Early life and Education
Teresita Tan Sy-Coson, born in 1950, is the eldest child of the late Henry Sy, founder of the SM Investments Corporation (SMIC), and his wife Felicidad Tan. Born into a business family, both her father and her paternal grandfather owned shoe stores in Manila during her childhood, while her mother had a retail clothing line that was sold in one of the stores.
In 1970, Sy-Coson graduated from Assumption College in Manila with a degree in commerce. She intended to continue her studies and earn a master’s degree, but her father encouraged her to start working in his Shoemart store instead. Two years later, 22-year-old Sy-Coson successfully launched her father’s first department store. Her career evolved rapidly over subsequent years.
Road to success
In 1985 she helped her father launch his first shopping mall, and in 1990 she became president of the SM Department Stores unit. At that time, the unit was running just 10 stores, but under Sy-Coson’s guidance it steadily grew to 144 stores with sales of USD 2.4 billion by 2011.
Today the SM Group is the country’s leading player in the retail sector, with 300 stores nationwide. The conglomerate also has interests in shopping mall development and operations, real estate development, banking, entertainment, hospitality, and tourism. It has repeatedly ranked as the top Philippine company in the Forbes Global 2000.
Sy-Coson spearheads the SM Group’s philanthropic initiatives as Vice Chairperson of the SM Foundation, which was established by her parents in 1983. Anchored to the founding principle of PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE, the foundation is committed to supporting and empowering its host communities, with targeted social investments in education, healthcare, housing, agricultural training, outreach programs, religious community projects and care for special needs.
Projects and organizations Teresita supports
- The SM Foundation’s School Building Program has funded the construction of more than 100 schools in partnership with the Philippines Department of Education.
- The College Scholarship and Technical-Vocational Scholarship Programs have enabled 8,000 Filipino students to continue their education at colleges and partner schools,
- SM Medical Missions have provided free medical care, dental checkups, diagnostic screening services and medicines to 1.2 million patients.
- The Sustainable Agriculture Program offers free agricultural skills and financial literacy training to low-income Filipino farmers.
- The Relief Operation Tulong Express provides immediate assistance in the form of medicine, food and water in situations of natural disaster.
- The SM Share Movement promotes the culture of giving and purposeful sharing, and since 2015 has collected more than 1.3 million items of clothing, shoes, books, and toys, which have been distributed to underserved communities.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sy-Coson leveraged the SM Group’s procurement office in China and national distribution system in the Philippines to respond rapidly with donations of vaccines, test kits, medical supplies and protective equipment to hospitals in dire need all over the country. Forbes Asia included her on its list of Asia’s 2021 Heroes of Philanthropy.