MANILA - When tycoon Henry Sy started Acme Bank, he told one of his most trusted lieutenants, Jose Sio, that it will become number one.
After decades of gobbling up several banks, Acme would transform into BDO Unibank, the country's largest lender, and one of the pillars of Sy's empire, which includes SM Supermalls and condominiums.
It is with this drive to be the industry's biggest that the 77-year-old Sio hopes to steer SM Investments, as he succeeds the 92-year-old Sy as chairman.
"He does not stop thinking. He looks at the long term. He was number one in retail but he was telling me, watch me, (this) bank will be number one," Sio told ABS-CBN News.
"His drive in life, his vision. I said to myself, this (man) will be big," he added.
Sio takes over as SM Investments forays into leisure and gaming with Belle Corp, and logistics with its acquisition of a stake in 2GO.
Sio said getting the chairman post was a surprise, as he had been pushing Sy's children to groom the third generation to lead the family business.
But during a recent family board meeting, where it was decided that Sy was vacating his chairman post to become chairman emeritus, his eldest daughter, Teresita Sy-Coson suggested that Sio take his place.
Sio said Sy's sons Henry Jr. and Harley agreed.
While not related to the Sys by blood, Sio is no stranger to the family, having worked with them for three decades. The Sy children call him "uncle."
The Sy family also tapped Frederic DyBuncio as president, signalling more professionals in top positions at SM.
Sio joined SM from SGV, where he was a partner accountant. Before being named chairman, he was the group's chief finance officer.
Sio said Sy asked only two things from him, be hard working and trustworthy. Three decades has not diminished his work ethic. He still comes to the office at 6 a.m.
Soon after his nomination as chairman, Sio said he visited Sy in his home.
"I can sense that he was smiling at me," he said.
"I said, Mr Sy, I thought we will retire together but you already retired but I’m still here," he added.