HENRY SY SR.
The Founder of SM and continues to serve as the Chairman of the holding company SM Investments Corp. He is often referred to as the Father of Philippine Retail as he successfully built SM into the sector's most dominant player in the country by adopting a highly progressive and innovative approach in expanding SM Retail. Like his Chinese name predicted, and with his vision, passion and hard work, Mr. Sy transformed Shoemart, from a humble shoe retailing business, into SM, now a highly recognizable brand and icon owned by one of the Philippines' largest conglomerates with interests and presence in retail, banking, and property.
Mr. Sy worked all throughout his life as a student helping his father run a small retail store in Quiapo, Manila. He began his own retail business in post-war Manila, opening a couple of shoe stores, and eventually, the first Shoemart store in 1958. The success of Shoemart which grew to three big stores in Carriedo, Cubao, and Makati became legendary and still known to this day. With customers clamoring for more, he decided to expand the range of his merchandise, which eventually led him to transform Shoemart into the SM Department Store in the late sixties.
His desire to strengthen his relationship with his suppliers got him to acquire a small bank Acme Savings which he later renamed Banco de Oro. He used the bank to provide better cash management services to the suppliers at a time when computers and IT systems where not yet in existence. Banco de Oro has since become the country's largest bank in terms of resources, deposits and loans.
Having travelled widely to scout for merchandise, he saw the potential of bringing the shopping mall concept from the US into the Philippines. In 1985, at the height of the country's major political upheaval, Mr. Sy opened the very first SM mall, SM City North EDSA and with it, he opened the very first SM Supermarket. Filipinos embraced the concept which encouraged Mr. Sy to continue putting up new malls in many parts of the country, and with them grew the stores and the number of bank branches as well. Mr. Sy learned very early in his career how synergy can help his businesses achieve optimal results.
With the support and innate talent of his children, Mr. Sy stayed focused and committed to grow SM in the Philippines amidst political and economic turbulence; their determination to stand by the country and their patience paid off as SM emerged to be among the fastest growing companies in the Philippines and achieved the size and scale it has now in just over five decades.
As of 2016 date, SM has 276 retail stores with a total gross selling area of over 1.7 million sqm, 52 malls in the Philippines with a gross floor area of over 6.5 million sqm, 6 malls in China with GFA of over 900,000 sqm, and two banks with total resources of PHP 2.3 trillion or approximately USD $52 billion of which BDO Unibank has emerged to be the largest in the country.
His achievements have earned for Mr. Sy an Honorary a Doctorate Degree from the De La Salle University with an Honorary Doctorate in Business Management in 1999.
In 2005, the Philippine Retailers Association named him the "Father of Philippine Retail." A man with few words and a big heart, Mr. Sy also established the SM Foundation Inc. in 1993 which channels his advocacies in education through college scholarships, health through medical missions, and livelihood through farmer training programs. SM has also donated school buildings to various institutions and acquired stakes in schools, notably National University. For all these, he was cited in 2009 by Forbes Magazine as one of Asia Pacific's 48 "Heroes of Philanthropy" and more accolades from various institutions and publications.
He raised six children with his wife Felicidad to love their country the Philippines, and trained them to be as successful as he is in business and to continue the legacy he built through SM His children Teresita, Henry, Jr., Elizabeth, Hans, Herbert and Harley are all actively involved in the management of the SM group of companies.