2020: A year of crisis, opportunity (part 2) | Inquirer Business

2020: A year of crisis, opportunity (part 2)

By: - Business Editor / @tinaarceodumlao
/ 04:15 AM December 13, 2020

(Second of a series)

The tumultuous year that is 2020 is about to finally end and the Inquirer asked more leaders of some of the country’s largest local and multinational companies what were their biggest realizations about themselves and their organizations this year as well as their priorities in 2021.

Here are their answers:


Citi Philippines CEO Aftab Ahmed

Aftab Ahmed, CEO, Citi Philippines


My biggest realization in 2020 was that we are a highly resilient team.

Through leading with our values and not being overwhelmed by the challenges associated with the pandemic, we remained fully operational and accessible to our clients.

We demonstrated caring for our colleagues by enabling 92 percent of Citi Philippines’ 8,600 team members to work from home. Through passion, empathy, quick decision-making and a “we will prevail” attitude, we were able to effectively address and overcome the challenges that came our way.

Additionally, we did not lose sight of our corporate social responsibilities and continue to work with community partners on COVID relief initiatives. As a team, we were able to move mountains.

The prospects for corporate banking and consumer banking remain strong. Both from a loan and deposit growth standpoint the opportunity is very large and we are well-positioned from a liquidity, capitalization and credit appetite perspective to participate in this growth.

Based on the changing demographics, growing income levels and


strong corporate activity, the prospects for growth in 2021 and beyond remain highly attractive.

While maintaining our focus on growing our banking franchise, we will continue to capitalize on the Philippines being a favored BPO (business process outsourcing) destination. In fact, we grew our BPO team by approximately 8 percent in 2020.

While activity levels were impacted this year, the opportunity remains rich, and as we head toward normalization, the focus on growth will remain in place.

Antonio De Rosas President and CEO Pru Life UK

Antonio De Rosas, President and CEO, Pru Life UK

Growing your top and bottom lines only has meaning if you can make a difference in the lives of your stakeholders. Years of growth coupled with financial prudence has allowed us to weather this pandemic storm with agents and staff not only being able to retain their jobs, but also by being agile and resilient enough to quickly transition the business model of this company for it to thrive even during these times of adversities.

As in any year, our priority is always people, both agents and staff. It is our focus on people that has brought the company to where it is despite a very challenging environment.

Henry Albert Fadullon, President, Phoenix Petroleum

The year 2020 has taught us the value of people and relationships—how kindness, compassion and generosity are most important during times of crisis. The pandemic has truly challenged our physical, emotional and financial limits but we are thankfully surviving and thriving. I look forward to a new year shaped by these very same virtues as we continue to rebuild our lives and make the best of the “new normal” that we find ourselves in.

Philip Gioca, Country Manager, JobStreet Philippines

2020 is unprecedented. You realize that we—humans—are truly social beings. You realize that essentials are more than enough blessings. And it hits you that TEAMWORK is rising together. In 2021, more than ever, our vision of “a job for every Filipino” is so apt in this challenging time. Our job therefore is to have more jobs that matter because as Pope Francis said, “if you don’t have a job, you don’t earn the bread and you lose your dignity.”

Mike Lytle, Chief Operations Officer, Teleperformance Philippines

This pandemic has clearly caused disruptions and uncertainties in our lives. Many of us have found it challenging to keep the usual positive outlook and motivation—both at work and in our personal lives. However, I have also found out that disruptions can propel ourselves past conventional limits. Having an opportunity mindset myself has helped me maintain my personal motivation.

While motivation may be personal, it is important for leaders to understand how different people have different ways of finding their motivation in trying times. As people leaders, we can do a lot to inspire how our teams can actively support each other, wherever and however they may be.

I have been privileged and amazed to see how our teams at Teleperformance care so much about each other and the customers they were serving. Our people worked around barriers and beyond the role or job description that they have. What mattered to them more was the work that had to be done right then and there, in the middle of the crisis. Indeed, people who were deeply motivated by their care for others can move mountains. More than understanding that our teams had to go back to business as usual, it was so inspiring to feel their commitment to do business beyond usual.

The advent of the fourth industrial revolution has been accelerated by the current pandemic. I believe that organizations that are digital-ready and with a mindset geared beyond recovery will transform the current challenges into better market experiences.

Li Hao Zhuang, President and CEO, FWD Life Insurance PH

2020 has been a very challenging but equally transformative year. It made me realize the importance of our promise to protect, care, and save lives. This, while putting the best interest of our customers, distributors and staff in the work that we do. I am immensely proud of our team’s contribution and their “bayanihan” spirit: our free COVID-19 coverage during the enhanced community quarantine helped our customers during their most difficult moments. Our digital platforms and advantage allowed us to serve our clients seamlessly and remotely, and continued to offer our advisors meaningful careers and income. We raised over P1M in funds to provide PPE for front-liners, and developed new digital products that is even more accessible to customers. The last few months changed the way we work. It inspired our innovativeness to save lives, celebrate living, and live up to our vision of changing the way people feel about insurance.

Our 2021 priorities are clear: to expand our protection reach to more customers who need them, and help as many Filipinos get back on their feet as possible. We remain committed to empower more Filipinos to achieve financial security. We’re focused on welcoming the new year with new initiatives that would benefit the Filipino people.

Lei Ding, CEO, J&T Express Philippines

For 2020, we realized that the best value for our customers is through our hardworking teams, quality service and advanced technologies. We faced multiple challenges in 2020 but the goal remains the same.

For 2021 and beyond, our goal is to continue to work to become the best delivery company with high customer satisfaction.

Mica Tan, Chief Executive Officer, MFT Group of Companies

MFT Group has forged our entry into global markets through health care, financial services and food and beverage interests. In spite of the pandemic, the company continues to operate in 10 countries and 20 cities. The crisis has been the ultimate test of leadership for any young CEO like myself. We focused on applying resources to change paradigms in a way that will have impact on lives and not just our bottom line. F&B is in a precarious state across all the markets we operate in. Even in the best of times, the restaurant industry survives and operates with week on week revenues. The decline of restaurant traffic in this pandemic is absolutely devastating, and creative solutions and support coming from the government, retail landlords and the community interlock with business survival for restaurants.  As we build an intellectual village of partners and leaders, synergy, patience and occasional boldness will reinforce the bounce forward mindset. For 2021, our priority is to do two things better and faster: Run operations efficiently and deploy what is generated by those operations strategically- investing in existing operations, improving acquired businesses and choosing the right tools and approaches to derive long-term outcomes for shareholders. Frugality, humility and independence are some important traits 2020 has taught me and we will move forward together in 2021 with fresh eyes and a deep-seated commitment to rationality.

Pilar Nenuca Almira, President & CEO, Makati Medical Center

Biggest realization is that the most important ingredient in the organization during a trying time like a pandemic is the strength and unity of creative people. Only those who have highly driven, committed and competent team, with highly creative ways of doing things will survive. Creativity is what makes the team respond quickly with the rapidly changing conditions.

In 2021, we will focus on capacity building while having a clear scanning of the environment. Scanning includes being knowledgeable of changes in the variables that affect our mission and operations such as changes in government regulations, availability of supplies and logistics, citizens’ behavior and human resources intricacies/availability. Special emphasis is on communication. This will be crucial in the way we will be working together internally, and the way we will reach out and continue our relationship with our stakeholders, with focus on our patients.  In 2021, we still assume the pandemic will still be a reality, and the fear of society in general will still be in existence. Being aware of all these, we want to be the safest hospital to go to for healing, treatment and prevention.

Winglip Chang, President, Kuya J Holdings

The year 2020 made me realize we can adjust to any situation if we maintain a resilient spirit. Another important learning is to look at a crisis in an objective and calm manner because doing so will enable us to discover strategies that will help sustain the business during a very challenging situation. Our priority for 2021 is to rebound well, not only to be at par with our 2019 performance but to surpass it.

Aileen Regio, Co-Coordinator, Eastern Communications

4 Cs! I realized that in times of crisis, it will be most imperative that a leader must Constantly Communicate with Candor but with Compassion. The employees must know and feel the leaders’ presence at all times and must be able to tell them the real state of affairs or the condition of the company but must understand that as human beings, the message must be given with empathy. This is the only way that we will be able to alleviate the confusion and uncertainty in the minds and hearts of the people, thereby enabling them to cope with work despite the predicament they’re facing.

2021 will be a year of rebuilding where plans and programs must be rebooted and recalibrated to ensure that notwithstanding the 2020 Covid experience and possibly an extension toward the first to second quarter of 2021, the company can still get back on track and surge ahead. This means having a punch list of things that were not accomplished in 2020, assessing if they are still relevant under the circumstances and prioritizing which ones to pursue first.

Djamel Agaoua, CEO, Rakuten Viber

2020 has made me appreciate some things that we usually take for granted. I have realized, more than ever, how important human interaction is. We have done very well at Viber working from home but it’s the small interactions with people in the office that I miss the most. The simple moments, like passing a colleague in the hallway. And quickly pinging ideas back and forth are often a source of great work ideas. That quick coffee grab and random catching up with my team is sometimes the best way to get a new perspective. I definitely miss all these simple moments!

I know this is also true for most of the Viber employees. So my priority for 2021 is to try our best to go back to this, see our colleagues once in a while in a safe and friendly way. The safety and welfare of my Viber team is one of my top priorities. I understand how important this is and we will keep on finding ways to strike a balance between meeting our colleagues and staying healthy and safe.

And of course with technology changing the way we interact plus the fact that it has been a crucial tool in surviving the challenges of the pandemic, Viber will continue looking for more ways to allow users to connect and transact within the app while always offering ease and convenience and keeping their data private. Through our free, expressive and secure platform, we will continue to empower our users to spend more time on things that truly matter.

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(To be continued)

TAGS: Crisis, Opportunity

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