SGV was founded by the legendary Mr. Washington SyCip in 1946. In the aftermath of the Second World War when Filipinos were preoccupied with rebuilding the country, Washington SyCip, armed with a keen business sense and a vision for the nation, opened a one-man accounting firm at the Trade and Commerce Building in Binondo. The Philippine accounting profession was then dominated by foreigners, as the country was just starting to rise from the ruins of war. Determined to help Filipinos take their rightful place in the accountancy profession, Wash envisioned an organization that would deliver highest quality of service to clients.
As the number of satisfied clients grew, Alfredo M. Velayo, a boyhood friend with whom Wash shared his dreams, and Vicente O. Jose, an accountant with copious experience in tax work, were taken in as partners in 1947. The new partnership gave birth to SyCip, Velayo, Jose & Co.
Early on, the three partners assumed different functions in the Firm. Wash saw to setting up the long-range policies and plans; Fred oversaw day-to-day operations; and Enteng became the one-man Tax Division.
In the following year, the Firm embarked on its first overseas engagement, heralding the Firm’s forays into several other countries. Working in foreign offices gave staff the chance to hone their skills, competence and experience in dealing with different cultures.
To service more clients outside Manila at a lower cost, the Firm opened its first branch office in the southern city of Cebu. Five years after Wash set up his one-man office, the Firm had grown to 26 people.
In 1953, Thomas Farnell, a senior partner of HHB, decided to return to his homeland and sell his practice to two Filipino accountants – Arsenio Reyes and Ramon J. Gorres. After a series of negotiations between Wash SyCip and the two distinguished gentlemen, the two firms merged to form the largest accounting firm in the Philippines. From this relationship, SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co., the Firm’s current name, was derived.
As the demands of business became more complicated, the need for professionals with world-class capabilities became apparent. To ensure the continued development of its workforce, and to fill the gap between the academe and actual practice, SGV began a manpower development program through training and scholarships.
This period was marked by a growing market for management consultancy services. Realizing the auspicious prospects in this line of work, SGV founded its Management Services Division, the first of its kind in the country. Artemio L. Raymundo, the Firm’s first scholar, together with Cesar E. A. Virata, then a promising new graduate, nurtured the Division in its early stages. Ray focused on finance- and accounting-oriented engagements while Cesar concentrated on management areas such as production and project feasibility studies. The division became known locally and internationally as SGV Consulting.
Even as SGV continued to attract the best graduates in every field, it remained actively committed to staff development, encouraging each staff to strive for excellence at all levels. The Firm’s first scholar returned to the country in 1957 and laid down the framework for SGV’s training program. In-house training was organized. Employees from all levels were encouraged to pursue higher studies or take up additional courses to develop their expertise. Scholarships to MBA programs locally and abroad were granted to deserving staff members.
To ensure consistent above-par work performance and maintain client confidence, management standardized its audit procedures and developed a working paper model. To oversee the training of the audit staff and adherence to quality standards, the Firm established the Research and Training Division.
To provide more incentives to its increasing number of employees, the management inked a policy granting an annual health bonus. It also created the Loyalty, Special, and SyCip awards in recognition of noteworthy achievements and length of service.
In 1958, The Firm expanded further by establishing offices in the cities of Bacolod and Davao.
This period marked the birth of the SGV Group. In 1962, through mutual acquaintances, Wash SyCip met with T.N. Soong who owned a public accounting firm in Taiwan. The two gentlemen soon discovered that they had common ideas on the role of accounting firms in economically developing countries. Taking advantage of an economic boom in Taiwan in 1964, T.N. Soong & Co. and SGV joined forces by entering into a technical cooperation agreement.
The firms agreed to subscribe to the same high level of professional and ethical standards, share professional materials, ensure uniform training programs, and consult with one another on matters of mutual benefit to their practices.
SGV continued to expand its local network with the addition of the Iloilo and Iligan offices. Meanwhile, the increase in people and facilities in the Manila office necessitated the Firm’s transfer to a 14-storey building along Ayala Avenue in Makati, the new hub of business and finance in the Philippines.
In 1966, SGV institutionalized its social responsibility by organizing the SGV Foundation (SGVF). To this day, SGVF participates in the upliftment of the industrial and management sciences through financial support and grants for professorial and research chairs, scholarships, and other programs.
Inspired by the success of the tie-up with the Taiwan firm and Mr. SyCip’s concept of a regional organization of Asian professionals, Yukta Na Thalang & Co. – the No. 1 accounting firm in Thailand – became a member firm of the SGV Group in 1967. Utomo Josodirdjo’s Kantor Akuntan Drs Utomo of Indonesia joined the Group in 1968, enabling the Group to participate in the bustling economic activity in Indonesia.
In 1970, The SGV Group further expanded its reach to include Singapore and Malaysia. The following year, The SGV Group penetrated the Vietnamese market through the establishment of SGV-Thuan & Co., the first auditing firm in the country to apply international standards. Another significant development was the setting up of a Management Service Division in each of the Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Taiwanese, and Thai member firms. The move was in response to the growing need for consultancy services in the region. Meanwhile, to expand its area of operations, T.N. Soong & Co. established a branch office in Taiwan.
As the number of The SGV Group member firms increased, so did the need for a coordinating office increased. The office of the SGV Group was established in Manila to ensure adherence to uniform standards of professional services throughout the network. An Executive Committee, comprised of managing partners of the member firms, formulated regional policies. The office was also tasked to oversee the requirements of the member firms in terms of manpower and facilities. During this period, The SGV Group undertook its first projects financed by international development institutions. It also embarked on consulting projects for countries without member firm offices.
On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, SGV launched the Professional/Social Involvement Program (PSIP). Through the PSIP, the Firm donated professional services to nonprofit, social and civic-oriented organizations.
In 1972, Wash SyCip passed on his responsibilities as Managing Partner of the Philippine member firm to two other partners – Roberto V. Ongpin and Rodolfo B. Jacob – and focused on his task as Chairman of The SGV Group. Each member firm progressed by setting up a consulting practice, establishing more branches, offering a broader range of services, upgrading facilities, and expanding its workforce. To coordinate and streamline the different services provided to its client base, SGV developed the total team service approach. Major client groups were identified and teams of partners from all divisions developed service plans for each group.
By 1976, the member firms of The SGV Group – located in the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong – constituted the biggest network of nationally independent professional firms in East Asia.
In 1978, the SGV Development Center was inaugurated. It housed an array of modern facilities utilizing an open plan concept for office space. Among its features were a computer center and expanded training and audio-visual facilities. The Center became a popular site for a variety of activities including public seminars and numerous internal training programs for the Firm.
The Center also became the home of the Institute of Advanced Computer Technology (I/ACT) which was established by SGV in affiliation with the Control Data Corporation of the US. I/ACT became one of Asia’s leading organizations in the field of computer training.
Industrialization in most countries in East Asia paved the way for The SGV Group to establish and formulate tie-ups with reputable organizations. These links enabled The Group to enter markets it has not previously tapped. It was in this period that the full range of services (audit, management consultancy, tax advisory) was offered by most of the member firms to their clientele. By this time, The SGV Group had firmly established itself as a strong regional organization and had acquired a reputation for quality, excellence, and professionalism. It was more than ready to undertake expansion beyond East Asia.
Although SGV partners had participated in international forums, on an ad hoc basis for 30 years, it was only much later that their presence began to be identified with The SGV Group. The SGV Group religiously sent a contingent to periodic conferences of the ASEAN Federation of Accountants, confederation of Asian Pacific Accountants, ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Pacific Basin Economic Council. SGV maintained a high profile at such gatherings as partners often occupied prominent positions.
In 1982, Rizalino S. Navarro took over as Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV. During his 10-year term he oversaw and guided the Firm through many changes, the most important of which was gaining a global partner. In 1985, after four decades of regional expansion, The SGV Group member firms in Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand became members of the Arthur Andersen & Co., Société Coopérative, also known as the Andersen Worldwide Organization (AW). AW was already the world’s largest professional service organization at that time, with operations in roughly 50 countries and a workforce of about 30,000.
The relationship between the two organizations was mutually beneficial. The SGV Group served as AW’s link to East Asia while AW afforded SGV access to its highly advanced computer technology and training programs, and to its international network.
In 1986, the Manila Advanced System Center and the Microcomputer Resource Facility were made operational through rapid technology transfer from AASC. Aided by computerization, SGV provided services to over 8,000 clients.
All levels of the organization benefited from intensive training. Formal training and international on-the-job experiences dramatically increased skills and enabled the Firm to deliver outstanding quality service in the field of technology
Heading into the ’90s, SGV continued to expand its reach and services. The Firm’s scope of practice grew to include the whole range of audit, tax, and consulting services using advanced technologies, methodologies and approaches for all industry groups within a worldwide network of offices, experts, and resources while serving clients on a global scale from a solid Asian base. With technology from AASC, the Manila Advanced Systems Center has been developing software for the major firms in the US and Japan through satellite communications since 1988. SGV has also contributed to the AASC structure by providing in-depth understanding of the firms.
In 1992, Gloria L. Tan Climaco succeeded him to become the first female Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV. During her term, she led SGV in finding new applications for its expertise and challenged innovation from everyone. SGV was successful at offering consulting services in new and challenging areas — complex financial audits, mergers and acquisitions, debt-to-equity swaps, revolving trade facility arrangements, recapitalization, capital structuring, BOT projects, IPOs, asset securitization, privatization, and foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings. SGV was the first in the industry to provide corporate finance consulting and contract financial management.
The year 1996 marked the Golden Anniversary of the Firm. A milestone for the history of the Firm, the 50th anniversary was punctuated by month-long celebrations – including a grand alumni homecoming – and the release of the “SGV 1946-1996: A Gold Record” book. But what made the event most poignant was the announcement of Washington SyCip’s retirement. After 50 years of nurturing and molding the Firm into the respected and exceptional institution SGV has become, Washington SyCip turned over the reins of managing the Firm to the new breed of SGVeans.
The year 1996 heralded the start of Carlos R. Alindada’s term as Chairman and Managing Partner. This period in the Firm’s history was a witness to economic and political upheavals as the world grappled with the challenges of a New Economy, and as the Asian financial crisis impacted on all sectors and businesses in the region. The Firm met these challenges head-on. Resilience, consistency and dedication were the elixir of SGV, as the years marched on.
In 1999, then Chairman and Managing Partner Cesar V. Purisima has said, “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nothing more doubtful of success or more dangerous to manage, than to initiate a new order of things.” Purisima knew whereof he spoke, as he introduced the concept of market circles and reorganized the Firm under a new structure. But change, in any organization, is inevitable. The only thing left to be done is ensure as smooth a transition as possible, with as little pain as possible. To this end, Purisima created a new committee tasked with making decisions on issues affecting day-to-day operation of the market circles and service lines.
With the aim of further broadening its ability to provide impeccable service to its clients, the Firm became a member firm of Ernst & Young Global (EY) on 6 June, 2002. This created a powerful synergy between SGV’s well-known culture of integrity, professionalism and excellence and EY’s global network and dynamism, forging a strategic partnership that would champion a two-fold vision and strategy of People and Growth, building on SGV’s forward-looking strategy and strengthening local and international ties. It was at this time that the Firm consolidated its countrywide network into eight branches, servicing key growth sectors in Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cavite, Cebu, Davao, General Santos and Makati.
In 2003, the Firm, through the SGV Foundation, launched the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines, an ongoing program which seeks to recognize and honor visionary and inspiring Filipino business leaders who promote economic growth and nation-building through entrepreneurship. The global Entrepreneur Of The Year program was first introduced in the United States in 1986 by Ernst & Young. Since then, the program has spread to 140 cities in 50 countries worldwide.
In 2004 Mr. Purisima left SGV and was succeeded by David L. Balangue as Chairman and Managing Partner. It was during this time that the country’s reporting standards converged with international rules through the adoption of the Philippine financial Reporting Standards (PFRS). Mr. Balangue was a member of the Philippine Interpretations Committee, which aided local companies in the process of implementing PFRS. In 2006, SGV celebrated its 60th year anniversary with a growing family of 75 partners and nearly 2,000 staff. This number would soon be overshadowed by even more rapid growth and expansion.
2007 marked the completion of the Washington SyCip Park, a gift from the partners and principals to Mr. SyCip on the occasion of his 88th birthday. It also marked the Firm’s growing focus on sustainability and corporate responsibility, the personal advocacy of Cirilo P. Noel, who became Chairman and Managing Partner of SGV in February 2010. Mr. Noel believed strongly in the virtue of stewardship. He often emphasized that, as a good corporate citizen, SGV needed to do its part in promoting environmental responsibility, nation-building and personal wellness. In conjunction with global EY initiatives, SGV undertook programs to reduce waste, promote sustainability and encourage staff participation in such projects as Gawad Kalinga Village 88, Earth Hour, the SGV Fun Run and many others.
It was during this period that Ernst & Young also firmed up its global structure, realigning practices across 15 countries, including the Philippines, into a single Far East Area. This would later evolve into the EY Asia-Pacific Area. Believing deeply in the outstanding capabilities of Filipino professionals, SGV officially established the Asia-Pacific Talent Hub (ATH) in 2010 as a cross-border teaming resource. The ATH not only provides local staff with quality training and international client experiences, it simultaneously provides global EY colleagues and clients access to a greater pool of skilled, world-class talent. In 2011, the ATH grew to a team of 186 professionals servicing over 65,000 clients around the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
In 2011, SGV marked its 65th year anniversary as well as Mr. SyCip’s 90th birthday with a series of events and milestone projects that would further enhance the Firm’s contributions to the country. Stronger than ever with 83 partners, 3,100 staff and over 5,000 clients, the Firm focused on expanding its horizons globally, responsibly and even historically.
The firm continued to make a difference in the country and its diverse communities through several remarkable projects, many of which were channeled through the SGV Foundation. And since stewardship also includes preserving SGV’s legacy, the Firm founded the SGV Museum to serve as a repository for its rich traditions and history over the decades. It includes a memorabilia room, a room dedicated to Mr. SyCip, meeting rooms, and interactive modules on SGV’s history and Mr. SyCip’s life. It also serves as a gallery to showcase the SGV Foundation’s collection of fine paintings and artworks.
To accommodate the growing complement of SGV professionals, the firm moved to new and larger offices in Cebu and Davao. The expansion was yet another testament to SGV’s size and strength as the industry leader in the country.
In 2015, the EY Global Delivery Services (GDS), in close collaboration with SGV, launches its new service delivery center in the Philippines. The GDS plays an important role in EY’s globalization strategy by leveraging diverse talent capabilities and developing new competencies across the globe. This robust and consistent network of service delivery locations has proven to be a distinct advantage for EY in seamlessly running and enabling its businesses.
SGV observes its 70th year in 2016. The Firm celebrates how its strength, growth and vision continue to evolve since it was founded in 1946 as a one-man operation. Today, SGV is a team of almost 6,000 people with over 32,000 alumni worldwide. SGV continues to expand, offering new services in new markets and expanding globally through the Asia Pacific Talent Hub and EY Global Delivery Services. For the past 70 years, SGV has been guided by the same vision of contributing to national development through its quality services and people.
J. Carlitos G. Cruz took over the reigns as Chairman and Managing Partner in 2017. In the age of digital disruption caused by emerging innovative technologies and digital business models, Itos focused upon the integration of digital solutions into SGV’s existing products and services, leveraging the disruptive power of data analytics, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence to increase their value in the professional services space.
The Firm started to focus more on sector specialization. This enabled SGV teams to provide clients with more efficient services, tailored to meet their needs and demands. The Firm’s Innovation hub was also formed, serving as a catalyst for digital transformation. It is a platform that aids SGV teams in delivering advanced technological services to stakeholders.
Mr. SyCip passed away peacefully in October 2017, at the age of 96. In his honor, the Firm continues to adhere to his vision to develop SGV into the largest multidisciplinary firm whose ultimate legacy to the country would be the quality of its people. His vision and values continue to be instilled in the hearts and minds of generations of SGV partners and staff committed to developing quality people and leaders who contribute to the progress of the country.
As further proof of SGV’s commitment to achieve gender equality in the workplace, the Firm garnered the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) Assess-level certification in 2018, making SGV the first professional services firm in Southeast Asia to receive this distinction. The EDGE certification is an evidence-based process designed to help organizations address gender inequality in the workplace and has been adopted by over 170 organizations in 48 countries.
SGV also embarks on its Purpose Journey during the Firm’s 72nd Anniversary celebrations. With a powerful and inspiring Purpose statement to nurture leaders and enable businesses for a better Philippines, SGV articulates its vision and ambition to develop quality people and leaders who contribute to national development and a better and brighter future for all Filipinos.