Despite some reluctance, Paul Favila, the CEO of Citi Philippines, believes that the country has the potential to become a regional financial center. Favila, the first Filipino CEO of Citi Philippines in 35 years, highlighted the need for increased investment in transport infrastructure to better connect the Philippines with the rest of the world, making it a viable financial hub. He believes the country’s existing technological capabilities, combined with efficient transportation, skilled talent, and proficiency in English, could position the Philippines as a strong competitor to Singapore in the regional financial services sector.
Favila pointed out that the recent concerns about political freedom in Hong Kong have diminished its appeal as an investment destination. He noted that while Singapore has been preparing for decades to be a financial hub, it is limited in terms of infrastructure and labor. The Philippines, with its strategic location, can capitalize on its growing transport infrastructure, including multiple airport projects, to become a financial services hub.
He also emphasized the importance of language proficiency and the country’s improved telecom infrastructure as key factors supporting this vision. Favila drew inspiration from India’s growth model and how it evolved into a global technological hub, emphasizing the need for the Philippines to transition from a services hub to a higher-value financial services hub.
Favila remains optimistic, despite the country’s current “gray list” classification by the Financial Action Task Force, believing that necessary legislative changes will be made to improve anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing safeguards.
Citi Philippines has played a significant role in the country’s financial landscape, serving more than 950 multinational corporations and 100 top local corporations. Favila’s vision is to position the Philippines as a high-value location for global organizations, building on its historical importance as a financial markets hub in Asia.
The CEO’s plan aligns with the ongoing developments in the country’s transport infrastructure, making it more accessible and attractive to international businesses.