Because people are important (BPI)
(Following is the first part of an acceptance speech delivered by the author when he received the “MAP Management Man of the Year 2012” award from the Management Association of the Philippines.)
I am truly honored and grateful to be a recipient of your very prestigious MAP Management Man of the Year 2012 award. The dynamism of your organization and the impeccable quality of your past choices still leaves me in awe as a longtime professional manager in this country.
As an aside, when I told my eleven-year-old daughter Sofia that I won this award, she said, “Papa, what does Management Man mean—best senior citizen award?”
Allow me to start with a few very deserved thank yous.
To my wife, Ging, who has always supported my career even if it has dominated my attention and overstretched her patience to the detriment of time spent with her and the family. To my daughters, Chiara, Gabriella and Sofia, who I enjoy watching grow up in a multitasking, wired, but much-improved Philippines.
To my parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins—my father, Aurelio Jr., for giving me the wings to fly in a non-family business career, and my mother, Lourdes, for giving me the grounding of good values, great education, and family ties. To my paternal grandfather, Aurelio Sr., who helped found Far East Bank, for giving me the banking genes, and to my maternal grandfather, Nicanor Reyes, founder of Far Eastern University, for gifting me with education genes. To my brothers Anton and Johnny, and my sister Gianna for always being there for me.
To the Ayala Group, from my biased point of view, clearly the best employer in town, and the consistent breeder of high-quality professional managers, as partially evidenced by previous distinguished MAP MMOY awardees such as Don Jaime Zobel, my boss Jaime Augusto Zobel, Del Lazaro and Tony Aquino.
To my BPI board and BPI management, for creating the governance structure as well as the management capability and teamwork to keep BPI as a beacon of financial stability for over 161 years, and as a banking trailblazer in the next 161.
To my Bankers Association and Chamber of Thrift Banks colleagues, for working harmoniously together over all these years to dramatically improve the banking sector over the past 15 years.
And of course, to our regulators and government officials, and particularly BSP Governor Say Tetangco and Finance Minister of the Year Cesar Purisima—what better proof of the theme line “Good Governance Is Good Economics” than the 7.1 percent third-quarter GDP growth announced last week.
I also would like to acknowledge various support groups who have enriched my life over time—my Ateneo High School friends, my original French friends in Karachi, my YPO Palmer Forum, my golf cum eating group, as well as all the professional associations (Makati Business, MAP, Phil. Business for Education) and boards I am associated with.
Allow me now to proceed with a few thoughts on the country, banking and the management profession.
Banks mirror the economy, and so it is in the best interests of the banking profession to assist in the growth of the economy.
We at the Bankers Association are all happy that we have kept depositors’ and investors’ money safe, that we are lending healthily to all sectors, and that we are increasing both financial literacy and financial inclusiveness.
With all the challenges and negative public opinion facing banks in certain countries today, we are proud that here in the Philippines, banking continues to be an honorable profession.
We look good today, but it always helps to remember how bad the financial system was in the 1980s and the mid-1990s to realize what we have learned the very hard way.
I started my Philippine banking career in 1980—first with Citibank and then with Bank of the Philippine Islands in 1982. I have two distinct memories of that period—first, interest rates and inflation touched 60 percent; today, thanks to good governance at a time of global difficulty, treasury bill rates are less than 1 percent and inflation rates below 4 percent. Second, foreign exchange then was rationed to the point where I once allocated $10,000 to a multinational pharmaceutical company and was later told it saved keeping them in the Philippines; today our foreign exchange reserves are over $80 billion and our problem is the reverse—we are trying to protect against too much foreign currency inflow. Put another way, we were worse than Greece today, because we actually went through a debt moratorium.
As for the mid-’90s Asian crisis, we learned three hard lessons of what not to do—too much corporate leverage, too much bank leverage, and too much foreign currency borrowing make for a giant business and country headache and survival issue.
Fortunately, many of the business leaders today went through one or both eras, and this clearly helped us in 2008, when the Philippines was only partially affected by the global financial crisis.
In adversity there is opportunity.
BPI bought Family Bank in 1985 and entered the consumer banking business in 1986—today it dominates our internal thinking.
Filipinos had no jobs and no money in the 1980s—and so they went abroad, initially as domestics and construction workers. Today, the overseas remittance business is our largest and most visible contributor to our consumption-based economy, and was the game changer in our dramatic economic turnaround over the past 20 years.
(To be continued)