From mentee to magnate

From mentee to magnate

By: Leah C. Salterio | October 26, 2018

Mica Francesca Tan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the MFT Group of Companies, describes herself as “an odd little kid.” When she was in grade school, at barely 10 years old, she had a small notebook that documented her dad’s earnings for the day.

“My dad is an oncologist, a cancer specialist,” Mica offers. “Every time he’d come home, I would ask him how much he made that day. Then, he would invent numbers, like 500 pesos, a thousand, ten thousand and I would write would write that down in my notebook.

“One day, he went home really late and I asked Dad again how much he made. I was expecting he made big, but he said he didn’t make any money that day. I was adding all the numbers and they weren’t big, so I got really scared. After that, he was amused. He said I should start talking to my uncles, his friends who were all industry leaders.”

Mica Francesca Tan

At 13, Mica saw herself in an unusual place for a teenager—the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). She met great mentors there, one of them was the late Joseling Tambunting, who introduced Mica to the world of finance.

After high school, Mica chose to go straight to work, forgoing a college education. Apparently, nothing and no one could stop her. She was supposed to take up Finance at Fordham University in New York. “Everything was set, my dorm, my school, but I decided I couldn’t leave my dad,” Mica recalls. “I was also going through a heartbreak. Everyone got mad at me.”

That early, Mica told her father that she wanted to venture into business. So, she did. Her mentors helped her structure the blueprint of the MFT Group. In 2014, it started operations at Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

The MFT Group is a private equity firm that adheres to the principles of restructuring corporate blueprints of family legacy businesses and helps the companies establish sustainable financial footing. Its foremost mission is to create innovative solutions and reinvent corporate blueprints that influence growth worldwide.

After only four years, Mica’s enterprise has established its global footprint in Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. “We are in nine countries and 18 cities,” Mica beams.

To date, the MFT Group boasts investments in different, “very diverse industries” like financial services, technology, credit, health care, pharmaceutical, stock trading, real estate, petroleum, lifestyle and entertainment. Its goal is to become the driving force of 100 admired companies that fly high in their respective industries.

One thing the MFT Group specializes in are family legacy businesses. The company has 120 employees at BGC and a little over 300 all over the world. “Our focus is really on family legacy businesses like Salad Stop, a healthy food chain,” says Mica. “We are the strategic partner that will take them to other countries. It’s the transition from the first generation to the second or the third. That’s where we come in.

Mica with state-of-the-art equipment, which her MFT Group supplies to hospitals around the country

The medical industry is particularly “very interesting” for Mica because her dad, who’s now retired, was a doctor. Her brother, Eric, the second in the brood and 22 years Mica’s senior, is also a doctor.

Meihao Hong Kong–a leading provider of medical equipment to Philippine hospitals–for instance, is the business very close to Mica’s heart. “As a youngster, I grew up playing in my dad’s cancer center, so I saw all his patients.”

According to Mica, not a lot of private firms focus on the medical equipment industry. There is still a lack of more than a thousand hospitals, a minimum, all over the country. “For every hospital bed ratio to a patient, one bed can accommodate 500 patients. In the provinces, for every one bed, almost 2,000 patients have to share. If anything happens, we’re not really ready.”

The mere problem of hospital beds alone is a big factor. “Meihao’s focus is to help and supply medical equipment to areas where no one was supplying,” Mica informs. “We supply in Visayas and Mindanao. Now, we’ve expanded to Luzon.

“The demand is so huge. Even if other players come in, the surface will hardly be scratched. We supplied the first MRI machine in Dipolog. Before, patients in Dipolog had to travel as far as Cebu to use an MRI machine.”

Despite her youth, Mica is aware of the lack of the basic necessities in the Philippines. “Somehow, as a millennial, I’m also fearful about it,” she admits. “That’s something I’d like our group to contribute to.”

Mica credits her early exposure to the “amazing people at the stock exchange” that allowed the MFT Group to put up Asian Invest, a boutique asset management company based in Hong Kong.

“We facilitate the entry of foreigners in the local stock market,” Mica says. “They know the Philippine economy is good, and they just need avenues to get in, and that’s what we provide for them.

Crafting a strategic business plan for a company is what the MFT Group is geared up to do, with its Tactical Opportunities (Tac-Opps) Division, consisting of senior advisors, lawyers and accountants. “It’s a big group that we continuously beef up,” Mica reports.

“There were companies in the past that were 50-year-old legacy businesses, even a hundred-year-old company that took us a year or more to study and create a blue print. We’re in constant conversation with the previous generation and the next in line.”

A true-blue millennial, Mica has no problem working with Baby Boomers and the Gen-Xers. In fact, she relishes the experience, saying: “We’re a very different mix. If there’s one thing I’d like to absorb from the Baby Boomers, it’s their foresight. They’re known as the fixers. They’ll fix anything.

“That’s our business. We’re in the business of bouncing back. Private equity is known to be in the business of businesses. It’s simply amazing.”

As the last of six children, Mica, according to her brother Eric, got her keen business sense from their mom, who was into tea, bakery and jewelry. Her older siblings also influenced their bunso (youngest sibling).

Being young and managing several businesses is no longer a disadvantage for Mica, who’s turning 27 in November. “Sometimes, I walk into a boardroom and all the big guys are going to size me up, I am not affected by it anymore,” Mica says. “At the start, I get intimidated. But if there’s something I don’t know, I don’t. If I do, then I do.

“I see my being young as an advantage now. There are industry leaders who are more open to discussing ventures and projects with a young person than they would with a veteran who may be to them, a competitor.

“But when they speak to a millennial or a young person, they feel that this person is my protégé or mentee.”

Under Mica’s leadership, the MFT Group envisions to establish its presence in a number of business areas worldwide. “Our target is 100 business areas all over the world by 2037. That’s part of our mission and the vision.’ Currently, the MFT Group supports 100 college scholars and actively rebuilding schools. Two years ago, they started rebuilding schools, one in Tacloban and another in Marawi.

The reason Mica didn’t go to Fordham eight years ago was due to a heartbreak. “It’s something that has motivated me a lot,” she says. “That heartbreak became the driving force to put up the MFT Group of Companies, and after eight years, that heartbreak is now my fiancé.”

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