As women’s month comes to a close, it’s just fitting to pay tribute to women who successfully broke the glass ceiling and continue to do so as they lead organizations – big or small – which one way or another positively impact the Philippines.
There are many of them – too many to mention in fact, but today, I’ll just put the spotlight on tycoon Helen Yuchengco-Dee or HYD as she is known in the business community.
I recently visited her in her office in the towering RCBC Tower in Makati and the first thing I noticed is that she looks not a day older than when I last saw her, which was before the pandemic struck. This is really quite a feat, considering how everyone seemed to have aged over the past three years.
But not Mrs. Dee, the eldest of eight children of the late tycoon, educator and diplomat Alfonso Yuchengco.
And yet, the woman who leads the Yuchengco Group of Companies isn’t resting on her laurels, even if she can easily just retire, relax and wait for the golden eggs.
She is still as busy as ever running the conglomerate her father founded. At present, the sprawling Yuchengco business empire operates in different sectors, ranging from banking to insurance to education to construction.
All of these businesses, she oversees. She still goes to her office every day despite having competent executives to run the different companies.
“Still a workaholic,” I teased her.
But she wouldn’t have it any other way, it seems. She rarely goes to cocktail events anyway or only stays for a short while and also does not enjoy going to the malls. She’s also not a travel junkie but looks forward to traveling soon to visit some friends in Canada.
Reaping the fruits of one’s labor
Not surprisingly, Mrs. Dee has been reaping the benefits of her hands-on leadership and hard work.
The group’s banking arm, for instance, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., is as strong as ever and it is now the fifth biggest privately owned bank in the country.
It is also one of the most innovative and digitally-advanced banks in the Philippines, successfully embracing the digital mindset.
It’s no surprise that its 2022 income surged by 71 percent to an all-time high of P12.1 billion from P7.1 billion in 2021, supported by the double-digit increase in core business income.
“Delivering best-in-class customer experience remains our main thrust. And so we are excited to develop more digital innovations and disruptive solutions that can reshape the way we do banking,” said RCBC president and CEO Eugene Acevedo.
RCBC is also a big lender to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a sector that very much needs all the support.
It is also important to mention RCBC’s solid commitment toward sustainability. The bank supports green and social projects that will ensure a healthy environment for future generations.
RCBC has P1.2 trillion in total resources as of end-2022.
Other businesses are strong as well but like her father, Mrs. Dee is particularly passionate about education.
Thus, the group’s education arm continues to find ways to help improve education in the country.
I learned about this when I sat down recently with iPeople president Fred Ayala and Lorenzo Tan, CEO of House of Investments, the listed company of the Yuchengco Group.
iPeople, the publicly listed Yuchengco-Ayala education partnership, now enables Filipino students to immerse themselves in global educational experiences with top international universities.
Thus, iPeople school Mapúa University and its daughter schools, Mapúa Malayan Colleges Laguna and Mapúa Malayan Colleges Mindanao, entered into a partnership with Arizona State University (ASU).
With the collaboration, students of Mapúa schools now have the opportunity to be immersed in international learning experiences in numerous ways.
The result is that they have access to ASU’s world-class content in all their ASU-enhanced courses.
Students are able to participate in global courses through state-of-the-art virtual global classrooms, which give them the opportunity to learn remotely from professors at member universities of the ASU-Cintana Alliance, and interact with classmates from around the world, without leaving the Philippines.
It’s a game changer I believe and through this, Mrs. Dee continues her father’s passion for education.
Will there be more partnerships between the Ayala group and the Yuchengco Group aside from education?
There are a lot of areas they can collaborate in, such as infrastructure or construction. But I’m only speculating. Only time will tell if that will happen.
What’s certain is that the Yuchengco Group finds value in partnerships.
It is in fact part of the private sector consortium developing the $11-billion Sangley Point International Airport in Sangley Point, Cavite.
Other members of the consortium are the Virata-led Cavitex Holdings Inc. and Lucio Tan-owned MacroAsia Corp.
Sangley Airport is envisioned as a two-runway airport with a capacity for 75 million passengers a year, expandable to four runways to handle up to 130 million passengers a year.
The project includes the construction of a four-kilometer connector road, with provisions for rail connectivity and other integrated logistics and aviation support facilities.
Why invest in an airport project?
Perhaps like the rest of us, Mrs. Dee wants to see the day when the Philippines will finally have a truly world-class gateway.
She believes in the growth potential of Sangley Airport as the future premier airport of the country.
Indeed, Mrs. Dee, who is in her 70s, continues to steer the Yuchengco Group to greater heights. She is a testament to the fact that women can very well take charge.