For small-town boy and lawyer Fredieric B. Landicho, becoming managing partner of the Philippine member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia was a dream beyond his wild imaginings.
Growing up in a small barangay (village) in Luntal, Taal, Batangas, Landicho didn’t nurture lofty ambitions, only basic wants—a home, an education and a quiet life in the province, much like the bucolic days of his childhood. “Simple lang ang buhay namin dun [Our lives were simple],” recalls the soft-spoken professional. “My father was a trader, who was into the buy-and-sell business, and my parents owned a sari-sari [provision]store in town.”
Everyday beginning when Landicho was just five years old, the family would make the trip from Luntal to the town center to open their store. “It was the 1980s, and since it was a small place, we only made a small margin of profit. We made five to 10 centavos average; if we made 25, that was already good!” Thumbing the coins and computing change, profit, expenses and cost opened the boy’s eyes to the importance of not only money, but honesty and transparency when it came to business and transactions.
“I learned the value of money, and how every single centavo is important.” And it’s this same intense meticulousness for finances that he is passing on to his two girls and two boys, who range in age from three to 11.
His knack for numbers and quick calculation drew him to take up Accounting in San Beda. “Initially, I had wanted to be a litigation lawyer because I thought it would be cool, and we didn’t have lawyers in the family. But as destiny would have it, I entered San Beda.”
While there, he threw himself fully into his studies. It was only in college that the provincial boy ventured out of a rural setting and into the big city. “I didn’t want to be a burden to my family, and so I promised myself that after graduation, I would never ask money from my parents again.” The hefty cost of the review center, vital to surviving the CPA board exams, he says, was paid for using his own savings—no mean accomplishment for the young man. “I was already thinking of that during my first year of college, and so the first thing I did once I entered the school was open my first bank account at BPI.”
While it may seem typical nowadays for young people to establish their own bank accounts even before the legal age, Landicho then did something wildly new.
He narrates: “When we were handling the sari-sari store, there was a local bank called Luzon Development Bank. And because we were so far from the main cities—and banks weren’t as many then as they are now—their executives would actually travel to far-flung towns like ours and collect deposits from the account holders directly.”
“In the province, it was like that. Sari-sari store owners didn’t have the time to go to the bank, so a bank teller would go around collecting their deposits instead.”
As bank practices grew more streamlined and they expanded their services to cater to all family members, Landicho’s parents soon applied for kiddie passbooks for their children. By this time, several institutions had already launched branches in more communities, and visiting these “modern” outlets proved an extremely exciting experience for the Landicho brood.
“I was in Grade 3 and around nine years old, when, for the first time, I was able to enter an air-conditioned room! I would line up, deposit around one to two pesos from savings from my allowance,” he recalls with a big smile.
Such impressions took deep root in Landicho, who became a wise and conscientious spender very early on. “In college, my allowance was around P1,000 a month, and since I lived with my uncle in Manila, I was able to save on expenses.”
These efforts, however, turned out to be paltry. “Living in Manila was expensive and the review school was expensive. And so, when I computed my finances, I discovered that by the end of it, I only had money good for one week should I start my job!” he chuckles. “Paano naman ako mabubuhay unil the next kinsenas [How could I survive until my next salary]?”
Fortunately, upon signing up with Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A) as junior staff, “They gave me a signing up allowance of P300, which was enough for me to survive till my first payday, where I received around P2,000.” He stayed with the firm for eight years before joining the pioneering team of Deloitte Philippines in 1997 as Tax Manager.
Over the years, Landicho worked tirelessly to become a tax and corporate service leader, rendering tax, legal and other professional services. Fast forward to more than two decades later, Landicho now heads the thriving auditing firm as CEO, a position he has held since June 2017.
“Many think that the business we do is boring, but there has never been a more exciting time than now for Deloitte,” the 44 year-old declares.
A defining highlight, now charting Deloitte’s leap into the future, is the establishment of a greater and more unified organization. “We’ve just set up a new delivery center, which essentially allows Deloitte Philippines, a member firm, to service other Deloitte centers around Southeast Asia.”
In 2007, Deloitte member firms in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Guam and the Philippines banded together. “The Philippines was the smallest member-firm in terms of size and resources, and so coming together made the global group even stronger. By joining forces, we are able to share resources and insights and provide seamless delivery to our clients across the board.” Now, that regional group also includes member firms in Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.
From the client’s perspective, this is certainly an attractive—and convenien—proposition. Landicho explains: “When clients do business in the region, they don’t need to talk to each local Deloitte member firm and negotiate contracts individually. They can talk to any member firm, and that will sign them up for the rest of Southeast Asia.”
This movement is a mega step forward and a fitting response to the times, he says. “We are simply following the trends. Regionalization and globalization are needed to cater to the growing requirements and demands of clients in these dynamic times.”
Specifically, Deloitte Philippines, which is capitalizing on the country’s skilled workers and low-cost services, intends to become the command center and main back office service provider of other Deloitte member firms. “And though we may be the smallest member firm, we are still able to make a greater mark in the global arena as one of the integral offices.” From simply performing auditing tasks, Deloitte Philippines will also be handling tax and risk auditing, and soon, a variety of other services.
To date, Deloitte is known mainly as an auditing firm—with half of the business dedicated to financial audit. But Landicho clarifies that they boast of a diverse menu of services, including tax, risk and financial advisory.
“When I became head of the tax group in 2002, we were only a team of five to seven individuals, and I was able to grow it to around 120 people before I was promoted.”
Now at Deloitte Philippines’ helm, Landicho admits it’s taken some adjustment to get comfortable in his new post. “Now I’m in a bigger leadership role that requires me to spread my wings across other functions.
“Aside from ensuring that we are able to deliver services to our clients swiftly and accurately, I now have the added responsibility of managing a greater group of around 800 individuals, listening to them and ensuring they’re placed in positions that maximize their skills and efficiencies.”
While facing challenges, Landicho reveals the work has not been completely outside of his comfort zone. “I’m naturally the type of person who likes to listen and so this, I think, has helped me well in my current role.”
Other executives may tire of long planning meetings but Landicho thrives on them. He relishes engagement and bouncing ideas off his partners. “When I was chosen for this post, I made it clear that I would not be able to do it myself and would need my team’s help. So, I’ve enlisted all their support.”
Landicho is particularly happy and energized by the young workforce of Deloitte, 60 percent of which is made up of millennials. Showing support for a generation that has, in his opinion, often been misunderstood, he says: “Filipinos are typically reserved and not very direct, but the millennials are changing that.
“They’re active, outspoken and enjoy engagement, which is refreshing,” he grins. “They are a group that thinks out of the box, and will not only do what is asked of them.” As a leader, he believes that it would be a grave mistake to undermine this sector’s contributions. “If you really listen to them, they have great ideas. [One of the issues in previous generations was] sometimes you would miss out on good ideas simply because a person is hesitant to tell you things. Now, millennials are encouraging a sense of openness in the office. It’s more on engagement and collaboration, which is needed for any firm to evolve and move forward.”
BoardRoom Watch asks this seasoned manager what it takes for a global network such as Deloitte not only to survive but to thrive in a fiercely competitive marketplace. Landicho responds confidently: “We may change leadership and new generations may shake up the system, but what will and should always remain are the Deloitte core values.
“For us, that means integrity, outstanding value to clients and markets, strength in diversity and commitment to each other. With these foundations in place, we will remain strong and unshakeable.”
PHOTOS BY HARVEY TAPAN