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Southeast Asia

The Philippines: Physicist-turned-banker transforms RCBC post-heist

In the five years since it was caught up in a money-laundering probe, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation has focused on digitalization and transparency to get on the right track.

RCBC's chief executive Eugene Acevedo

When Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation had a black hole to fix, it turned to a trained physicist.

Eugene Acevedo, who took on the task at the scandal-plagued institution in July 2019, has certainly made the rounds in Manila’s top banking circles. He was formerly chief executive of Philippine National Bank and held senior positions at Union Bank. He started his finance career in the 1980s at Citi and was at Citi’s Hong Kong office in the middle of the 1990s, which gave him a front-row seat in the Asian financial crisis.

But science has always been Acevedo’s passion. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of San Carlos in his native Cebu, he lectured on gravitational pull, the Big Bang theory and the speed of light at the University of the Philippines.

In 2016, before Acevedo joined RCBC, the 61-year-old institution made global headlines for all the wrong reasons. Cyber hackers had tried to scam Bangladesh Bank, the south Asian nation’s central bank, out of roughly $1 billion. After the heist was discovered, officials in Dhaka realized that $101 million of the central bank’s funds had been transferred out of its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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