Good choice for BSP chief
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amado Tetangco Jr. will retire in July content with the thought that he will leave the office he ably managed for 12 years in good hands.
For the next six years, his protégé, BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., will take on the task of ensuring that the country’s banking and financial institutions play a meaningful role in the growth and development of our economy.
Although Espenilla was in the shortlist of contenders for the position, he was considered a “dark horse” because he had no political lineage or backing to bank on. Thankfully, good sense, rather than politics or past friendship, prevailed in the choice of the next BSP governor.
Earlier, there were reports that President Duterte’s roommate when he was in law school, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., was lobbying for the position.
The prospect of Yasay becoming the country’s monetary regulator unnerved the banking community. Yasay was the subject of several complaints for “unwholesome banking activities” by the BSP arising from his stint as director and legal counsel of the shuttered Banco Filipino.
By uncanny coincidence, the BSP official who investigated Yasay and initiated the filing of the cases against him was Espenilla. Had Yasay been appointed governor, Espenilla would probably be forced to retire or find himself in the dog house.
Unknown to many, Espenilla initially aspired to be a lawyer. He enrolled in the evening class of the UP College of Law shortly after he graduated magna cum laude in economics from UP and joined the BSP.
After attending a few weeks’ classes, he quit his law studies. He found it difficult to commute after office hours from the BSP office in Manila to the UP Diliman campus. Besides, his full time job prevented him from meeting the tough academic requirements of the law course.
The legal profession’s loss proved to be the banking industry’s gain. With his ambition to be a lawyer set aside, Espenilla concentrated on his banking career and rose from the ranks to be deputy governor and soon governor.
It’s a blessing in disguise that Espenilla opted to hone his skills as a bank regulator than to be a lawyer. If he were a lawyer, he would find himself under the influence of certain norms and prejudices endemic to the legal profession that sometimes do not jibe with sound economic principles.
If it is any consolation to Espenilla, his ambition to be a lawyer was fulfilled in a vicarious way—her daughter graduated with honors at the UP College of Law and is now in the active practice of law.
Some time ago, I attended a conference on banking and finance in the Asia-Pacific region in Australia where Espenilla was a resource speaker. The other speakers were from China, Japan, Australia and the United States.
He gave an impressive discourse on Philippine banking practices and regulations. During the open forum, he showed his mastery of international “best practices” banking regulations and how the BSP has adopted them to our banking system.
By his own admission, Espenilla has very big shoes to fill. The multi-awarded outgoing governor has skillfully steered the BSP, and the country, through several domestic and international economic and financial problems. It will be a tough act to follow.
While Tetangco has done well, Espenilla would have to be his own man. He cannot, and should not, aspire to be his predecessor’s clone. He has to look at the country’s economic or monetary problems from a different perspective depending on the prevailing circumstances. Not everything that worked in the past would necessarily be effective today or in the future.
He not only has to think out of the box, so to speak, in the performance of his new responsibilities; he has to think as if there is no box that limits his capacity to do his job.
The last time I talked to Espenilla, he said with sincerity that he had reached the peak of his professional career and would be glad to retire as deputy governor. Well, his appointment validates the biblical verse “those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Congratulations, Nesting! You truly deserve your appointment.
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