Saturday, August 27, 2016

How to avoid investing in scams

Excellent software for CRM and Tracking

I showed this software to a friend and explained how this website can help a venture capital firm to monitor its investments in start ups.

My friend remarked that this software can be customized to keep track of corporate customers for any business. He wants his marketing staff to keep track of their major customers and provide updates of contacts with the customers. He also needs to monitor the quotations, tenders and sales transacted for each customer.  He needs to know that they are keeping in touch with the major customers.

I told him that it is easy to customize the software to meet his needs.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Faulty trackers on buses should be replaced

Last week, I took bus 86 and dropped off at Anderson JC. I checked the LTA App for the arrival time of the next bus 162. It showed 31 mins.

The usual interval for bus 162 is 10 to 15 mins.

I guessed that the next bus has a faulty tracking device and will probably arrive within the next 10 mins before the one that will arrive at 31 mins.

I was right. The next bus arrived within 10 minutes.

I have encountered many instances of "missing buses" which had faulty tracking devices. They do not appear in the LTA app, These "ghost buses" do not exist in the LTA tracking system.

I have encountered them in other bus services, such as 163. I first observed it over a year ago and mentioned it in my blog.

It is a simple matter for LTA or the bus operators to identify the buses with the faulty trackers. They only need to check the database to see which buses appear to be "invisible".

I suspect that there are many buses with faulty trackers and this has not been attended for years. It is time for LTA and the bus operators to "wake up". There is no point to spend millions or tens of million dollars on a tracking system and allow it to show unreliable results.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gender Pay Gap

Women in America earn 13% less than men. This is the message from Bernie Sander's campaign. He wants to push for equal pay.

I just saw a report that the gender pay gap in the UK is as bad today as it was 20 years ago. Based on the latest survey, women earn 13.9% less than men.

Most researchers attribute this gap to gender discrimination. I disagree.

I attribute the gender pay gap to government policy. In most countries, the government mandated that employers should pay for the cost of maternity leave and, in some cases, health care for the female employees when babies arrive. The cost of the benefits is high for the employer. They adjust for this hidden cost by reducing the wages.

The gender pay gap is caused by market forces. As most employers adjust for the hidden cost, the female employees find have to accept the best offer available to them. Over time, this is reflected in the gender pay gap.

If the government is really serious about pay equality for females, they have to remove the cost of child bearing from the employer. The cost has to be paid by the state and financed through a payroll tax. The employer can provide the benefit and receive reimbursement from the state through an insurance pool.

In my view, this change of policy will help to improve the national birth rate. Many countries are struggling with this challenge.

Website for Venture Capital Firm

A new venture capital firm is interested in a website to help them to monitor the start ups that they are evaluating or have invested in.  I created a prototype website for them to see if it suits their needs. As this is a prototype, they can request for customization.

This prototype is explained in this video guide

Ethical and unethical property agents

I made this posting and received many feedbacks.

For property agents who made rude remarks, I like you to reflect on the following points:

1. I did not say that selling a property is easy or that a commission of $10,000 is too high.
2. I did not say that the practices are unethical or that all property agents are unethical.

I did say the following:
1. Some property agents oversell a high priced property to a prospective buyer, beyond the financial means of the buyer, using the marketing techniques that I have described here
2. They could be over-enthusiastic in working for their sales target and commission goals and may not be aware about the negative impact on the buyers.
3. Buyers should be aware of these marketing techniques and avoid signing on the dottd line due to some perceived discounts or special offers.

Most ethical property agents will probably agree that there are black sheeps that is spoiling their reputation (like in any other trade). Usually, it is the sales driven agents that are offended by the types of observations made by me.

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.

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