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Father and Sons

Second of two parts

If there is another role in his event-rich life that Dr. George S.K. Ty treasures besides being a banker–dedicated to growing other people’s precious income–that would be as a father and as a nurturer.

He wants to replicate the love and support that his parents Norberto and Victoria extended to him in his childhood, teen years and start as a budding entrepreneur. He regards his father as “a model,” who furnished him the tools and opportunities to carve his own path in the commercial arena.

From his mother, whom Dr. Ty describes as “a very tough and disciplined lady,” he absorbed her hard work ethic, which explains the plethora of businesses he set up during his career and which forms the handsome Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company (Metrobank) and GT Capital Holdings portfolio.

Future ready

Dr. Ty has tried to relive his upbringing through his five children. Of his sons Arthur and Alfred, who run the bulk of the family’s businesses, he says that by providing them with many creature comforts, the best education he could afford and other perks, he hoped to equip them well enough to map out “the uncertain future.” He has left it to them to enhance whatever personal fortune they now possess.


In 2006, the Metrobank Board of Directors elected Arthur as president of Metrobank, a testimony to the groundwork his father laid in his oldest offspring. Arthur segued to become Chairman of the Bank and Chairman of GT Capital Holdings, also assuming top posts in other Ty concerns. Meanwhile, younger brother Alfred is Chairman of Federal Land and Vice-Chairman of GT Capital Holdings among others.

Asking them to sum up their patriarch had on their lives does not come easy to his young successors. What they share, in fact, with Boardroom Watch, echoes Dr. Ty’s own abiding principles. And why not when these are ageless, enduring and effective no matter the time frame?

Says Arthur: “Hard work and discipline–don’t tell people to do what you can’t do yourself. For a banker, whose word is his bond, banking is the business of trust. And when you are successful, it’s your turn to help others become successful, too.”

Alfred, who shadowed his dad as a 10-year-old during project visits on weekends, now realizes the value of those sorties. He admits it wasn’t very appealing then to hang around hot and dusty work sites, but looking back, he says he was picking up valuable lessons. “The value of work, rolling up one’s sleeves and getting one’s hands dirty,” he reflects. “And completing any assignment you were required to do.” He wishes to expose his sons to similar activities.

Like Arthur, Alfred has it ingrained in him to be hands-on in the workplace, and not resort to delegation if possible. “My father operated like that, too.” Frugality was another trait the boys were encouraged to adapt, never extravagance. And the issue of quality had to be incorporated in any decision they made, more so now, being in charge of multi-million peso operations and their employees’ futures.

It is a great source of pride for Dr. Ty that his boys have appreciated his dictum to hire the “right people.” In so doing, they have taken concrete steps to transform what started as a family-run concern into a highly professional corporation that retains its entrepreneurial spirit.

Confident now that family interests are in capable hands Dr. Ty is able to travel more frequently, especially around China, on the lookout for expansion offers.

No “born leader”

How does one come to possess the qualities of leadership Dr. Ty is known for?

First of all, the gentleman doesn’t believe anyone is “born a leader.” He told the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), which interviewed him for the coffee table book on Management Man of the Year awardees: “I find it hard to believe that there is such a thing. It goes without saying that you have to possess good communication skills and have a good business sense.

“The experiences that I have gone through in my career are what have shaped me to be what I am today. There was no single defining moment in my life where I thought ‘I am now a leader .’ Ever since I started working, I recognized that I had the ability, not only to have a vision, but also to inspire those around me to share that vision.

“To be a good leader, you must at the start understand yourself, the people you work with and the environment you work in. One, you need to know what your own personal capabilities and values are so that you can engage the right people to work with you. You have to know that you will be disciplined and committed in terms of work ethic.

“Two, you need to choose good people that you can trust and situate them in positions where they can succeed. It is only after you have equipped yourself with these two types of knowledge that you can then focus on understanding your business environment, because if you are at the point where you are content with the first two factors, only then can you really consider yourself prepared to face any obstacle.”

From such self-assuredness springs the confidence that the investment of time and emotion has been worth it. Dr. Ty says: “I would like to think that I was able to touch the lives of numerous constituents in a positive way. I believe, however, that I have made the most impact on the leaders we have developed from within the bank, who have nurtured and enriched our corporate culture and allowed us to thrive in the midst of challenges and difficulties.

“Along with clients, who have patronized us over the years and our employees who have driven our growth, our executives have embraced our vision as an institution and passed on the values that we hold dear and make us what we are in the business.”

“Poor” but fulfilled

If Dr. Ty had not been the philanthropist he is renowned to be, he would have been a wealthy man unimaginably many times over. But he is “poorer” for all the millions he has been steadily contributing in over two decades to helping people achieve their life goals.

Giving back to “a society that has allowed me to succeed” as well as “the gratitude I have toward the Philippines and the Filipinos” are twin compelling reasons this immigrant from Southern China established the Metrobank Foundation in 1979, shaping the destinies of hundreds of people through grants, scholarships and awards. In an interview with the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), he said: “From the beginning, I believed that leadership in business implied leadership in community service as well, and it was clear to me that every private corporation had social responsibilities, and the more successful the corporation, the greater were its responsibilities to the community.

“This is the reason why we have continued to nurture the various programs of the Foundation as an expression of our continuing commitment to this ideal.”

Upholding the mantra of “Excel, Engage, Empower,” the Metrobank Foundation’s initiatives, as its website notes, “inspire people to excel in what they do, engage them and the communities they belong to and empower them to become agents of positive change and influence–all for the onward pursuit of nation-building.”

Community member

A financial institution, Metrobank’s founder stresses, cannot stand apart from what goes on in the country where it is located. “We have to help the country. Everything that happens here affects the business. In the case of peace and order, if our soldiers decide to stage a coup, then it will be bad for the country since it projects a bad image to the international community, and foreign investors will lose confidence in doing business with us.”

As the corporate social responsibility arm of Metrobank, the Foundation is said to be the largest and most active of its category in the Philippines. Funds are channeled to supporting primarily the fields of education, health, law enforcement and the visual arts. It is also the majority owner of the UN Avenue-located Manila Doctors Hospital, a beloved wellness center that boasts a legacy of serving Filipinos since 1956.

The Metrobank Foundation envisioned to be the country’s premier corporate philanthropic foundation has had a significant impact on social development. Its flagship programs include the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos, Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE), Metrobank Scholarship Program (MSP), Metrobank MTAP-DepEd Math Challenge (MMC), Grants and Social Development Partnerships, Disaster Response, National Teachers’ Month (NTM) celebration and the Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair Lectures. As a development organization, the Foundation aims to uplift individuals and the sectors they represent and strategically link with institutions for a shared purpose. By creating and propagating a culture of excellence and providing solutions to stakeholder’s needs, the Foundation continuously expands its scope of reach, always aiming to be at the forefront of serving communities.

Today, Dr. Ty may not run the Business as actively as he did up until he handed over the reins to sons Arthur and Alfred, but it is still under his paternal gaze that Metrobank, the core company he founded and its spin off satellites continue to thrive and reimagine themselves.

He remarks: “I think that Filipino leaders should embrace the challenges of globalization and learn to successfully compete in the international arena by improving on what is distinctively Filipino–at the same time learning the best from the rest of the world.

“They can model this value of openness to global influences without sacrificing the Filipino identity and forsaking the unique contributions they can make to the business arena.”

* * *

Leadership from experience

Dr. George S.K. Ty shares his views on the concept of leadership, gleaned from years of practice.

• I find it hard to believe there is such a thing as a “born leader.”

• The experiences I went through in my career are what shaped me as I am today. There was no defining moment when I felt, “I am now a leader.”

• It goes without saying that a leader has to have good communication skills and good business sense as well as discipline and commitment.

• A good leader must understand himself, the people he works with and the environment surrounding them. He must know his own capabilities and values and engage the right people to work with him.

• Once he has the right people he feels can be trusted, then he can put them in positions where they can succeed.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF METROBANK

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