A positive difference

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” Mahatma Gandhi once said. Marian Wright Edelman states, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Two memorable statements capture the essence of Attorney Kelvin Lester Lee, hailed by Dean Antonio La Viña of Ateneo School of Government as “one of the finest and most visionary individuals to have emerged from Ateneo Law School.”

It’s no surprise that Atty. Lee became a Commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2019. While his position may be formidable, those who have met him in person can attest to his kind-hearted nature and willingness to devote his time generously. When expressing his views, he displays a remarkable level of candor, always taking the time to carefully consider his words before speaking.

Aside from his sense of humor, Lee possesses a remarkable ability to engage in meaningful conversations. When he speaks, he has a way of looking directly into your eyes, underscoring the significance of his words. Even in intense situations, he maintains a calm demeanor and is known to offer a comforting smile, lightening the atmosphere.

In his role as Commissioner at the SEC, Atty. Lee assumes the responsibility of overseeing various crucial departments and divisions. These include the markets and securities regulation department, the information and communications technology department, the PhiliFintech innovation office dedicated to Philippine financial technology, and the international affairs and protocol division. Moreover, he holds authority over capital markets, sustainable finance, Fintech and information technology, and international affairs, ensuring their effective management and implementation.

While the enormity of those tasks might induce vertigo in most individuals, Atty. Lee remains unfazed.

“It is perhaps the best job I have ever had,” he admitted. “I enjoy making a positive change in the sector I am handling. I enjoy pushing innovations and encouraging improvements in the financial sector and capital markets.”

With great responsibility, Lee adopts a heightened level of caution. Recognizing the potential impact of his words, he expressed the need to exercise carefulness in his public statements, as any statement he makes can influence the stock market. This awareness underscores his commitment to acting with prudence and considering the far-reaching implications of his words.

Let’s delve into the life of Lee, who began his journey in the humble city of Davao, his birthplace. He embarked on his educational path at the Ateneo de Davao University for his grade school education, followed by his enrollment at Davao Central High School, then called Davao Chinese High School. After completing his schooling in Davao, he ventured to Beijing, China, where he pursued studies in the Chinese language and gained work experience with a foreign company. However, after two years, he returned to the Philippines and enrolled in Ateneo de Manila University to pursue a law degree. This journey showcases his diverse experiences and the foundation of his educational and cultural background.

“The Ateneo de Manila entrance exam was the only one I could take that year when I came back from China,” he said, adding that he never dreamed of becoming a lawyer. “I just wanted to give it a try. And found I was a surprisingly good fit for it.”

As a lawyer, he has five ideal lawyers. Only one is a foreigner: Sir Thomas Moore, an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, and statesman whom Roman Catholics venerated as Saint Thomas More.

“He stood by his faith and principles,” he said.

Fresh from hurdling the Bar exam, he worked at the Siguion-Reyna Montecillo and Ongsiako law firm, where he learned the importance of being enterprising and putting in a diligent effort to succeed. However, despite his professional growth, he decided to quit and return to his hometown of Davao, placing the deeply rooted value on family and prioritizing personal and familial responsibilities above career pursuits.

As a father to two daughters, Atty. Lee expressed that fatherhood has had a profound impact on him, bringing about significant changes. He considers it one of the greatest blessings he could ever receive.

According to him, the love that his children show him is genuine and unmatched. He believes that the love of young children is unparalleled. Experiencing this level of love is indescribable, knowing someone loves you unconditionally. This extraordinary bond makes fatherhood one of the most precious and fulfilling aspects of his life.

“The love your kids show you is real,” he said. “You will never be as loved as you are by your young children. There is no feeling quite like it to know that someone loves you as much as that. That’s what makes it one of the best things.”


Working in government

“It is an honor to serve. Very few people get an opportunity to help the country and serve the president and the people,” said Lee, who is a former assistant secretary at the Office of the Executive Secretary in Malacañang, where he was also designated to sit on the Board of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Atty. Lee’s dedication to public service earned him well-deserved recognition in his field. In March this year, he received two international accolades for his role in driving the advancement of financial technology in the Philippine business sector, highlighting his visionary thinking and influential impact solidifying his reputation as a trailblazer in the field.

In the 10th annual Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, Lee was bestowed the Gold Stevie award for his outstanding contributions as a Thought Leader of the Year. These awards celebrate workplace innovation across all 29 countries in the
Asia-Pacific region.

From a vast pool of over 800 regional nominations, winners were selected in various categories, including the Award for Excellence in Innovation in Products & Services, the Award for Innovative Management, and the Award for Innovation in Corporate Websites, among others.

“It feels great. It’s always wonderful to be recognized for all the hard work and changes you pursue at a government agency. And I was quite surprised to get the Gold Stevie Award, the highest level of the award for thought leadership. I feel so honored!”

In the next decade, Atty. Lee, now 44, envisions continuing his career in law, possibly incorporating elements of technology, and hopes to stay actively involved in government work and make a significant impact by fostering meaningful transformation.

“Working in government can be quite fulfilling. I encourage young lawyers and professionals to enter the arena and work in government to try and make a positive difference.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *