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The Go Kim Pah Story

Go Kim Pah established Equitable Banking Corporation (EBC) on September 26, 1950, in Juan Luna Street, Binondo (once the address of Kian Lam Finance and Exchange Corporation which he also set up and operated until 1949). GKP was the prime example of the successful partnership of Chinese and Filipino capital which would serve the country well. EBC holds the distinction of being the first local commercial bank to be licensed by the Central Bank of the Philippines. It had a capital stock of five thousand pesos (P 5,000) a formidable amount post World War II. (GKP served as Founding Chairman and President and retired as Chairman of the Board in 1963. Gen Carlos P. Romulo served as Bank Chairman from 1963-1973).

By 1956, the bank had increased its authorized capital from P 5 million to P 10 million and by 1957, it ranked third in asset size among all private domestic commercial banks.

The bank was established after World War II, during a period of reconstruction and nation building. There was a dearth of college graduates at that time, but GKP hired employees who did not have college degrees yet. He allowed them to be working students and employees worked with a high morale. Many employees earned their college degree while working with EBC. GKP formally offered high school and college scholarships to employees and dependents of Equitable Bank in 1974. In 1981, a professorial chair in medicine was established in his honor at the University of the Philippines.

In 1983, Equitable Bank reached total assets of P 3 billion. With a conservative stance, the bank survived economic problems brought on by the declaration of martial law in 1971 and capital flight from the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983.

In 2000, when the bank celebrated its golden anniversary, the bank which became Equitable PCI Bank, was the third largest bank in the Philippines.

Go Kim Pah was born in China . His father died when he was only 8. As an only child, he was always in search of ways to make life for him and his mother better. He would sell various merchandise in the market and convert the small change into bills to bring home to his mother Chua Uy. He was small, standing only 5 feet 2 inches tall, quiet. always smiling and always thinking of how to earn a living. He stopped informal schooling at the village temple at 12 to become an apprentice at a small variety store. He took other odd jobs such as being an apprentice at a textile store, or selling fruits, fish, sugarcane, rice cakes, bakery products and other merchandise. At 15, with the help of two uncles , he took a boat ride, arrived in Manila on May 10, 1914 and worked as an apprentice in the Hong Huat Exchange remittance business, delivering letters. He reportedly read in bed, by candlelight so as not to attract attention, and continued to work day and night, on weekdays and weekends. He was a voracious reader and on rare occasions when he was not working, he was reading.

Through his hard work supported by friends and family, who served in the bank, GKP kept a self-imposed grueling work schedule. His normal day begins at 7:30 am and ends at 8:00 pm. His management style was centralized but he would take time to listen to employees. He used his head and his heart. He had a strong business sense and his extraordinary discernment in identifying the credit worthy clients was legendary. He looked for honest and hardworking clients and helped them out financially. It was personalized banking in practice long before the term relationship banking was coined.
GKP passed on peacefully at his home in 1983 leaving behind a legacy of hard work, dedication, fortitude and gratitude.

Go Kim Pah Foundation Inc. was set up in his honor, a lasting tribute to the man who left his homeland to build his future in the Philippines – the “gentle giant” in Philippine banking, a visionary ahead of his time.

Today, sixty years after the founding of Equitable Banking Corporation, GKP’s legacy that “education is a right rather than a privilege” lives on through various institutions and foundations, including the Go Kim Pah Foundation.

Lifted from “ A Walk of Ten Thousand Miles, The Equitable Bank Story” published in 2000.

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