By Khris Marc Ronquillo
We were taught growing up that the bank was the best place to keep our money. As adults, we learn that the bank is more than a hollow porcelain pig to put your coins in; in fact, it is a partner in business.
Real life shows us, however, that getting approved for a bank loan is not that easy.
It is in the light of this reality that the saying “it takes money to make money” rings ever truer.
But isn’t it common wisdom that you go ask the bank for a loan precisely because you have no money to begin with? The late banking giant George Siao Kian Ty knew this well.
It was precisely an unapproved bank loan that became the turning point of his life, the beginnings that would lead to the founding of the second largest bank in the Philippines, the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, or Metrobank as we know it.
Rewind to the opening of the 1950s in Tondo, and we find a 19-year-old George trying to keep afloat the Wellington Flour Mills, his family’s business, by securing loans in what was then postwar Manila.
Time and again, no one wanted to lend money to an uncredentialed teenager running a family-owned business at the brink of folding. But persistence was not in short supply for Ty, and it paid off.
He found an establishment willing to grant him the loan, made good on the opportunity, and was able to pay off his creditors in two short years.
Out of the experience, however, he not only was able to save his family business but also lit the desire to put up his own bank. At 25, not knowing the first thing about banking, he pursued his dream and worked to secure the approval of the Central Bank, which involved week after week of waiting in the office of the Central Bank governor for years.
Again, persistence was the key, and in 1963 Ty opened the first branch of Metrobank at Plaza Calderon in Binondo, Manila.
Today, Metrobank is the Philippines’ second largest bank with total current assets worth ₱2.2 trillion1, making it an important partner in the country’s growth. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo emphasized as much when he described Ty as “a visionary and pillar of the Philippine economy.” His influence was such that besides Metrobank creating its own subsidiary in the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), Ty held a sizeable stake in the rival Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).
Among the lessons in banking is that money grows not by leaving it alone in the vault, but by making it work. Outside of the financial industry, Ty was also Group Chairman of GT Capital Holdings and the founder of Toyota Motor Philippines, which he set up as a joint venture with the Japanese automotive giant.
GT Capital also owns Global Business Power Corporation, the leading power producer in the Visayas Region and Mindoro Island through its subsidiaries. Ty was a prime real estate developer as well through Federal Land, Inc. which developed the following properties:
- GT Tower International in Makati
- Grand Hyatt Hotel and Grand Hyatt Manila Residences,
- SixSenses Residences
- Bay Garden Club and Residences
- the Blue Bay Walk family and lifestyle commercial strip
- Metrobank Center
- Veritown Fort township in Fort Bonifacio, and
the Marco Polo Residences and Marco Polo Plaza Hotel in Cebu.
Understanding firsthand the difficulties of the industrious for opportunities and breaks to flourish, Ty was committed to not only make money for himself, but to help others make theirs. As Metrobank’s chairman from 1975 to 2006, he was guided by this vision of establishing “a bank that would give money to help businessmen and the community.”
Ty was committed to making the life of Filipinos better. Whereas through the bank he was able to help entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses, through his foundations he was able to perform more philanthropic work.
To this end, Ty established the Metrobank Foundation in 1979, which became an award-giving body instrumental in recognizing exemplary individuals in various fields of public service and academic excellence:
- The Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT)
- The Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) for Filipino Artists
- The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS)
- The Country’s Outstanding Police Officers in Service (COPS)
- The Metrobank Foundation Professional Chairs Program
- The Search for Journalist of the Year (JOY)
- The National Teachers’ Month celebration, and
- The Metrobank-MTAP-DepEd Math Challenge that fosters a new breed of Math wizards.
Ty was involved in poverty alleviation projects through GT Capital, often by providing health insurance to the less fortunate, as well as a constant presence in in relief operations during times of calamity.
In addition, the Norberto & Tytana Ty Foundation, named in honor of his parents, distributed projects in education, healthcare, arts, and the environment.
His big heart for the promotion of education was described by the Department of Education as “his lifelong commitment to the advancement of education, culture and arts in the Philippines.” In 2016, Ty’s project expenses reached $4.23 million (₱196.1 million pesos at the time) making his work among the biggest philanthropic efforts in the country.
All of this humanitarian efforts did not go unnoticed, because even though he did not finish college, the University of Santo Tomas honored him as a well-loved Thomasian, by conferring on him an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, honoris causa.
Ty now belongs to an illustrious list of recipients that include Presidents Sergio Osmeña Sr., Manuel Quezon, Manuel Roxas, and Corazon Aquino, American General Douglas McArthur, and Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin.
On the 23rd of November, Ty finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer after battling it for several months.
He was 86. But even in death, Ty’s vision is securely woven in Metrobank’s DNA. During his wake, Metrobank asked for donations to for the benefit of organizations such as the Philippine National Red Cross, CBCP Caritas Filipinas Foundation, and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation as a fitting tribute to their founder. Truly, George Ty’s best investment wasn’t in any bank, but in the people that he made sure were in good hands.