BDO President & CEO Nestor Tan is MAP Management Man of 2019

2020 January – The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) awarded Nestor V. Tan, president and chief executive officer of BDO Unibank, Inc., as the MAP Management Man of the Year 2019.


On November 25, 2019, Tan received the prestigious award. Below is an excerpt of his acceptance speech:


“As I stand here before you accepting this award, I can’t help but think of others who came before me. With his recent passing, we are all aware of John Gokongwei’s life story and his struggles to overcome the death of his father at an early age to build the empire that JG Summit is now.


“I am fully aware of Mr. Henry Sy’s struggles from running a humble sari-sari store to building the largest business conglomerate in the country. I saw firsthand my boss Tessie Coson’s struggles to bring the SM Group, especially the bank and the retail business to where it is now, and the biases she had to overcome in the process.


“I am now faced with the question: Am I bound to disappoint? I am here now, so let me start by saying a very big thank you to the MAP for the honor.


“As a professional, I am realistic. This award is for what we have accomplished as an organization and I am here receiving this because I am part of the management of that organization. So please allow me to share this honor with the real people deserving of this award—the people in BDO.


“First, to Tessie, for her confidence in us, for her drive and ambition that pushed us to take the bank to greater heights, and for her consistent and unwavering support throughout the years.


“To the Board of Directors, who have been very effective stewards of the bank, providing guidance on our strategy, direction, and governance. Special mention is due to our independent and non-executive directors who have been invaluable to our growth and success and a good stabilizing influence on all of us.


“To my partners, first to Sonny Jacinto and Josie Tan who share with me the burden of management leadership in BDO. They also share executive committee and executive director responsibilities with me.


“Then to my partners in the management team, who are also with us today. They are the real bosses running the individual businesses. If you believe we are successful, it is because of them. They are the ones grinding it out day in day out.


“And of course, to the 37,000-plus members of the BDO team. The clients see the bank through them and not through me. Our success is largely through their good execution. To the BDO team, we couldn’t have done it without you. So thank you!


“Last but definitely not the least, I would like give tribute to the biggest factor why I am here now—the support of my family.


“Let me share with you a little bit about our journey in BDO.


“BDO started out as a savings bank. It was decent in size, well-managed, and possessing a good business model supporting primarily the SM retail businesses. It was a good start for the ambition of Mr. Sy, which was to make BDO no. 1 in banking.


“The drive to fulfill that ambition started when, Tessie, in quick succession, converted BDO’s license to a commercial bank in 1994 then to a universal bank in late 1996. While the licenses placed BDO in the big league, its organization was largely unchanged. That was when Tessie decided to strengthen the organization and build the management core to take it to commercial bank levels. I joined them in 1997 when it was then ranked 20th in terms of resources.


“We started out with a modest strategy, a good niche player with businesses that are competitive in their own markets. Our mission then reflected—and still reflects—our current thinking to be the preferred bank in every market we serve. We do not intend to be all things to all people. But where we are competing, we strive to excel. Even now that we are a full service bank, we try to remain focused, and strive to be good at what we do, and not simply bank on the strength of our size and scale.


“Being good however is not solely about products. It is also about service and reliability. Our clients value us not so much for our products but for our service—personalized, cheerful despite the long hours, and accommodating. And yes, you are right, we are always willing to find ways to help the client. Hence, our tagline “we find ways.”


“Armed with simply two basic client philosophies, focus and service; we went on to grow the bank. However, it was not meant to be easy.


“Four weeks after I joined, the Asian financial crisis hit us. To make matters complicated, the BSP then instituted a policy of restricting branch expansion to encourage consolidation. For a small commercial bank like BDO, it was like being set-up for acquisition.


“Still, we were determined to grow the bank. Hence, our journey began. We started with the basics. We went on to implement our core IT system and to re-engineer our key processes. We strengthened our bench with the addition of officers at all levels. We also expanded our network and completed our IPO.


“Over a period of 22 years, we did 10 M&As, achieved five major capital raisings, had 25 bond issuances, and completed or unwound four joint ventures. Our journey continues now in a more competitive environment. We have the entry of non-bank competitors. We are exposed to more moving parts, and the world is more volatile and inter-related. The challenge is upon us, but I have no doubt our team will continue to live up to the challenge.


“Our success has always been measured in terms of size. We wanted to be good at what we do—one client, one product, one transaction at a time. Becoming big was just a by-product of doing what we do, relatively well.


“In closing, let me share my first encounter with Mr. Wash Sycip when I joined SGV some years back. He said that (and I am paraphrasing here) our careers will only grow if the institution grows and the institution will only grow, if the country grows. Therefore, as management practitioners, we have a responsibility to help our economy grow. And that means making an effort to influence policy issues that hamper the growth of our company, our industry, and our nation’s economy.


“Please allow me to end with that call to all MAP members and management practitioners. Thank you.”


MAP Management Man of the Year. Nestor Tan (center), president and CEO of BDO, received the Management Association of the Philippines’ (MAP) Management Man of the Year Award on November 25, 2019 from (from left) Atty. Michael Toledo, managing director of the MVP Group of Companies Media Bureau; Aurelio Montinola III, chairman of the MAP Management of the Year judging committee and chairman of Far Eastern University; Riza Mantaring, MAP president and board director of Sun Life Grepa Financial Inc.; and Ramoncito Fernandez, MAP immediate past president and chairman of the MAP Management Man of the Year search committee.


Related Stories: