There are many rags-to-riches stories of people beating the odds and ascending to the top. Most probably, one of the best success stories that anyone can read nowadays is that of business tycoon Henry Sy. Mr. Sy currently holds the number one spot as the richest man in the Philippines. His behemoth empire includes the SM Supermalls along with the banking arm Banco de Oro (BDO). These ventures helped Sy beat some of the most prominent names in the Philippine business like Lucio Tan and the Ayala clan.
According to Forbes list of The Philippines 50 Richest, Henry Sy, has a net worth of $12 billion as of July 2013. It stapled his name as the richest individual in the Philippines. Shares of his holding firm, SM Investments, is considered the most valuable company in the country. The patriarch Sy is also the SM Foundation, Inc. chairman who commits its projects in charitable deeds in providing quality education for poor Filipinos.
How Henry Sy Started Out And Became The Richest Figure in PH?
Sy was born in 1924 in the small village in southern China. Born Sy Chi Sieng, he came from an underprivileged family. The young Henry was committed to follow the footsteps if his businessman father. His father tried to find his luck in another country when Henry was just a baby. At 12, Henry followed his father in the Philippines, thinking that by now, he has built a stable business. Nevertheless, he was shocked to see his father’s current state. His father’s life in the Philippines was miserable. He shed tears upon the sight of his father’s demoralizing life.
This fueled Henry’s persistence to achieve his goal. The young Henry did everything he ever could in order to help make life less miserable. He worked his way from dawn until night.In the Divisoria market, Henry would buy some goods and carry them on his back. He would then go on by selling them in his father’s small store. This labor went in until they got a better way of living. He began to attend school in Quiapo’s Anglo-Chinese School. He had a hard time learning English when he was 12. Everything was going better for him and his father until the Japanese occupation of Manila took place. The economy rapidly collapsed. In 1946, their little store was burned down. His father decided to go back to China, but Henry stayed.
Henry began his own venture by selling cheap and affordable shoes from Marikina. He was able to get a loan from China bank in 1949. He used the loan to reestablish his venture. He then decided to attend Far Eastern University in 1950 to enhance his skills in the buy and sell venture. He took up an Associate in Arts in Commercial Studies degree. After he acquired his Philippine citizenship, he changed his name to Henry Sy. However, he discontinued his studies in order to focus on his venture.
Henry then married Felicidad, a Chinese immigrant who also acquired her Filipino citizenship. Together, they had six children. The couple converted to Catholicism as part of the strong Filipino culture.
The Establishment Of The First Shoemart
Henry established the first Shoemart on Carriedo St. in Manila in 1972. Though the business had a rough and slow start, it progressed steadily. Henry continued to open more department stores during the Martial Law years. It came to a point that he could not get any space he wanted in the existing shopping centers. Henry, at that time, decided to invest in properties for malls. He patterned his ideas after suburban shopping centers that he used to study. In 1983, Henry and his family established their first shopping mall. The Philippines during that time was in the middle of a debt freeze and hyper inflation was evident.
The Henry Sy Empire Throughout The Years
The decline in the economy has been further affected following the assassination of then-Senator Ninoy Aquino. Several bankers have predicted that their company will fall down because Henry was just a nobody. Though Henry had a few department stores during that time, he was not one of the country’s leading businessmen yet. Despite all the criticisms, Henry and his family endured and stayed optimistic. Henry later went on expanding and building malls. The expansion of their business was not easy. In 1989, their Sta. Mesa and Megamall projects were delayed because of cement shortages.
Instead of growing in size, Henry’s empire grew in numbers. They have served different smaller companies and they also expanded their retail business other than department stores. It includes supermarkets, appliance stores, retail formats and hardware stores.
The Sy Family In The Banking Business
While Henry looked to expand his business interests, he set his eyes straightly to the banking business. The family’s main bank, Banco De Oro (BDO) was a medium-sized bank at that time. BDO at the time was conservative in lending, which is why the flood of bad loans that was exhibited during that era did not affect the bank.
Business Interests Of Henry Sy
• Holding company (SM Prime Holdings)
• Real estate (SM Investments Corporation)
• Banking (Banco de Oro Universal Bank. CBC)
• Leisure (Belle Corporation, Highlands Prime, Inc.)
Awards And Recognitions Of Henry Sy
• Management Man of the Year” by the Makati Business Club
• Honorary Doctorate in Business Management by De La Salle University
• Forbes magazine Heroes of Philanthropy
• 1st Chinese-Filipino recipient of the PCE Big Brother of Filipino Entrepreneurs award
• 1st Chinese-Filipino recipient of the PRA President’s Award
According to Henry Sy, there is no overnight success of easy money. Do not be disheartened if failure comes. He said to try again if people failed. Do not change the ways of people who will achieve success. Sy further said that success is not purely good luck. Success can be defined as the combination of good credit standing, hard work, readiness, timing and opportunity. He elaborated hat success will not last long if people will not take care of it. These are the words of wisdom that made Henry Sy the richest man in the Philippines.