The late Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr., who passed away last month after battling tongue cancer, practically devoted his entire professional career to the central bank.
After fulfilling his academic requirements a semester early, and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business economics from the University of the Philippines, no less, he wasted no time applying for a central bank post.
“No private sector applications for me. In 1981, I ended up in my dream first job — at the Central Bank of the Philippines,” Mr. Espenilla said at an alumni homecoming in late 2017. He was hired as an external debt analyst.
For most of his career, he led a life in relative obscurity as a central bank employee, gradually climbing the organizational ladder. He held a number of positions through the years and worked in different departments.
In 2005, he was installed as deputy governor of the Supervision and Examination Sector, the central bank post he held the longest. The division, which was recently renamed Financial Supervision Sector, has the critical task of regulating banks and other financial institutions supervised by the central bank.
During his 12-year tenure, he addressed himself to banking supervision, capital market development, credit policy and financial inclusion.
He also implemented risk-based and proportionate regulations that enabled institutions under BSP’s jurisdiction to innovate business models and adopt digital financial services, as well as supported regulations promoting financial inclusion and consumer protection.
But it was only in 2017, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte named him the new BSP governor, succeeding Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., who occupied that position for more than a decade, that Mr. Espenilla rose to great public prominence.
In his speech at BSP’s 24th anniversary celebration, Mr. Tetangco spoke highly of his successor. “I have worked closely with him and I can tell you that Gov. Nesting is a top-notch central banker and a man of integrity, who has what it takes to excel as the BSP’s new leader,” he said.
At an alumni homecoming mentioned earlier, Mr. Espenilla said of his appointment, “My dream was to join the central bank. Thirty-six years after, I was appointed BSP governor. Imagine how thrilled, and how terrified, I was!”
Mr. Espenilla embarked on a “Continuity Plus Plus” initiative, under which major reforms concerning monetary and financial policies and organizational structure were made.
In a statement, BSP said, “During his tenure, the amendments to the BSP charter were finally passed, strengthening the capability of the central bank to deliver its mandate to promote price and financial stability and to foster a safe, efficient and inclusive payment system.”
Mr. Espenilla also led the digitalization of the retail payment system to make the broader financial system more inclusive and efficient.
At the central bank’s silver anniversary last year, the late governor said, “As I close, I recall my mission as head of team BSP. It is not only to deliver on our mandates today. Rather, it is to build capabilities to address challenges and develop skills needed to conduct our mission given likely scenarios, ready to respond where it matters, when it matters. This is the rationale for the bold organizational changes we have embraced thus far. These changes are meant to make the institution and its key officers more agile and resilient, ready too, as individuals and as an organization, to navigate the future.”
Deputy Governor Maria Almasara Cyd Tuaño-Amador, who was chosen to be the officer-in-charge of BSP shortly after Mr. Espenilla’s demise, described the late governor as a man in constant motion.
“He had big plans for the BSP to make us future-ready. He had a reform agenda that covered the full breadth of the BSP’s responsibilities: price stability, financial stability, a safe, reliable and inclusive payments system and advocacies including financial inclusion, economic and financial learning, and consumer protection.”
She also remembered him for his optimism that he could bring the bank to greater heights as a globally recognized central bank and that his “Continuity Plus Plus” agenda would promote institutional stability and serve as a rallying point for future Filipino central bankers.
“His optimism is brave and strong because it rests not on wishful hopes but on the conviction that the BSP’s reform agenda is realizable because the organization he led is strong, it is resilient, it is agile and it is capable,” she said.
Near the end of her speech honoring the memory of Mr. Espenilla at BSP, Ms. Tuaño-Amador further commended the late governor for the prudence with which he formulated and implemented monetary policy to ensure price stability, for leading the financial industry through prudent and forward-looking reforms, and for acting as vanguard in the digitalization of the payments system in the country.
“We bask in these achievements because he had always, always, generously said that it is One Team BSP that has made these possible,” she said.