The story of how the BBC anchor found his niche and discovered his passion for art
By Elena Torrijos
Since he was a small boy, accomplished international broadcaster Rico Hizon has been a saver. The most familiar Filipino face in financial news says his parents would call him kuripot (thrifty).
“I was always saving my money. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat even,” recalls Rico, who can be seen every morning on BBC’s business programs. “When I was in grade 2, I would be given a meal ticket that had a value of two pesos for a meal, but what I would do is that, instead of getting the full meal, I would get a cheaper meal. I would still have change of one peso, and that one peso I would put in my piggy bank.”
Even though he didn’t need to – his parents could well afford to take care of him and his two older sisters and older brother – during high school breaks and summers, Rico worked at McDonald’s Greenhills.
He also earned from being part of a mobile group with broadcasting peer David Celdran. “We would spin in parties and we would earn P500 pesos and after the job we would subdivide and the money that I would save from that job. I would either put it in the bank or I would buy my own Sperry topsiders, which was very uso at that time,” he recounts.
For Rico, saving was just a natural thing. Probably as an extension of that desire to save, he liked organizing activities to raise money. As a student council officer in high school, he would organize concerts and earn money for his batch and use it for various projects. In college at De La Salle University, where he took up communication arts to please himself and business to please his parents, he was batch student council president for two years, during which he would organize basketball tournaments, plays, concerts, and the like. “There was this very popular play in the 90s called Bong Bong and Kris. It was such a big hit that school officials would say that it was the most successful play ever staged in La Salle.” The money from the play was used to buy, among others, school uniforms and shoes for the basketball team.
After university, Rico applied at GMA 7 to be a reporter. As that position wasn’t available then, he was told he would have to work his way through. He started off as a production assistant, the ultimate gofer job in media, and even though he was only earning P1,000 a month when his friends who went to advertising agencies were earning much more, he stuck it out. “I learned the ropes of production from the bottom and I worked my way up,” he says.
In the public affairs department, he was an assistant to Tina Muñoz Palma. As a “talent” rather than a full time employee with benefits, Rico could take on other “rackets.” He became a production assistant for the Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club show and then after a year he joined Issues and Answers as an executive producer and also Viewpoint as executive producer and reporter. He became a sidekick anchor to Dong Puno for one show and this opened the eyes of management to his potential to be a business reporter. His defining break came when he became Veronica Pedrosa’s sidekick on Stock Market Live in 1993. Eventually, Rica joined CNN and Rico took over the anchor responsibility. “So I did it for 2 years and I found my niche doing business news,” he says. “I really wore many hats. I was very happy in my career from 1990 until 1995.”
Rico became such a busy bee that his monthly salary skyrocketed. “Eventually, with all my other sidelines in Channel 7 and Stock Market Live, my salary from P1,000 became P10,000 to P15,000 to P25,000.” And even through that time, Rico continued to organize and invest in concerts and shows of the likes of Randy Santiago and the Apo Hiking Society. “I would buy small blocks at the Music Museum and I also made money from that,” he says. “I would invest P90,000 and I would make P140,000. That was like from 1991 to 1994.”
In 1995, a classmate from college told him that CNBC News was looking for business reporters slash anchors who knew about the region and were born and bred in Asia. Rico interviewed for the job and was accepted.
The only Filipino anchor from day one of CNBC’s Asian operations, Rico moved to Hong Kong for the job. It was a great opportunity, but he was often homesick. He did his best, however, and his work was so much appreciated that in 1997, when a merger with Dow Jones meant that only 15 out of the television group’s 250 employees in the region would be retained, Rico was one of them. That was not the only blessing he had that year, however. He met his wife, Melanie during a blind date and married her 10 months later.
He and Mel moved to Singapore in 1998 to join the merged business, which remained CNBC Asia. He worked there until 2002, when he joined BBC, where he co-hosts three global programs, one from 5 to 6am, then the World News Today business edition, and another business report from 10 to 11am. “I do love my job because every day it’s like going back to school,” he says. He learns a lot from the CEOs, COOs, CFOs, analysts, and entrepreneurs that he gets to interview every day.
“The important thing is I learn something new everyday. Like just like today I didn’t know that there was a fund that focused on cattle and sheep,” he says. Rico, of course, bones up on business news. He reads business newspapers, magazines, analyst reports, and conducts Google searches day in and day out.
Love of art
Of course, all through his career, Rico saved. Fifty percent of his earnings would always go to the bank first. It was after college, however, that the man who quizzes the top business minds of the day learned more about business and started investing. His first investment was in a Ben Cab painting.
“I was told by an editor, ‘Rico, you have to go to this exhibition of Ben Cab at the Luz Gallery.’ This was in 1991. I said, ‘Why? Why should I go there? I’m not into art. No one’s into art. No one really cares about art.’ ‘Nevermind, Rico, you have to go.’”
Rico went into the gallery and was overwhelmed by the impact of the artist’s work. He was so smitten and enamored by one art work in particular that even though it was about P150,000, he broke the bank to invest his money in it. “So that’s how it all started, my love affair with art,” Rico says, adding that the artist has also become a dear friend of his and Melanie, who is also an art lover.
When he learned more about the stock market from his coverage as a reporter and anchor, Rico invested in equities, but only in blue chips. Before he invested in art work and stocks, all his money were funneled into time deposits. Rico says that aside from property in Manila and a recently purchased condo unit in Singapore, probably two-thirds of total assets are in art works, 10 percent in stocks, and the remainder in cash or time deposits.
He and Melanie have also set aside an art fund for their four year-old son, Migo, “so when he grows up it’s up to him [what to do with it].” But part of their personal collection will also go to realizing their dream of setting up a museum so Filipinos can appreciate the beauty of local artists’ works. In this way, Rico is not saving only for himself, but also for generations of Filipinos.
As someone who covers international business news, Rico can follow the trends, but he says for those who don’t really follow the news, the best thing is to put money in time deposits and, if there is extra money, to put it in blue chip stocks or other asset class that one really understands. “If you don’t understand, ask people about it, read, don’t just jump into an investment without knowing really what it’s all about.”