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More changes in the Ayala Group

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2021 - 12:00am

Some of the world’s oldest companies produce things people cannot live without or have been interested in for centuries – food, beer and well, even guns.

Here in the Philippines, the country’s oldest conglomerate, Ayala Corp., isn’t producing any of that and yet it continues to thrive – 186 years and counting.

How is Ayala able to do this? Perhaps, it’s all about adapting to the call of the times. Today, like many business giants, Ayala is navigating through what is perhaps its biggest challenge in recent years – the COVID-19 pandemic.

It can’t be business as usual and we now hear JAZA, or chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, often talk about a “reimagined capitalist system.” One that is more inclusive and responsive to the changing needs of customers, he says.

It’s no surprise that Ayala is implementing more leadership changes as it transitions toward a post COVID-19 future. The changes are meant to survive the difficult environment while maximizing opportunities to become an even bigger group in the future.

Indeed, the musical chairs in Ayala continues to be played.

Jaime “Jimmy” Ysmael, president and CEO of Ortigas Land, will be moving back to Ayala where he previously served as CFO of Ayala Land Inc. He became president of Ortigas Land in 2017 after Ayala Land and the SM Group made their entry in what was then called Ortigas & Co.

JY, as people sometimes call him, will be heading a big component of Ayala’s health arm, AC Health. Hint: It has something to do with Ayala’s recent acquisition in the medical space. AC Health, meanwhile, will continue to be under the leadership of Paolo Borromeo as its president and CEO.

Cezar Consing, the outgoing CEO of BPI who will be succeeded by TG Limcaoco effective April 23, is not out of the picture. Cezar is now part of the prestigious Ayala Corp. board of directors. He is also part of the board’s finance committee, which oversees Ayala’s financial policy and strategy, including capital structure and dividend policy, capital allocation and treasury policies. Consing replaces Xavier Loinaz who resigned due to health reasons.

Albert de Larrazabal, the incoming CFO of Ayala, succeeding TG, will join the AC Holdings management committee. Currently, the Mancom is chaired by JAZA, but he will pass on the chairmanship to his brother Fernando.

Eric Francia, as I wrote in an exclusive story last week, has been appointed chairman of the newly reconstituted AC Investment Committee, which is part of the AC Holdings Mancom.

The investment committee will look into potential investments in the future and review existing ones that may not necessarily be working for the best interest of the group.

The Zobels said now is an opportune time to take stock of Ayala’s existing investments and sharpen its portfolio given the fundamental shifts in the economic and social landscape.

These changes come on the heels of last year’s announcement that JAZA will semi-retire as CEO of Ayala in April this year. However, he will remain as chairman.

His brother Fernando, Ayala president and COO, is taking over as CEO. But when I asked JAZA what he would be doing as a semi-retired boss, he said he would still be very busy working.

“Trust me...I will only be slightly less busy!” he jested.

On the COO role, there has been no announcement yet. Will the brothers pass on the COO role to a non-family executive? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Top employers

Japan Tobacco, which I used to cover when I was assigned to the Department of Finance some years back, recently shared with me some positive news.

For the seventh straight year, JTI has been recognized as among the 16 Global Top Employers by the Top Employer Institute.

The Institute recognizes excellence in “people practices” around the globe.

Established 30 years ago, Top Employers Institute has certified 1,691 organizations in 120 countries or regions.

JTI said the latest certification once again acknowledges the cigarette giant’s progress in improving employee wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion.

Steve Dyer, JTI’s vice president for global talent management, said: “The Top Employer certification is not an end-in-itself. For us, it is confirmation that we have always been on the right track by making our workplace a safe and flexible environment for all our employees, whether they are farmers, scientists, office or factory workers.”

Kudos to JTI. Its new boss in the Philippines, general manager John Freda has something to be proud of.

Best wishes to PITC’s Dave Almarinez

On a lighter note, I would like to send my best wishes to Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) president and CEO Dave Almarinez, who recently announced his engagement to celebrity girlfriend Ara Mina.

Dave regularly sends me updates on PITC’s activities and his personal anti-COVID-19 initiatives in his hometown in Laguna. He once contributed boxes of face masks to my PPE drive, which I launched last year for health workers.

But two weeks ago, the news he shared was personal and not about PITC – their engagement. Indeed, while Dave is known as one of Laguna’s dutiful sons, these days, he is known as the fiancé of Ara.

Congratulations and best wishes, Dave and Ara!

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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