Chairman and Senior Partner
Isla Lipana & Co.
PwC Philippines
RODERICK DANAO Chairman and Senior Partner Isla Lipana & Co. PwC Philippines

"Our strategy is to help our clients build trust and achieve sustained results, underpinned by quality, integrity and our enduring values."

Roderick "Rick" Danao, a Cagayan farmer's son, walked four kilometers, rain or shine, from home in Sampaloc district, Manila to Polytechnic University of the Philippines in the Sta. Mesa area, while earning a bachelor of science degree in accountancy. He completed the course, graduating in April 1992.

Danao, recently elected the new chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PwC global network, looks back on over 25 years of hands-on experience in auditing, a journey that saw him first work for the firm as auditor after passing the CPA exams, then as vice-chairman in 2013 and as an assurance managing partner in 2014. He says: "We are known as Isla Lipana & Co. due to local regulations, and we're also known as PwC Philippines. Under our laws, only Filipinos can sign [financial papers], hence we need to sign under Isla Lipana when we issue local finance statements.

Big dreamer

"We also have more member firms in the Philippines," he adds. "Business is good and we are doing well. We have been able to expand and acquire more resources."

Virtual work has also enabled the delivery of audited financial statements and returns. Consulting and advisory services during times of crisis have likewise helped clients bounce back from Covid-19's debilitating effects. Danao tells Boardroom Watch: "When the pandemic started in March 2020, no one knew how long it would take. We heard about massive layoffs or compensation cuts, but we never considered laying off our employees and kept compensation and benefits intact despite the uncertainties."

He acknowledges the environment was indeed unprecedented, saying: "With various challenges such as working from home, we could not overlook human capital, empathy, care and compassion. Imagine, hiring hundreds of employees, working with them and coaching them virtually and expecting them to deliver the highest quality of work and output. We had never been in this situation before."

"Our strategy was to help our clients build trust and achieve sustained results, underpinned by quality, integrity and our enduring values."

Danao traces his strong sense of responsibility and commitment to his upbringing. He says: "My life mentors were my parents. They were poor, but they taught me the best values in life - love for family and neighbors, faith in God and giving and sharing.

"I lost my father Delmacio six years ago. My mother, Paz Marti Danao, is well and a fulfilled grandmother to her 12 grandchildren. My mother has always been my prayer warrior.

"My parents did not have their own land to till. My father sold his small inheritance to his siblings due to financial difficulties. We are a family of farmers in Isabela. I am an Ybanag, but I can understand Ilocano."

The introduction and popularity of ready-to-wear jeans shut down his father's well-patronized tailoring business at the foot of the Sierra Madre. His father then switched to trading logs and timber. However, anti-logging laws in the mid-80s put an end to the logging business and his father's income too. "We had nothing when father closed shop," Danao recalls. "He was not able to save for the future."

If not for the support of relatives, Danao would not have advanced his education."God sent not just mentors but angels to help me," he says. "My Uncle Pinong, Auntie Ising and my cousins gave me everything I needed for college - a home, love and care."

Intact benefits

At PUP, Danao received the Joaquin Cunanan Award. He says: "I dreamed of working with Joaquin Cunanan and Co., [now Isla Lapana & Co. and the second auditing firm most preferred by the Top 1000 corporations.) But to reach this milestone of my career with Isla Lipana & Co/PwC Philippines was beyond what I had been praying for, which included a stable job and being able to support my parents and educate my siblings."

He continues: "I went to PUP because my parents could not afford to send me to a private school. I finished my first two semesters using borrowed and partly outdated accounting books. My less than P500 allowance was barely enough to buy photocopy reading materials and columnar sheets.

"In PUP, my number one sponsor, Ma'am Gloria Baysa, who was not my professor, guided, trained and prepared me for accounting quizzes where I won many trophies.

Joaquin Cunanan was the first Filipino senior partner of a postwar partnership, formed from the 1922 accountancy practice White, Page & Co., which opened in the Philippines. After several company changes in nearly a century, Joaquin Cunanan & Co. evolved into Isla Lipana & Co/PwC Philippines.

Danao says: "I left Cunanan to be group accounting manager for a major consumer product manufacturing company) for almost three years. I was offered the right compensation package to support my three siblings' college education. That stint helped hone my business acumen and managerial skills. It was one of the best career experiences I had. But I returned to Cunanan because I wanted to be a partner someday.

"In 1997, when I was struggling to make both ends meet, one of my partner-mentors offered a personal loan, payable when able. I fully repaid the loan when I returned from my long-term secondment in 2003, when she must have already forgotten the money I borrowed."

Part of PwC's long-term career program included a three-year secondment to PwC US and PwC UK in 2003, "the year I married my beautiful wife Mabel. This biggest blessing in my career transformed me professionally and provided for my family," Danao says.

Danao lists the late former Isla Lapana & Co. chairman and senior partner Jerry Isla and audit partners Irene Vallestero, Willy Madarang, Ric Manabat and Ros Dela Cruz, as executives who made an indelible impact on his career. "They gave me the best opportunities to grow professionally. They all wanted me to be a partner of the firm." Meanwhile, he cites the firm's Chairman Emeritus Alex Cabrera for inspiring him "to dream big for the firm and our people."

Away from the office, Danao enjoys spending quality time with his wife and their two sons Em Em and Luis. Social activities with them and a wide circle of friends provide him that valuable work-life balance needed. He serves on the board of directors of the subdivision in Parañaque where he lives and plays basketball with his neighbors when he can. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Parañaque, whose outreach projects complete his desire to help others.

Asked to sum up his life's goal, he says simply: "I live to serve my clients and my passion is to deliver the best services."