(The Philippine Star) Updated August 24, 2009 12:00 AM

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men. — Goethe

The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen endeavor. — Vince Lombardi

Aside from John Gokongwei Jr., another self-made taipan I have known since I was a college student is “Shopping Mall King” Henry Sy Sr. of the SM Group, both of whom I admire as I look up to Michael Jordan for basketball, Ernest Hemingway and Gabriel Garcia Marquez for literature, and Lee Kuan Yew for politics.

I believe self-made entrepreneurs are the greatest businesspeople in any society. It is not true that money cannot buy happiness; it can if one is a self-made person who has accumulated money through his or her own hard work and resourcefulness — whether through entrepreneurship, management of business, through the arts or other professions.

Congratulations to Henry Sy for apparently achieving his dream of being No. 1 in Philippine banking with his Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc., which didn’t even have to merge with China Banking Corporation, which his family also now controls.

Sy didn’t tell me that he wanted to be the biggest in banking, but I can’t forget him telling me — whenever we have opportunities to have lunch or dinner — that his dream is “always to be No. 1 in whatever endeavor I undertake.”

In terms of movie theaters, his SM Cinemas are also undisputedly No. 1, with 206 screens nationwide that are said to have 56 percent of market share. That’s why it’s not good for ABS-CBN 2’s Star Cinema to have its ongoing disagreement with SM Cinemas unresolved.

Based on the financial conditions of Philippine banks in the second quarter of 2009, BDO is No. 1 in terms of total assets with P793.473 billion, while China Bank is No. 9 with total assets of P210.758 billion.
BDO is also now the No. 1 largest Philippine bank in terms of total loans at P420.424 billion and total deposits at P625.189 billion.

Still excellently managed, perennial leader Metrobank slid to No. 2 with total assets of P767.667 billion, but it remains No. 1 in liquid assets and capital accounts.

No. 3 is Bank of the Philippine Islands at P695.965 billion, a bank that had a head start over all its rivals since it was founded during the Spanish colonial era in 1851. The first borrowing client of BPI — then known as El Banco Español Filipino de Isabel 2 — was the Chinese entrepreneur Tadian, whose May 1, 1852 loan of P10,000 fuertes represented 10 percent of the total value of all notes printed by the bank then.

The top 10 biggest Philippine banks in terms of total assets are:

1. BDO — Led by Henry Sy’s hardworking and visionary daughter, chairman Teresita “Tessie” Sy-Coson, with president and CEO Nestor Tan.

2. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. — Led by taipan George S.K. Ty’s eldest son Arthur Ty. One of their executive vice presidents is Fabian Dee, who is my paternal cousin and a grandson of the prewar lumber tycoon and postwar Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) executive vice president Dee Hong Lue. A subsidiary of Metrobank is the second-largest savings bank, Philippine Savings Bank (PS Bank), led by president Pascual Garcia III and executive vice president Rolando A. Rodriguez.

3. Bank of the Philippine Islands — Controlled by the Zobel Ayala clan and led by president Aurelio Luis R. Montinola III, whose wife, lawyer Gizela Madrigal Gonzalez-Montinola, is a favorite niece and one of the three main inheritors of the multi-billion-peso fortune of childless Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal Collantes, who died last year. Collantes had appointed the BPI president as executor and trustee of her last will and testament, along with corporate lawyer Perry Pe, who is a son-in-law of John Gokongwei Jr. Atty. Pe and Gonzalez-Montinola are partners in the top law firm Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc and De Los Angeles.

4. Land Bank of the Philippines — Led by chairman Margarito Teves and president Gilda E. Pico. It released P11.2 billion in loans to small farmers and fisher folk in the first half of 2009, higher by 42 percent or P3.3 billion from the P7.9 billion it extended a year ago. Its special mission is to help farmers and fishermen.

5. Philippine National Bank — Controlled by Philippine Airlines’ Lucio Tan, who also owns Asia Brewery and the 11th biggest bank, Allied Bank. PNB and Allied Bank will soon merge. According to present figures, a merger of PNB and Allied Bank will result in a much bigger giant, but will still be ranked No. 5 and will still be smaller than the government-owned Land Bank.

6. Development Bank of the Philippines — Led by chairman Patricia Sto. Tomas and president and CEO Reynaldo David. DBP is making available a P15.3 billion facility that will finance improvements in the country’s logistics and infrastructure systems. This was one of the major development initiatives bared by top DBP officials led by Sto. Tomas and David during an investors’ briefing held Aug. 5 in Davao City.

7. Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation — Led by chairwoman Helen Yuchengco Dee (wife of China Bank president Peter S. Dee) and president Lorenzo Tan (coincidentally the younger brother of BDO president Nestor Tan).

8. Union Bank of the Philippines — Led by chairman Justo Aboitiz Ortiz, president Victor Valdepeñas, board vice chairman and ExCom chairman Jon Ramon M. Aboitiz and vice chairman Vicente Ayllon of 99-year-old Insular Life. Union Bank is a partnership of the Aboitiz conglomerate, Insular Life and SSS.

9. China Banking Corporation — Controlled by Henry Sy but still professionally managed by founder Dee C. Chuan’s nephew Gilbert Dee with chairman and grandson Peter SyCip Dee as president. Henry Sy’s son and SM Malls’ Hans Sy is vice chairman of China Bank. It was the first Philippine bank to electronically process online deposit transactions in 1969 and was also the first bank to offer telephone banking in 1988.

During the 1970s martial law era, when other banks feared lending money to Hacienda Luisita and other businesses owned by the Cory side of the Cojuangco clan because of the imprisoned Ninoy Aquino, it was said to be only China Bank that continued to do business with this branch of the Cojuangco family. The reason given? China Bank has reportedly been doing business continuously with the Cojuangcos since the prewar era.

10. Citibank N.A. — Citibank’s local operations are led by Sanjiv Vohra, who first came to the Philippines in 2005. The largest foreign bank in the country, Citi has been doing business in the Philippines for 107 years.