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Trust Institute Foundation of the Philippines’ Silver Anniversary

(Article published in the July 22, 2002 issue of TODAY, Business Section)

A tree is judged by its fruits and its fruits--–all the 1,306 graduates of its ten-month course on trust operations and investment management given every year for the last 25 years— show no signs of its being put to the axe anytime soon. On the contrary, the Trust Institute Foundation of the Philippines (TIFP) confidently sees itself destined in the next 25 to spread its branches wider, reach its shoots higher and dig its roots deeper—all for the good of its ultimate constituency, the trust beneficiary and his country.

Not all of TIFP’s graduates were there last Friday evening, at the New World Renaissance Hotel Ballroom, where the institute celebrated its past and made ready for its future. But enough were in attendance to leave no doubt that the struggle to make the Filipino a sophisticated and mature investor will be won in the classes of the TIFP.

To mention only a few, in no particular order, there were Clarrissa Emerita G. Ocampo of Batch ‘93, now a household name on account of her "Jose Velarde" testimony during the impeachment proceedings; Angelo T. Reyes, current Secretary of National Defense who was with Batch ’87 when he was Vice President of AFP-RSBS; and Rolando D. Esquerra, top notcher of the first batch that was graduated in 1978 who is now First Vice President of Equitable PCI Bank.


The seeds of the TIFP were planted in the soil of turmoil in 1977 as the country adjusted to the series of presidential decrees that overhauled the financial system. New institutions, like "investment houses", "universal banks", and "OBUs" to level the playing field of "FCDUs", were jostling with the traditional players which used to be simply "banks"; a new vocabulary was developing with new terms, such as "money market", "quasi-banking", "DOSRI", "SBL", "allied undertaking", and yuppies were talking in a certain slang and syntax straining the ears of their more conservative and soft-spoken elders.

Everything in finance, it seemed, was in a state of ferment, except the trust industry, where the trust officers were usually lawyers trained in weighing rights and duties but unschooled in return on investment (ROI) and EPS, and to whom "technical" meant hewing to the text of the law, but certainly not the opposite of "fundamental". The trust industry was in danger of being left behind by an economy seemingly racing to progress.

But a few of those trust officers were not lawyers. The trail blazed in the early 60s by Far East Bank and Trust Co. (much later to be regretfully merged with the Bank of the Philippine Islands) in moving trust operations away from real property administration into investment management had attracted a few young and daring men to a career in trust investing. Among them was Victorio T. Gomez. Terry, as he was known by everyone in the industry, broke the hold of the lawyers at the Trust Officers Association of the Philippines and became its president in 1974. During his third term, he moved for the creation of an education arm for the trade organization. He, with seven others (which included five lawyers) formed the Philippine Trust Institute, later to be renamed TIFP.

Lawyer Lauro J. Jocson, Trust Officer of Prudential Bank and current president of the TIFP was one of the lawyers who agreed with Gomez and last friday recalled that it was Terry’s idea that the Trust Officers Association of the Philippines should have an educational arm not only to disseminate information on trust business but also to train officers in the business of trust and investment management". That became the mission statement of the TIFP for the last twenty five years. And, key to keeping that flame alive, was the untiring dedication of the TIFP’s administrator, Offie Junio, who from day one and, undoubtedly to year 100, will nurse and nurture the institute.

TIFP’s core activity is a two-semester course, almost coinciding with the academic year, on Trust Operations and Investment Management consisting of a series of lectures given every Saturday morning over ten months, interspersed with written examinations after each topic, each semester closed with a final exam as well. Lecture topics range from the law and regulation relating to the various trust and other fiduciary relationships to techniques and approaches to stock selection, and management of real estate. In keeping with the developments in the industry, new subjects were recently included, such as basics of foreign exchange as well as introduction to derivative instruments. Long before the 1997 crisis that made "good corporate governance" a current battle cry of corporate warriors like Jess Estanislao, the TIFP was already giving its students a course on the Code of Conduct and Ethics for Trust Practitioners, a set of rules articulated by the players in the trust industry themselves.

The most outstanding student for each year is given a special scholarship to the summer sessions of the National Graduate Trust School of the American Bankers Association held at the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The roll of topnotchers of the first twelve years reads like today’s who’s who. For instance (with due apologies to those I have no recent information), Ador A. Abrogena at the head of Batch ’82 is senior vice president of Banco De Oro Universal Bank; Rodrigo E. Franco, Batch ’83, is vice president of JP Morgan Chase; Ma. Elena S. Sarmiento, Batch ’84 is first vice president of UCPB and also the current present of the TOAP; and Cheryl B. Bibonia, Batch ’89 was senior vice president when she left for retirement from Multinational Investment Bancorp. They excelled not only in the Philippines but also abroad. Mary Margareth R. Grande, trust officer at then Citytrust Banking when she topped Batch 1991, went to Hong Kong, wound up being vice president of Coutts Bank and then senior vice president of Banque National de Paris before she decided to go into full-time mothering.

But other graduates also went on to make a name for themselves. Again my apologies to those not mentioned, Ma. Alegria R. Legaspi and Josefina E. Sulit, both first batchers, are VP of All Asia Capital and EVP of Metrobank, respectively. Marciano Facun, Batch ’80 is VP and Trust Officer of the Bank of Commerce. Antonio B. Inumerable, Batch ’83, is VP and Vice President of J P Morgan Chase. Manuel Malabanan, also of Batch ’83, is VP and Trust Officer of Deutsche Bank. Former President of TOAP, Lourdes Bernadette M. Ferrer who was in Batch ’84, is FVP and Trust Officer of RCBC. Erlaster C. Sotto of Batch ’86 is President and CEO of PCI Capital Corporation. Wilfredo S. Talastas, Batch ’92 is VP of Bank of America. Rafael G. Ayuste, Jr., Batch ’95, is FVP of Metrobank.

Of the more recent graduates, Michael V. Ferrer of Batch ’99 is vice president and trust officer of ING Bank; Ma. Ellen A. Victor is trust officer of Standard Chartered Bank.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, even when it was still known as the Central Bank of the Philippines, recognizes the value of the sending its people to the institute. As early as 1979, it sent Emilio C. Altarez, supervising bank examiner, Napoleon A. Concepcion, bank examiner, and Candon B. Guerrero, now a Director. This year’s topnotcher, Nelia S. Malihan, is Bank Officer II at the BSP.

The high point of last Friday’s celebrations was the speech of Angelo T. Reyes. He was a fitting choice as Guest of Honor because he shows exactly where the TIFP is headed for the next twenty five years—public service. The fiduciary principles involved in managing the affairs of private beneficiaries are not different from the principles that ought to guide the holders of the public trust.

The TIFP must expand its constituency beyond trust investors, which it reaches out to during Trust Consciousness Week, as well as beyond future trust practitioners, as it makes the rounds of colleges and universities giving instructions on trust. It must play a prophetic role in these turbulent times, and touch the conscience of those in the public service, who in their bickering and politicking, seem to consider their office part of their private dominion.