"May their tribe increase."
Those who eagerly await the publication of the annual Forbes list of the 20 wealthiest Filipinos were surprised when they saw the latest list, which was published a few weeks ago. For the first time ever, the list included the name of a woman. Hitherto all the names in the list had been names of the wealthiest men in this country.
The unusual newcomer to the most recent Forbes list was Tessie Sy-Coson, the daughter of the late Henry Sy, the founder of the biggest business empire in this country, the SM conglomerate. For very many years Henry Sy had been the No. 1 name in the list, with an estimated personal fortune of $16 billion. When he passed away recently his fortune was divided by Forbes more or less equally among his daughter and five sons.
Tessie Sy-Coson, who heads the banking side of the Sy empire (Banco de Oro, China Banking Corporation, Planters Bank and a rural bank), has thus become the first Forbes-listed female taipan. But she is not the only female taipan in this country, though the others are not included in the Forbes list. There are numerous others.
Helen Yuchengco-Dee and her younger sister Yvonne Yuchengco, for instance. The two ladies are heiresses to the fortune of the late Alfonso Yuchengco, who inherited the insurance business of his father Enrique and subsequently founded Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC). Ms. Dee is the chairperson of RCBC, which is now the ninth-largest domestic commercial bank, while Ms. Yuchengco is the president of Malayan Insurance Co., one of the nation’s largest non-life insurance company. Together, the two sisters run YGC (Yuchengco Group of Companies). Additionally, Ms. Dee represents the Yuchengco family on the board of directors of telecoms giant Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications Company.
Then there are Lisa and Robina, the daughters of the third wealthiest Filipino, John Gokongwei, the JG of holding company JG Summit. Together with brother Lance of Cebu Pacific fame, Lisa and Robina preside over one of the largest business fortunes in this country.
Another member of the group of female second-generation Philippine taipans is Josephine Gotianun-Yap, the daughter of Andrew and Mercedes Gotianun, founders of the FIlinvest group of companies. Together with her brother Jonathan, Josephine Yap now runs the increasingly puissant Filinvest corporate group. Jonathan Gotianun is the chairman of East West Bank and Ms. Yap is the chairperson of flagship company Filinvest Land Corporation. Still another member of the small but growing coterie of female Philippine taipans is Elizabeth, the daughter of mogul Lucio Tan. Her father has over the years given Elizabeth more major operational responsibilities in his business empire, whose principal components are Philippine Airlines and the fifth-largest domestic commercial bank (Philippine National Bank). Elizabeth shares the power at the LT Group with her brothers.
This is not a complete listing of the upcoming female taipans in this country; they merely are the most visible. Like the other women who have not been included in this listing, they are relatively young—mostly in their fifties and sixties—well-educated, astute and highly experienced.
Tessie Sy-Coson is going to be joined in future Forbes lists of wealthiest Filipinos, in the years ahead, by the likes of Helen Dee, Robina Gokongwei-Pe and Josephine Yap. May their tribe increase.