By Bjorn Biel M. BeltranSpecial Features Writer

Since its foundation in 1974, the nonstock, nonprofit Investment House Association of the Philippines (IHAP) has been working behind the scenes to further develop the country’s capital market. Specifically, its member investment houses provide a range of financial and advisory services such as issue management and underwriting of public offering of debt and equity securities, loan syndication and financial packaging and advisory for corporate mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring. However, one would be hard-pressed to find any headlines about the organization, despite its significance in the Philippine financial sector.

This was part of the reasons why last year, after inducting its new roster of officers in March, IHAP pursued a campaign to increase its involvement and relevance in the public eye, in a bid to promote the understanding of the role and function of investment houses towards the development of the Philippines’ capital market.

For 2019, Hans B. Sicat, managing director and country manager of ING Bank and current IHAP president, aims to stay on that course, with the vision of encouraging economic growth and developing a robust capital market in the country.

“The main goal right now is really to continue what we’ve been doing in terms of helping develop and deepen the capital market in the Philippines, primarily from the activities that we do,” he told BusinessWorld in an interview.

Mainly, IHAP wants to continue facilitating dialogues between investment houses, government regulators, and stakeholders in the Philippine financial ecosystem. Through such dialogues, the organization seeks to give voice to concerns regarding financial policy making, market feedback, and raise issues that may hinder the growth of the financial sector.

Building engagement with stakeholders like the Securities and Exchange Commission, Philippine Stock Exchange, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Mr. Sicat said, will do much to draft financial policy that is aligned with the needs of the market and hence foster further growth. Moreover, such discussions can push the development of new financial instruments, such as the long-discussed real estate investment trust (REIT), which can “send the right signals in terms of policy-making and the development of the capital market.”

“Part of it is coordination. Part of it is helping design and get to the appropriate policies while also ensuring that hopefully there is overall less regulation so that you actually have a more robust market,” Mr. Sicat said.

Among the other objectives that IHAP has for the year is the continued drive for more involvement among its members. Being an association mostly run by volunteers, it is often challenging to solicit participation among its members.

“I think the main challenge of being part of an association is getting enough time, the volunteers putting in that extra hour, that extra day, that extra project to assist in the with the association,” Mr. Sicat said.

“This is obviously easier said than done. I think once you have a very engaged board and membership, then it eases up some challenges. Because the challenges are actually much greater when you talk about policy-making and trying to improve and do our part for the marketplace,” he added.

Mr. Sicat leads the new roster of officers taking charge of IHAP’s duties this year. Jose Luis F. Gomez, president and CEO of RCBC Capital Corp, takes the role of IHAP EVP and head of external affairs, while Marilou C. Cristobal, president of Multinational Investment Bancorporation, becomes IHAP’s EVP and head of internal affairs.

Reginaldo Anthony B. Cariaso, president of BPI Capital Corp., serves as IHAP vice-president and head of product development. William M. Valtos, Jr., chief executive of Investment & Capital Corp. of the Philippines, serves as IHAP vice-president and head of membership. Jose Ma. A. De Leon, executive vice-president of Penta Capital & Investment Corporation, serves as IHAP’s vice-president and head of debt capital markets, while Gabriel U. Lim, senior vice-president of BDO Capital & Investment Corporation is IHAP’s vice-president and head of equity capital markets. Gerry B. Valenciano, president and CEO of PNB Capital & Investment Corporation, serves as the organization’s treasurer.