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Biz Buzz

Biz Buzz

/ 07:15 AM September 18, 2017

Race to the top

Something interesting is brewing near the very top ranks of Union Bank of the Philippines’ management structure.

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That’s because, as we pointed out recently here in Biz Buzz, the Aboitiz-controlled financial giant’s long-time chair and CEO Justo Ortiz is set to retire at the end of 2017. And when we say “long-time,” we mean it. The man has held a leadership position at one of the country’s most dynamic banks for 25 years.

He will give up running Union Bank on a day-to-day basis (but will remain as chair) and this task of being CEO will be handed over to veteran banker Edwin Bautista on the very first day of 2018.

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This is due, to a large degree, to a new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas rule prohibiting banks from being led by a single person with a “chair and CEO” portfolio. Bank regulators think that there’s too much of a conflict-of-interest situation in that powerful title, so they’ve ordered banks to split the functions of “leading the boardroom” from “leading the bank”.

Bautista—a man who cut his financial services teeth at Citibank, back when it was still the “university” of choice for people who wanted to learn the ropes of banking—is currently Union Bank’s president and chief operating officer (COO). And following the BSP’s dictum of separating chair from CEO, will assume the latter position.

The question now is … who will be assuming Union Bank’s COO post once Bautista moves up? One could argue that the functions of a COO can be handled by the president/CEO in a smaller corporation and the position done away with, but for an institution like Union Bank—which manages over half a trillion pesos in assets— it might help to have someone focused on the operational details.

Who will that COO be? According to ranking insiders, two names come to mind: Eugene Acevedo, the bank’s senior executive vice president and head of its retail and corporate banking operations; and Jose Emmanuel Hilado, also a senior executive vice president and the bank’s chief financial officer and treasurer.

Incidentally, both have the same age, in addition to having the same rank in the bank (although Hilado was the more recent hire of the two).

So for the next three months, all eyes will be on both very capable bankers to see which one will end up as Union Bank’s “little president.” “Gentlemen, start your engines.” —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Wearing which hat?

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Some stakeholders in the power sector are a little upset that former Energy Secretary Vincent Perez Jr. testified as a resource person in last week’s Senate hearing against the use of coal for energy.

These power industry stakeholders are saying that if Perez tells the Senate he is favoring a “coal tax,” he should make it clear he is speaking not as a former energy secretary, but as a renewable energy developer competing with producers of coal power.

Incidentally, Perez is one of those parties with a pending petition to increase the feed-in-tariffs (FIT) rate on the second round of wind power projects given these government subsidies.

These power industry stakeholders (who are, of course, in favor of cheaper coal power) also point out that Perez “invented” a policy of “nondivisibility,” which was approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission—a policy that benefited companies in the wind power sector.

This policy of indivisibility means that if the FIT allowance for a set of projects was, say 200 megawatts, and the last to qualify had 50 MW when the remaining balance was only 30 MW, the entire 50 MW would be approved by regulators. Nice.

His critics now point out that this policy did not go through any public discussion and, “in fact, was contrary to the initial interpretation of National Transmission Co. when it first applied for the “Fit-All” scheme.

According to them, Perez included in the FIT rules an eligibility for existing plants that were outside of the installation targets. One eventual beneficiary was a company called Northwind—a company in which Perez had a partial stake and was later sold for a hefty sum to the Ayala conglomerate. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Tugade’s CEO-bodyguard

What a week it has been for Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Tugade started with navigating the massive Mega Manila subway plan through a crucial Neda Board approval (this was practically shelved by the previous administration) and getting clearance for a couple more train lines south of Metro Manila.

He ended the week with an agreement between toll road operators to integrate payment systems.

This set the clock ticking for better motorist convenience via an interoperability goal that has remained elusive for previous administrations.

Being transportation secretary is a tough job, especially since many rely on this official to solve our traffic woes.

After a busy week, Tugade found the time to answer some press queries during a so-called ambush interview, basically an on-the-spot format that’s a bit less scripted than formal press briefings.

Tugade was in good form, supplying details on varying transportation topics after the signing of the tollroad integration deal among operators.

Raising eyebrows among reporters present, however, was this CEO of a government-owned corporation. The CEO was present because his agency is in a joint venture with one of the operators with a tollroad north of Manila.

We say eyebrows were raised because this CEO tried mighty hard to stop the ambush interview, just at it started.

Standing a few feet away, he would alternately call on Tugade to remind him of their “meeting” right after and shake his head at the transport chief’s PR people, who were clearly on top of the situation.

Either Tugade didn’t hear him despite his raised voice or he was simply ignored. The ambush interview continued.

This CEO has pulled this stunt many times before and we’ve heard several times it’s because he’s protective of President Duterte’s appointees.

Never mind that many of these appointees are perfectly accomplished people who can deal with the press. We don’t think they require the PR services of a CEO, whose GOCC is tasked with handling the sale or development of military land.

Assuming the concern was legitimate, it’s also bad form to rush a higher-ranked official to your meeting in that manner. We believe the proper protocol when an important official is busy is to sit tight. Quietly. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: Arthur Tugade, energy regulatory commission, feed-in-tariffs (FIT), Justo Ortiz, National Transmission Co., Secretary Vincent Perez Jr., Union Bank of the Philippines
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