Manila Water CFO Luis Juan Oreta: Making a difference at 360º
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 3, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - What makes a good chief finance officer?

For 2015 ING-Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) CFO of the Year Luis Juan Oreta of Manila Water, it’s being able to have a 360-degree view of the company without necessarily being at the helm.

Oreta, who bagged the award in November 2015, sat down with The STAR to share his thoughts on the job he has occupied for many years now.

“A CFO is always a natural candidate for a CEO but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will take over the company. You must have a 360-degree view of the company. That makes for a good CFO,” Oreta said.

Oreta bagged the award after ING Bank and Finex conducted a search for persons considered “super CFOs for their excellence, strong leadership,and stewardship that have helped steer their organizations toward financial stability, benefitting not just their stakeholders, but also the Philippine economy.”

Oreta joined the company in 2009. As the CFO, he provides operations and strategic support to the organization through his oversight function over the corporate finance and governance group.

Prior to his appointment, he served as managing director of Ayala Corp. - Strategic Planning Group from March 1997 to 2008 and was CFO of Integrated Microelectronics Inc. until Dec. 31, 2008.

His involvement with the Ayala Group started at the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Oreta said a good CFO should be able to translate the strategy from the board of directors into understandable objectives by management. “You have to have the financial lens,” he said.

Oreta said watching the financial coffers is just one aspect of being a CFO. “It’s just a small part, safeguarding the money. But financing is much more than that it’s really how you ensure the company is unduly exposed with interest rate risks and how in the end, processes are translated into a sustainable business model,” he explained.

Ultimately, however, Oreta believes a good executive including a good CFO can be well measured by the difference he or she makes to the company.

 “If we are able to make a bigger difference to the company we work for that’s what makes us better. If you watch F1, of the 20 drivers, about half of them are former world champions. It’s how they apply themselves to the car that they are driving. In the case of a CFO, it’s how you make yourself effective to the company,” Oreta said.

As a CFO of Manila Water, Oreta ensures the Ayala Group’s trademark of good corporate governance is practiced well.

“Good governance makes absolute business sense. They require transparency. And it’s not just transparency to investors but transparency to suppliers. You get good prices if people know you are transparent. Ultimately it makes good business sense.

Caring for the environment also makes good business sense,” he said.

“The cost of good governance will be outweighed by the benefits,” he added.

Oreta is pleased with how the company has evolved and grown through the years from a simple company offering water services to a multinational with businesses overseas.

“It’s now a very different company. We also have businesses overseas so our ways, accounting processes, etc. have evolved. It’s now a multinational,” he said.

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