Man on a mission

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star
Man on a mission
Ramon Monzon

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Stock Exchange Inc. (PSE) president and chief executive officer Ramon Monzon is a man on a mission.

Right from the start, his vision for the country’s only stock exchange was clear – create a positive change to the organization that will benefit not just the economy, but all stakeholders.

And so he did, as evidenced by the numerous accomplishments and developments the PSE has made under his leadership.

Monzon, now on his eighth year as PSE’s top executive, still has a lot left in the tank and continues to have big plans for the exchange.

“ I want our market to have derivatives trading. I want us to be at par with our regional peers in terms of liquidity and products. I want to finish the PDS acquisition and bring control of the equity depository under the PSE to promote best-practice approaches to risk management and to align the PSE with global exchanges best practices of having just one exchange for equity and fixed income,” Monzon told The STAR in an interview.

“So those are the things that I want to accomplish. And hopefully, the initiatives we are now pursuing would yield positive results and increase the number of listed companies from the present 280 to about 400 to 500,” he said.

Right man for the job

Monzon started his professional career in the Philippines at ABS-CBN.

He then left for the United States to get his MBA at the Chicago Booth School of Business.

After working in the US for five years, he returned home in 1980 to join SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co. (SGV) where he became a partner and established the Tax Compliance Group for the firm.

He later held the top positions at Radio Philippines Network, Intercontinental Broadcasting Corp; Banahaw Broadcasting Corp., Sining Makulay Inc., Pacific Rim Export & Holdings Corp. and Citadel Holdings Inc., among others.

“I left my full time employment in 2012 to attend to my personal businesses, among them the Miss Earth pageant, a travel agency, a cargo forwarding company, and a service provider to airlines,” Monzon said.

In 2015, Monzon was invited to be a member of the board of PSE.

“At the time, the then chairman of the audit committee was due for retirement so they were looking for somebody who could replace him. And having been a former partner of SGV, my experience fitted perfectly so I was asked to join the PSE board in 2015 to be an independent director and chairman of the audit committee,” Monzon recalled.

“And then in 2017 when the board was looking for a new president and  the CEO, they offered me that position,” he added.

While he knew what he was getting into when he accepted the top position, Monzon admitted that leading the PSE is no easy task.

To successfully manage the exchange, he said one cannot afford to be an “armchair general.”

“You have to be hands on. It doesn’t mean I don’t delegate. I delegate. But I make sure I know what’s happening in everything. Whether it’s in listing or in marketing, finance, even in facilities and admin like the lounge, security and so on,” the PSE chief said.

He noted that one of the biggest challenges in managing the PSE is learning how to balance all the stakeholders that have different interests.

“It’s not easy managing the PSE. I guess it’s not easy being a CEO of any company. But PSE, particularly, because you have so many stakeholders. You have investors, listed companies, brokers, regulators. Of course, you have the shareholders. So, you’ve got to manage in a way that you know the requirements of each of the stakeholders, and you’re addressing all of them,” he said.

“The employees also are very important stakeholders. So you’ve got to make sure that employees are continuously motivated, happy and you create an environment of meritocracy. You got to make sure that when you make decisions, you’re taking them into consideration,” Monzon added.

As CEO, Monzon said it is very easy to play the good guy and just give employees everything they want to become popular.

“But that’s not being fair to the shareholders. You’ve got to have a balance. You’ve got to give the employees what they deserve and more, but you also have to give the shareholders their due share. So it’s very important to me that I declare dividends regularly and give the shareholders a respectable yield.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons why PSE has a lot of  foreign investors,” Monzon said.

Under his leadership, Monzon proudly said that they have been successful in conveying  the message that the PSE is a professional and rules-based organization.

“There is no favoritism or bias at PSE. When a company applies for listing and complies with the listing requirements, it will be approved for listing. We are transparent with our rules; they are published in our website.  And I think we’ve been able to communicate this with the stakeholders. I think if you ask the investment houses and law firms, they’ll say the PSE is very different now, it’s very professionally run. Needless to say, our managers and employees have been instrumental in communicating this professionalism,” Monzon said.

Propelling the PSE to new heights

The PSE has indeed made significant positive strides since Monzon’s entry in 2017. Key to this is the push toward digitalization.

Introduced in 2019, PSE EASy aims to improve the accessibility and simplify the subscription of local small investors to the LSI tranche of initial public offerings (IPOs) and follow-on offerings.

Just recently, an electronic payment system was integrated in the PSE EASy platform to allow users to pay for their subscribed shares via online banking.

The PSE in March last year also launched PSE EQUIP, a website and mobile application that provides users access to comprehensive and reliable Philippine stock market information.

This enables investors to learn and analyze data on their own by providing analytical information and research reports on data sets.

The PSE also revamped its market education website to provide more comprehensive, interactive and practical web-based investor education materials.

In 2022, the PSE partnered with Bloomberg for the PSE STAR: Investor Day, a virtual event that becomes a platform for select publicly listed companies to share their financial results, strategic initiatives and growth prospects.

Since 2022, PSE has held a total of five PSE STAR events with a total of 57 participating listed companies.

To encourage more companies to list, PSE likewise offers support to prospective listing applicants through advisory and learning sessions, access to pre-listing assessment tools, and connections to experienced advisors through PSE Listing Engagement and Assistance Program (LEAP).

The PSE also continues to collaborate with select partner advisors and key government and business groups to drive IPO listing interest from their network that are deemed ready to go public.

It has partnered with Mobilising Institutional Capital through Listed Product Structures (MOBILIST), the UK government’s flagship program that supports investment solutions to help deliver the climate transition.

By providing equity capital investment, technical assistance and advisory services, and enhanced visibility through the UK government’s platforms, MOBILIST enables new scalable and replicable financial products to list on public markets such as the PSE.

The PSE is also collaborating with the Department of Migrant Workers on financial literacy initiatives for the 2.3 million OFWs and their families which are intended to educate, promote and encourage them to invest in the stock market.

With PSE as a technology provider, an initiative called GStocks PH was also launched to activate the untapped potential of the Philippine equities market through an in-app stock trading platform in GCash.

“I think the PSE is now more active engaging with stakeholders. Now, we don’t wait for companies to do the listing. We go and look for them. We don’t just wait for investors to invest in the market. We go out and have campaigns to get them to invest,” Monzon said.

The market man

From the local bourse to the local wet market, Monzon surely gets things done.

Monzon is hands-on not only with his responsibilities in the Philippine stock market, but also with his duties at home, such as going to the market

“Every Saturday morning, even during the pandemic, I go to Farmers Market to buy our food for the week. Not only is it informative for me because I know the prices of goods or food, but you could say it is also somewhat therapeutic. It is a light activity, you go around, talk to and negotiate with my “suki” fish, vegetables and fruit vendors.  I also do the grocery at the supermarket,” he said.

To stay in tip-top shape both mentally and physically, Monzon does a lot of reading and walking.

“I wake up early because I walk every day for an hour. I try to walk every day and then I go to the office,” he said.

“I also read a lot. I will be lost without my Kindle. That Kindle is my most treasured possession. I probably have about 150 books there or something,” he added.

Once he retires, Monzon sees himself spending more time with his family.

“I’d really like to spend more time with my grandchildren because they don’t live here. They live in Paris, and I don’t have time to really travel and see them except on Christmas when they come over,” Monzon shared.

For now, the stock market man will continue to do his mission and pursue the reforms he initiated to make the PSE competitive in the region since it appears that his second retirement is not happening any time soon.

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