Money & Power

SM Turns 60: Tessie Sy-Coson Tells Us How a Humble Shoe Store Became a Global Conglomerate

"SM started out as the dream of a 12-year-old Henry Sy, who sought a better life for himself, for his family, and for his little community," said his eldest daughter.

In 1958, humble shoemaker Henry Sy Sr. opened the country’s first Shoemart branch in Manila.

The business owner never imagined how big of a retail giant his unassuming shoe store would become. Or that he would be the richest man in Southeast Asia with a net worth of over $20 billion.

In 60 years, Sy’s SM has evolved into a giant conglomerate that operates 70 malls in the Philippines and several more in China, BDO, the Philippines' largest bank, and a property arm in its business portfolio that includes residences, commercial buildings, resorts, hotels, and convention centers.

Tessie Sy-Coson, Sy's eldest daughter and SM Investments vice chairwoman, touched upon her father’s achievements during her speech at SM’s 60th anniversary launch at SM Mall of Asia on May 21.

More than looking back to the past, Sy-Coson emphasized how they are excitedly celebrating their future.

            This year is the 60th anniversary of SM.


As you very well know, SM started out as the dream of a 12-year-old Henry Sy, who sought a better life for himself, for his family, and for his little community.

The history started in sari-sari stores, in buy-and-sell, and in partnerships with a few shoe stores.

In 1958, he established the first Shoemart. It was meant to be a chain of shoe stores.

In 1972, he opened his first department store because he wanted to sell more than just shoes.

In 1975, he changed the name of Shoemart to “SM Department Store.”

In 1985, North EDSA was opened during the time of our country’s economic crisis.

In between, he and his partners acquired a small bank with four branches and named it Banco de Oro—which became BDO.

This little boy’s dream has now evolved into what SM is today: its position in retail, malls, residences, and banking.

My father trained us—his six children—to work like him, and at the same time, to work with professionals to establish the foundation for SM’s growth. Over the years, my father also gathered more friends, tenants, and suppliers. Combined, everyone we have worked with over the years makes us who we are today.


While achieving milestones like turning 60 allows us to be a bit nostalgic, it is not just our history that we are celebrating. We are celebrating our future as well. We stand here looking at our journey ahead—at our next 60 years and beyond—and we’re ready and excited for what’s in store.

We thank you all for being part of our growth so far, and we hope you continue to join us for this ride.

See more snaps from the launch of SM's six-month-long celebration below:

SM Prime Holdings executive committee chairman Hans Sy, SM Markets vice chairman Herbert Sy, SM Investments vice chairwoman Tessie Sy-Coson, and SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. president Elizabeth Sy lead the celebration of the #AweSM launch party at SM Mall of Asia last May 21.

Hans Sy

SM Supermarket president Joey Mendoza, Alaska Phils. managing director Marco Bertacca, outgoing Nestle Phils. CEO Jacques Reber, SM Investments Corporation vice chairwoman Tessie Sy-Coson, incoming Nestle Phils. CEO Kais Marzouki, P&G general manager Shankar Viswanathan, and SM Markets vice chairman Mr. Herbert Sy

Outgoing Nestle Philippines CEO Jacques Reber, Herbert Sy, Eric Uy, and incoming Nestle Philippines CEO Kais Marzouki

Emerson Yao and Ling Ling Yao

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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