The Washington of the Philippines

On this day, June 30 in the year 1921, the man who built the largest accounting firm in the Philippines was born in Manila. His name is Washington Sycip, the accountant who founded W. Sycip and Co. which later evolved into SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co. (SGV & Co.).

Washington Sycip
Washington Sycip (Credit: news.mb.com.ph)

Washington Z. Sycip is called Wash to friends. He is the son of Helen and Albino SyCip, a rich ethnic Chinese banker and lawyer who was a co-founder of China Bank. Washington Sycip went to public schools in the Philippines for his elementary and high school diploma. After only two and a half years, he graduated summa cum laude from Santo Tomas University in Manila with a degree in accounting. He also taught and finished his master’s degree in the same university. He enrolled at Columbia University in New York for his PhD but he did not finish it. When he returned to the Philippine after the war, he co-founded the accounting firm Sycip, Gorres, and Velayo (SGV). It quickly became the accountant of choice of the largest businesses not only in the Philippines but also in Southeast Asia.

To enhance the image of the company and to better compete with multinationals, SGV partnered with Andersen Worldwide and later with Ernst and Young. It recruited the best graduates from the best universities in the Philippines. Many of its former employees went on to become high ranking officials of the Philippine Government including some cabinet members.

Because of his well-known business acumen, Washington Sycip has been invited to become either a member of the board, adviser to the board, chairman or vice chairman of the board of the elite corporations and non-profit organizations not only in the Philippines but also abroad. He is a recipient of many prestigious awards such as Ramon Magsaysay Award, Philippine Legion of Honor, and Lifetime Achievement Award given by Columbia Business School. He is also an awardee of several honorary doctorate degrees including that from the University of Melbourne and University of the Philippines.

Sycip has donated millions of pesos in support of charitable causes especially education and health. He is the founder of Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and the co-founder of the Asian Business Council. In 1996, he retired from active involvement at SGV but he continued to attend important meetings.

Sycip is married with three children. On October 7, 2017, he passed away while on board Philippine Airlines Flight 126 bound for Vancouver, Canada.

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