Freeman Cebu Business

Aboitiz Group: Even family members rise from the ranks

Carlo S. Lorenciana - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu-based Aboitiz clan has been in business for more than a century now. For so many years, the Aboitiz Group of Companies has made a name in various industries in the country.

While family corporations face challenges in succession and longevity and managing family dynamics, it's surprising to note that the Cebu conglomerate has stayed in business for that long.

According to Xavier "Txabi" Aboitiz, chief human resource officer of Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV), there could be many reasons why their company sustained for many years.

"The challenge is always being able to ensure that the next generation is as driven and as prepared to take on a growing business. Part of our success is that our growth has always been a constant improvement and the sustainability to be able to pass from generation to generation is something that we've taken very seriously," Xavier, together with other family members, said in an interview with journalists.

Xavier said family members who have joined the corporation see themselves more as stewards than owners.

"Our task is to pass it [the company] on the next generation. It's a mindset that we really need to develop," he said.

Now as the senior leaders of the company reach maturity, members of the fifth generation of the Aboitiz family have started working for the company to continue the legacy of family patriarch Don Ramon Aboitiz.

A number of fifth generation family members now work within the company. One of them is Ana Aboitiz-Delgado who said that taking over into the family corporation is more of a responsibility.

"This is my business so it's obligated for me to take over and that's where the value of responsibility comes in," said Ana, assistant vice president of Union Bank of the Philippines, AEV's banking arm. "You can't feel entitled because this is a public company – this is not just our company –  we have stakeholders."

The family has a constitution and formal process for those descendants interested in joining the company and/or working their way up to the management. Xavier said family members are given an option whether to join the corporation or pursue their own career.

But contrary to the perception of many, there actually aren't many family members working in the company, he said.

Xavier said there are currently about 1,014 members in the Aboitiz clan consisting of those in the third generation to the seventh. "We are right now 23 involved from the board to the actual operations," he said.

"What's important to us is that we believe that being together is more important than being individuals. It's really about what's important to the business and to the stakeholders," Xavier also noted.

AEV, which is now led by its fourth generation chief executive officer Erramon Aboitiz, has interests in power, transportation, food, banking, property, shipbuilding and construction.

According to Forbes Asia, AEV was founded by Paulino Aboitiz, the son of a Spanish farmer, in the late 1800s after he migrated to the Philippines. It began as an abaca-trading and general-merchandise business and later moved into inter-island shipping and transporting goods across the Visayas.

In 1994 the family took AEV public on the Philippine Stock Exchange.

The Aboitiz family, together with the Sy and Zobel families, is among the three clans from the Philippines which landed on Forbes Asia magazine's list of 50 richest families in Asia in 2015. The Aboitiz clan, with an estimated wealth of $3.6 billion, landed 44th on the list. Holding firm AEV is valued by market at P320 billion.   (FREEMAN)

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