“Espenilla fought the good fight” – bankers, industry groups

By Lee C. Chipongian

The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) paid tribute to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. and said that they are “grateful for his initiative to engage the industry and respond to its inputs in keeping with the BSP’s reform agenda.”

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla speaks at the Management Association of the Philippines economic briefing yesterday. (Jansen Romero) Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor Espenilla
(Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

Espenilla, 60, passed away on February 23 after more than year of battling cancer.

The BAP said late BSP chief “leaves a legacy of a stronger and more inclusive banking system” and that his “devotion to his work and service to the Filipino people will be remembered.”

“Espenilla fought the good fight and finished the race as the BSP Governor,” said BAP. “His legacy and dedication to the BSP and its constituencies will never be forgotten and his work will be a foundation in building a stronger Philippine banking industry for future generations.”

Espenilla is known globally as a tech-savvy central bank governor. He has pursued, developed and adopted regulations that are updated to the times, such as digitization of financial services and especially financial inclusion, an environment for a safe and reliable payment system and introduction of game-changing market reforms – all part of a digital financial ecosystem. Aside from the establishment of the automated clearing houses for “other useful retail payment schemes”, an inter-operable national quick response (QR) code standard is in the development stage to level the playing field and encourage participation of small players in the BSP’s National Retail Payment Systems (NRPS).

Philippine eMoney Association (PEMA) chairman Orlando B. Vea described Espenilla as a “humble public servant, progressive central banker, and relentless champion of financial inclusion”.

Vea, also president and CEO of Voyager/PayMaya Philippines/FINTQnologies, said Espenilla’s legacy “lives on in every effort that we all do to serve the unbanked, uncarded and underserved Filipinos with digital financial services.”

FinTechAlliance.ph chairman, Lito Villanueva, said Espenilla was a transformational leader, a "regulator-disruptor" who “made economic inclusion his mantra.”

“He had the passion and dedication to bring about meaningful change to the unbanked and underserved Filipinos through enabling regulations and policies,” he said. “Letting innovations thrive was one of his legacies allowing FinTechs and similar players to provide alternative and affordable access to financial services. He made digital as a tool to harness efficiencies, collaboration, and interoperability in the industry.”

BAP said Espenilla has guided the banking industry in the age of financial reforms and digitization. “His leadership resulted in progressive reforms that now support a stronger Philippine banking system, including the enactment of the New Central Bank Act. His focus on creating a safe, inclusive, and reliable payment system for the unbanked was evident with the establishment of the NRPS.”

ING Bank country manager and former Philippine Stock Exchange president, Hans B. Sicat, said Espenilla had “thoughtful professionalism” and it was timely that he was the governor “through the digital disruption that’s occurring in the financial services industry.”

“But much more than the policy advocacies he championed, I will personally miss Nesting, the man,” said Sicat.

The officials and management of Land Bank of the Philippines and Security Bank Corp. said that Espenilla, even before he was the governor, has made strides in further strengthening the banking sector.

“He fortified the supervision of banks and pushed for reforms that help solidify financial stability, and advocated programs for financial inclusivity,” said Landbank.

“His 40-year experience as a central banker brought confidence from the industry to be unafraid in innovating itself for the unbanked and the general public,” said Security Bank. “Indeed, Gov. Espenilla fought the good fight and finished the race in completing his vision to the banking industry.”

The late BSP chief’s remains now lie at The Arlington Chapel at Aeternum, Heritage Park, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig with visitation schedules. On Thursday, the BSP will hold necrological services at its headquarters in Malate, Manila.