Oops! Wick did it again

Published October 23, 2020, 6:00 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

The Britney Spears’ hit song two decades ago  “Oops, I Did It Again” keeps playing in my mind as I read the number of awards Jose Arnulfo “Wick” Veloso, president of Philippine National Bank (PNB), and the institution, itself, garnered from the prestigious Singapore-based magazine, The Asian Banker.

Yes, Mr. Wick did it again! In just less than two years that he shepherded the lender, PNB is again taking the podium to accept recognition that the institution is a cut above some of its peers in the domestic banking industry.

Though write-ups have been plastered all over the print, broadcasts and social media platforms of his and the bank’s citations, I seek your indulgence to mention just two: “Best Managed Bank” and Mr. Wick as the “Best CEO.”  Prior to his leaving the helm of HSBC Philippines in early November, 2018, the “world’s local bank” received a citation from The Asset as the best foreign bank operating in the country.

My reason for citing these two particular recognitions are two-fold: First, I’ve seen his career blossom through the years to a seasoned, highly respected banker. His metamorphosis from a dollar trader with his oft-repeated lines of either “’pre kalahati ako” or “’pre sampu ako dyan!” at peso-dollar market way back in the 1990s done every single trading day around 4 p.m. at the 11th floor of the Sagittarius Bldg. on H.V.  de la Costa.

It was not yet electronic. The transactions of buying and selling of dollars were face-to-face. I was among the privileged wet-behind-the-ears business journalists allowed to witness the unfolding transactions. Little did I know that the “kalahati” meant $0.500 million and the “sampu” was $10 million.   

PNB was one of the banks I admired. Back then I was starting as a political reporter at the Palace and the late Senator Joker Arroyo was the little president – executive secretary-cum-chairman of the bank. Joker invited us  to a cocktail to celebrate PNB’s Initial Public Offering (IPO). It was my first IPO purchase.

The bank’s marketing brand then was “Nakasandal sa pader.” The institution, unfortunately, took several twists and turns in its banking journey in ensuing  years. The mantra was no longer appropriate. It was dropped, altogether.

Now, with the citations from the The Asian Banker of Singapore, PNB is inching up painstakingly and quietly, trying to regain its spot in the domestic banking industry. PNB today has a network of 750 banks strategically located all over the country with a lone presence in some parts of the archipelago to service the needs of the general banking public, particularly at this perilous time in our history.

With increasing  Work from home, the uptrend in online transactions, e-trading, and e-commerce, PNB is positioning itself using the new mantra to be ”Masasandalan, kahit kailan, kahit saan.” With full support from the management, Mr. Wick shared with banking journalists the plans, programs,  and  reforms the lender will be adapting to further improve its IT backbone to enhance its services. 

The Wick is an important part of a candle.  True to form, Mr. Wick is the wick that would  light up PNB as it goes forward.

And before I end, let me ask you this: While some seasoned bankers  came to be known by  initials like brothers NVT and LVT (Nestor V. Tan and Lorenzo V. Tan), why was his different?

 It has nothing to do with the wick of the candle.  Here’s the back story: “When my Mom was teaching me how to walk, sabi nya sa akin, (she told me) ‘Quick, quick, quick.’ Naging (It became) Wee-Wick. And eventually, when I was growing up, it became Wick.”

Talkback to me at [email protected]