By Mr. Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.
Originally Published on Business World, S1-10, Philippine Daily Inquirer, B3-3, The Philippine Star, B14 on October 10, 2017.
Washington Z. SyCip was born in Manila on June 30, 1921 to Albino SyCip and Helen Bain. He spent his earliest years with his grandparents in Shanghai, but returned to Manila at age six, and was enrolled in Padre Burgos Elementary School and Victorino Mapa High School before entering the University of the Philippines. He later moved to the University of Sto. Tomas from where he graduated with a degree in Accounting, summa cum laude, at age 17. He passed the CPA exam at 18 and took his master's degree but was too young to be given a professional license, so he went to Columbia University in the United States for his PhD.
His studies were interrupted, however, by the outbreak of the war. Believing—mistakenly as it turned out—that his father, a prominent banker, had been killed by the Japanese—Wash signed up with the US Army. Discovering his outstanding intellect, the Army moved him from the infantry to intelligence work, an assignment that also required him to assume American citizenship. He spent most of the war as a cryptographer breaking Japanese codes from a base in Calcutta, India.
After the war, Wash returned to the Philippines and, realizing the great opportunities and needs in postwar reconstruction, opened his own accounting firm, W. SyCip & Co., in 1946. This briefly became SyCip Jose Velayo & Co. and later SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co., where he was joined by his lifelong friend and partner Alfredo M. Velayo. In 1948, he married his childhood friend Anna Yu, and they would have three children: Vicky, George, and Robert.
SGV would go on under Wash SyCip's leadership to become the Philippines' largest accounting firm, attracting generations of topnotch CPAs and managers and lending its expertise to the country's and Southeast Asia's leading corpo-rations. In 1985, to expand its global reach and skills, SGV partnered with Arthur Andersen, and in 2002 with Ernst & Young.
All throughout, Wash's uncompromising integrity and keen business sense established him as the country's top advisor to Presidents, business leaders, and civil society advocates, and as the Philippines' best and most credible representative to the international business community. He sat on the boards of many Philippine and international companies and foundations, and his broad global network brought enormous economic and social benefits to the Philippines.
In 1968, with support from the Ford Foundation, Harvard University, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University, and with the help of his friends Ramon del Rosario, Eugenio Lopez, and the Ayala family, SyCip founded the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), one of the region's prime business schools.
After his retirement in 1996, he became a strong advocate of poverty alleviation, public health, microfinance, and basic education, working with organizations like the Center for Agriculture and Development-Mutually Reinforcing Institutions or CARD-MRI to provide small renewable loans to poor families to prevent school dropouts.
More than the pioneer and titan of Philippine accounting that many knew him to be, Washington SyCip was a tireless advocate of Filipino development and culture, a firm believer in the Filipino's ability and resourcefulness to succeed even in the most difficult circumstances, with adequate support and proper leadership. Throughout his long and storied life, he always thought and acted as a true global Filipino.
By Mr. Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.
Author of "Wash: Only a Bookkeeper"