I did not tick in full, so they assume that I want to pay the minimum amount.

This bank is quite dishonest in its practice. They purposely want to catch their customers unwary and to find ways to charge their exorbitant interest rate for late payments.

Please share this experience with your readers.

Thank you. I agree with you that Bank X is greedy to make profit. They do not have any hesitation to "cheat" their customers. I suspect that many banks practice this unethical model.

Investor lost 20% of family wealth on Dual Currency Investment

Hi Mr Tan,
I just want to share with the readers that I have suffered 20% loss of my family's wealth via DCI investment. We just want to make good use of money by earning a conservative interest yield and the banker had effectively helped us made a loss! 

Our original fund is SGD later converted to AUD and then converted to USD. Double whammy with SGD and USD currency sliding down. You will see that the banker will stick to the same pitch. Keep on investing USD. The currency will rise up sooner or later. The banker of mine even dared to say that the USD currency will go up to 1.45. This is a dangerous message. Exactly your advice. 

The banker said we are not losing your base fund. Just keep it as AUD and USD until the currencies rise. This is all bullshit. Now, we are stuck with USD and earning no interest rate. This is a long term investment loss in value and in time. Please don't invest in DCI unless you are economics/market savvy yourself and is able to take risk. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Financial articles for consumers

Here are some useful everyday financial articles written for consumers in Singapore

Bad service from DBS Bank

I wanted to pay my Standard Chartered credit card bill by GIRO from my DBS account. My relationship manager told me that I have to get a manual from from SC Bank, sign it and send it to SC Bank for processing.

DBS allows my to go online and submit my GIRO request to many organizations. But they don't allow it for payment of credit card to another bank? Why?

This is another example of the wasteful and inefficient practices that is allowed to happen in Singapore.

I wonder if the government or MAS will step in and ask the banks to wake up and help to improve productivity and reduce waste in Singapore.  

How property agents sell very expensive apartments

Here are some ways that property agents sell very expensive apartments.

Case 1
The buyer went to view some unsold units. The property agent said that the price was $2,000 psf. It was way too high, but it was an expensive condo facing the sea. The buyer could not afford it. The agent said, "Let me show you a unit where the developer has not yet raised the price. It was $1,800 psf (still too expensive). The buyer nearly bought it to avoid the price increase. She could not afford it, but this was momentarily forgotten.

Case 2
The  buyer was shown a condo unit in an expensive development in Upper Thomson Road. The price was $1,500 psf. It was about 50% higher than older developments down the road. The agent, who was a friend of the buyer, told the buyer that she had a unit with an excellent view of Pierce Reservoir. The buyer almost bought the unit for its excellent view. She did not realize that almost all high rise blocks have excellent views of reservoirs, forested areas or of the sea. 

The property agents are trained in marketing. They know how to catch the weak points of the buyers. They will bring out an "exclusive offer", when it is not really exclusive. The price may be inflated, but the buyers generally do not know the difference between $1,000, $1,500 and $2,000 ps - so long as it is a "discount".

Thursday, August 11, 2016

How Shape Quiz can train your mind in problem solving

This short video explains how the shape quiz can be used to train the mind in problem solving.

I organize a 1 hour tutorial on Saturday in my office for children age 7 to 10 years. I invite the parent to sit in and learn with the child.

This is not a game. It is fun, yes, but it is a subtle way to train the child in the correct approach to solve problems. It also gives them the confidence in dealing with challenges and uncertainty.

This can be practiced. The skill can develop over time.

Here is the video

If you like to register your child to attend the 1 hour tutorial (and you can sit in as well), you can register here:

When I showed this to an elderly person, he liked this concept. He will bring his grandson to attend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Shape Quiz - training on problem solving

I am giving a tutorial to children (7 to 10 years) about the Shape Quiz. It helps to train them in problem solving - what to look out for, and where to start.

Civil servant with wrong focus

My staff called the Ministry of Manpower to enquire about S Pass. She passed the call to me.

MOM - You are Mr. Tan. May I have your full name and your NRIC for recording purpose?

TKL - (I gave them the particulars)

MOM - Mr. Tan, you are calling the wrong number. For general enquiry, please call the MOM hotline. This telephone is only for CPF issues and complaints.

TKL ????

If my staff got the wrong number, why does MOM to ask my full name and NRIC "for record purpose"?

This staff is so focused on getting data to complete the KPI, rather than to serve the public.

Start a business to manufacture chocolates

You can try this simulation game. Select a New Game and choose Chocolate.

You are asked to decide on the price to sell your cholcolate (in cartons of 100 bars), how many to produce and how much to spend on advertising.

You will see the results of your decision at the end of each round. You complete with other manufacturers.

Good luck.

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