When was the last time that you met one of the country’s recognized business movers?
We’ve had featured in this column and on our TV show quite a few one-on-one interviews with some of the country’s top personalities who have impacted the Philippine business landscape. Recently, we met up with a gentleman who is a respected name in the field of Accounting, Mr. Roberto R. Manabat. The well-established company, RG Manabat, which he heads is an accountancy firm that is the Philippine representative of KPMG, an internationally acclaimed leader in the field.
Mr. Manabat, whose father hailed from Pampanga, was raised in Manila, so he admits that he can only understand bits and pieces of the dialect. He is the second to the youngest in a brood of four and grew up in the Sta. Cruz and Blumentritt areas. “I went to school in Cecilio Apostol near what used to be the San Lazaro Hippodrome,” he said. His high school years were spent at the Arellano High School while for college, he chose the University of the East, which was then considered the best as far the Accounting course was concerned. He chose the field of Accounting because it seemed to be the shortest route to a career and he had always been strong in Math and Science. He had a photographic memory for numbers and his mind could easily wrap around simple things like telephone numbers, etc. Engineering would have been another option, but the course was longer and there were other extra expenses to reckon with.
As one can glean from all these, the Manabat family was not an affluent one though they could provide education for their children. The younger Roberto was quick with numbers and highly analytical. He graduated as the class valedictorian in high school and earned a scholarship in college which financed much of his educational requirements.
As a young man, he excelled in chess, something that should not surprise anyone, given his keen analytical abilities. He tried basketball once, he said, but the ball shattered his eye glasses, which have become his trademark most of his life, so he stuck to chess.
After Graduation, he joined SGV which, then and now, is still among the top accounting firms in the country and stayed with the firm for thirty years. He had set a goal for himself when the joined the prestigious firm – to become a partner at SGV, a tall order but one he was determined to pursue. He could remember at least two of the partners who inspired and trained him to excel. Incidentally, this is one of the pointers he gives to young job applicants—choose your role model, and choose wisely so that you can follow in his footsteps.
He still remembers his SGV years, especially during tax filing season, which was between mid-February till April 15. Then, he would be at the office as early as 6:00a.m. and stay till midnight. Many times, he would spend the night there. Hard work is another pointer from him –there is no substitute for it.
What is it with accountants? They are among the most discipline lot, with work ethics that many in other fields will find hard to emulate. However, after thirty good years with the SGV, an opportunity came. The company offered early retirement packages that were hard to resist. It was also an opportunity to find and meet other challenges, so he soon joined the Securities & Exchange Commission after SGV as Regulator of the country’s accounting firms and stayed on for three years until another offer came—to lead KPMG after Jimmy Laya’s and Mario Manankaya’s retirement from the firm.
At that time, KPMG was already a very big name in the industry, with a staff of three hundred fifty. Today, with Roberto G. Manabat at the helm, he has grown the company three-fold, with a staff numbering over a thousand. He has been with KPMG for ten years and found that being a managing partner is professionally rewarding, honing his management skills further and expanding his network of relationships. The Business World publication rates KPMG among the top auditors in the land, second only to SGV. They audit over one hundred forty of the top clients in the land, among them the San Miguel Group that includes Petron, Pfizer, Credit Suisse, ANZ, Total, and Prudential Life, among others.
Now, after building a brilliant career and looking forward to more years of it, he happily pays it forward with several CSR programs where he taps university students to form teams to help out communities. In the case of Yolanda, he was able to raise $1 million from global member firms of KPMG, which they donated through the Red Cross. He is also a Board Advisor of some corporations that are not audit clients of KPMG like SM Investments and a trustee of the Institute of Corporate Directors because of his advocacy of good governance, among others.
On the home front, he and his wife enjoy good dinners and movies and visit their three children and five grandchildren who are all based abroad at least once a year. The brood comes home every Christmas too for a complete reunion. And for his personal sport, he has come to enjoy golf and visits the greens at least once a week.
His all-time favourite motto is probably this leader’s embodiment: “Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” He would like to be remembered as someone who motivated and trained accountants to have a successful and rewarding career.
Down memory lane - “live”
Friends of Distinction. This was one of the outstanding vocal groups of my time and I can still remember swaying in awe to their distinctive brand of music. It was formed in 1968 in Los Angeles, discovered by American football player Jim Brown who also discovered Earth, Wind and Fire.
Their first major hit, Grazing in the Grass soared up to # 1 place in the US Billboard Hot 100, and from there they continued to rock America and other countries including the Philippines from 1969 well into the mid 70s with hits like Love me or Let me be Lonely; Check it Out; The Way We Planned It; I just Can’t Get you out of My Mind; It Don’t Matter To me; Time Waits For No One and others which were all part of the seven or so albums that they released.
When they performed in Manila in 2004 at the PICC, Waterfront Cebu and Hard Rock Café, they played to full-packed crowds that couldn’t get enough of them. On Friday, Aug. 26, The Friends of Distinction will again enthral their Manila fans when they perform at the SM Arena at the Mall of Asia together with memory maker, Ted Mills of Blue Magic, another outstanding vocalist not to be missed. Thank you Steve O’Neal (a.k.a. Danee Samonte) for bringing them back.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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