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Prominent real estate mogul Hans Sy made it to the Forbes list this year — but not because of his net worth or billions in earnings. He was acknowledged for his altruistic efforts, joining prominent figures such as Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, and Suh Kyung-bae, CEO of South Korea’s Amorepacific Group. Actress Angel Locsin was also part of the list.
Honored as one of the “Heroes Of Philanthropy: Catalysts For Change,” Sy earned a spot in the Forbes Asia list given his charitable work at Child Haus, a hospice for young cancer patients.
The individuals who became part of the list were picked based on three major factors: how much they donated to charity, how involved they were at advocacies, and how extensive their altruistic efforts were.
Forbes Asia shared that they wanted to acknowledge people who contributed funds out of their own pockets, and not their organizations’, except for when the individual is the primary owner of a private company. They added that the list is unranked and that everyone is equally acknowledged for their work.
Sy’s Altruistic Efforts
According to a report from Manila Times, the story of Sy’s involvement with Child Haus started when he saw the television news about the possible vacation of cancer patients from their temporary shelter at the PCSO compound in Quezon City. This was almost a decade ago.
Ricky Reyes, the founder of Child Haus, was a dear friend of the late tycoon Henry Sy. During one of his visits to the ill entrepreneur, Hans asked about the advocacy dilemma that was televised. From then on, he was resolved to join the cause.
A few months after knowing the need, Sy bought a house in Mapang-akit Street, Quezon City, using his own money. The shelter served as the children’s home for more than three years. The patients needed a new residence, however, as the house got flooded during the rains and increased the children’s susceptibility to other diseases.
It was in 2015 when the permanent Child Haus was inaugurated. Celebrating his 60th birthday, Sy bought a piece of land and built a seven-storey building near the Philippine General Hospital. It was cited in the Forbes Asia list that he spent around $2 million to purchase the lot and construct the building. The tycoon, committed to his charity, still handles the operating expenses up until today. Through the years, some of his colleagues have donated financially as well; others, in-kind
While Forbes praised Sy’s philanthropic work on young cancer patients, he became notable as well for his generous actions — often labeled as unconventional — right at his business empire. In 2016, he shook the business world when he stepped down as president of the corporate giant SM Prime Holdings. In an ABS-CBN News report, Sy said that he did it to focus on “giving back,” on charitable projects.
At the same time, it was for the purpose of setting the motion for succession, giving way to the next generation, as cited in another ABS-CBN News report. The move was supposedly to prompt his siblings to provide opportunities for the younger Sys to take over the business and thrive.
Interestingly, the mogul’s definition of succession isn’t exclusive to family. In fact, Sy revealed to GMA News that it’s stated in their family constitution that the top positions are not necessarily alloted to the next generation. Instead, they opened up opportunities for outsiders to manage different businesses as long as the professionals who are not part of the family are qualified and skilled. When he stepped down from the C-suite, the person who replaced him wasn’t a blood relative.
This had a meaningful effect on the third-generation of the business-oriented clan. Sy said that when his children found out that he was grooming a non-relative to be the next in line, they became more determined to work harder and prove that they’re deserving to be given high-ranking positions, too.
Speaking as a father and a mentor, Sy encouraged one of his sons to branch out into a different business that was not in competition with theirs. His son responded with a reminder that non-competition is unlikely, considering that they’re in every business. Seizing the teachable moment, Sy generously gave the timeless advice of exercising innovation in the face of limitations.
Sources: Forbes Asia, Manila Times, ABS-CBN News, GMA News
Main photo via United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction YouTube Channel