WHAT I’VE LEARNED
64, OUTGOING GOVERNOR OF THE BANGKO SENTRAL NG PILIPINAS
Amando Tetangco Jr., Outgoing Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Money is not an end in itself. It is only a means to achieve a goal. You don’t work for money—instead, you must make money work for you. Doing what needs to be done sounds simple, but oftentimes, the
simple things are the most difficult to do, because they are the things we don’t want to do, or because we have to give something up. In practice, you should always give yourself slack. Don’t fill your calendar with appointments, arrive a few minutes ahead, read up before a meeting, come prepared, sleep enough. I’ve learned that when I practice these, I have a clear mind when I make decisions and I’m better able to see the risks, and to react more pointedly.
There is no substitute for the love of your family. At the end of the day, it’s your family that matters. The fact that man could walk on the moon meant to me that there was more to this world than what we see and feel. It signaled to me that there must be a Being greater than us—what we see is but a fraction of what really is.
I believe you have to work honestly for your keep. Even that long putt is the product of a confluence of many things—including having read the green correctly, having applied the right amount of speed to your stroke.
When I play golf, I like to use conventional equipment. There’s more excitement to hitting the ball correctly, and making the good shots this way. When things don’t go my way, I try to think that maybe there is something better for me—I am being saved or protected from something, or better yet, I am making way for someone else. The best thing I’ve ever done with money is to spend on my children’s education. I think this is the best investment a parent can make.
When I make a decision, I try to consider all possible scenarios. But I also know that with my human mind, I can’t exhaust all options. So I try to make the best out of a given situation or the information I have. And then that’s that. Sometimes, everybody just needs a good dose of humility.
The central banking community is a small one, and it’s very heartening to know that you aren’t alone in facing the same pressures and challenges. The best thing about my job is knowing that I help to contribute to the welfare of Filipinos.
Only 43 percent of Filipino adults have savings. Of these, 68 percent keep their savings at home—only 33 percent save in banks. We have to improve on this. There is a great deal of work that needs to be done on the financial literacy side. Survey after survey would find that the level of financial literacy [among Filipinos] is relatively low. It’s important to have a good grasp of both economic theory and reallife market practice. After all, policy should not be made in a vacuum.
My successor needs to know patience—and practice it. Some of the results we want to see take a long gestation period. Reform takes time because a change in mindset is never immediate. If you are not patient, you may be chasing after the market, not realizing that it is better left on its own, to correct itself. Every so often, it’s good for the market to get caught in its own follies. The world has become such where traditional brick-and-mortar is
no longer the absolute norm. There is so much information, that it is at times difficult to filter. There’s a need to have the right information on which to base your decisions.
I am always optimistic. I see good things in the future of the Philippines—growth stabilizing in the six- to eight-percent over the next few years before reaching more normal three- to four-percent growth; inflation stable and within the national government target range; more internally-generated jobs, which means less need to work abroad.
To be at the top of your game, you need preparation. In the case of a central bank governor, this includes sharp surveillance and being mindful of the tools you have at hand—being agile, and at the same time, flexible and nimble. A study in contrasts, if you must: firm but flexible, a big-picture analysis that’s also detailed. I’ve been through a number of crises in my career in the central
bank. Whenever there is a crisis, you have to spend more time in the office, looking at potential stress areas, trying to identify stress scenarios and what needs to be done. But I always make sure that when I leave the office, I switch off. I don’t think about work.
Being at the top should not be a single-point goal. What’s more important is that once you reach the top, you persevere. You must remain consistent. Leadership is providing direction and guidance to a group whom
you have convinced that this is the way to go. It’s important for a leader to be able to persuade others, in terms of what needs to be done, how it should be done, and when it should be done.
Many begin with a bang, but end with a whimper. In a position like that of BSP Governor, where there is a fixed term or a set limit to how long one can serve, finishing well is just as important as starting and reaching the top.
Success is achieved when one is happy. And what is happiness? I borrowed from Alexander Chalmers, a British author from a couple of centuries ago, who said that happiness has three essential components: something to do, someone to love—in my case, my wife and my family and friends of course—and something to hope for. I think in all of these, personally, I’ve been quite happy with the results. I hope it can be said that under my watch, the BSP was able to fulfill its mandate, and has helped improve the lives of Filipinos.