Henry Sy, Sr. (施至成- Sy Chi Sieng which means “to attain ultimate success”) founded SM and serves as the Chairman of the holding company, SM Investments Corporation. To many, he is the Father of Philippine Retail, having successfully built SM into a dominant player in the country with its highly progressive and innovative approach. Like his Chinese name predicted, and with his vision, passion and hard work, Mr. Sy transformed Shoemart, from a humble shoe store, 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 post-war Manila. After opening a couple of shoe stores, he eventually opened 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 and now known as THE SM STORE.
With a desire to strengthen his relationship with his suppliers, he acquired a small bank, Acme Savings which he later renamed to Banco de Oro, now BDO. He used the bank to provide better cash management services to suppliers at a time when computers and IT systems were not yet in existence. BDO has since become the country’s largest bank in terms of resources, deposits and loans.
He also learned from his travels and 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 SM’s first mall, SM City North EDSA and with it, his flagship SM Supermarket (for internal reference: his second after the first one in Makati in partnership with the Fong Family). Filipinos embraced the concept which encouraged Mr. Sy to build new malls in the country, and with them grew the stores and the number of bank branches. 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 end-September 2016, SM has 1,835 retail stores with a total gross selling area of over 2.4 million sqm, 58 malls in the Philippines with a gross floor area of over 7.5 million sqm, six malls in China with GFA of over 900,000 sqm, and two banks with total resources of PHP2.2 trillion or approximately US$45.6 billion of which BDO Unibank has emerged to be the largest in the country.
SM, through its property arm, SM Prime Holdings has also become a leading developer of residential condominiums in Metro Manila delivering aspirational yet affordable homes in strategic central city locations to the mid-income market.
Mr. Sy’s big dreams in Philippine tourism also gave birth to SM Hotels and Conventions which now own world-class hotels, a state-of-the-art arena, convention and exhibition centers, and premier beach and mountain resorts.
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.
Among his notable awards are, Management Man of the Year 1999, Management Association of the Philippines, Agora Awardee for Large-Scale Entrepreneurship 1999, Philippine Marketing Association, Outstanding Manilan, Year 2001 City of Manila, Dr. Jose Rizal Award for Excellence, Lifetime Achievement Award, Year 2002, The Manila Times and premier organizations of the Chinese-Filipino community, Outstanding Citizen of Quezon City, 2002, First Recipient- President’s Award, Year 2005, Father of Philippine Retailing given by the Philippine Retailers Association, Cited as One of the Four “Philippine Business Greats”, Year 2005 by HSBC in its 130th Anniversary, Big Brother of Filipino Entrepreneurs, 2006, Philippine Centre for Entrepreneurship, CEO Excel Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008 by International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Philippines, Lakan ng Kalakalan Award, 2009 by Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Outstanding Manilan, 2009, City of Manila, Cited as one of the Business Icons of the Decade, 2011 by BizNewsAsia, Asia CEO Awards, November 12, 2014 Lifetime Contributor Award and The Ramon V. Del Rosario Award for Nation Building 2016
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.