The oldest Filipino conglomerate is preparing the next generation of leaders

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As the Philippines’ oldest conglomerate grows and diversifies, the family behind the empire knows that it is inevitable that outside talent will be needed to take the company and its vast holdings to greater heights.

The various interests of Ayala Corp. – banking, real estate, energy and telecommunications to name a few – mean that it is unlikely that a “single gene pool” could have all the skills needed to manage various companies, said Mariana Zobel de Ayala, a founding family who worked in various units. His father, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, is the chairman of the company and was managing director until he handed over the reins to his brother Fernando in April.

Under the leadership of Jaime and Fernando over the past quarter century, Ayala has increasingly relied on non-family executives to run its businesses. Preparing the next generation of family leaders – the eighth since the company was founded in 1834 – means giving the cohort the opportunity to pursue their personal interests and develop their skills, while being watched to see if they match the Ayala’s broader leadership needs.

“As a family, we generally all agree that it would probably be statistically unlikely that a single gene pool could cover all the skills needed for such a diverse set of businesses,” Mariana said in an interview. with Bloomberg Television. David Inglés. “We understand that we are really here to find the best people for the job at hand; it does not necessarily have to be family.

The reliance on non-family executives to run key Ayala businesses will not be reversed even if the next generation gets “deliberate exposure,” Mariana said.

As in the generation of her father and her uncle, Mariana and her contemporaries passionate about the family business are brought to work in the different units of the group to understand how businesses are managed, how each operation fits into the objectives of the conglomerate, and how assets can build on each other.

Mariana is currently Deputy Director of Marketing at Bank of the Philippine Islands, the country’s oldest lender. She was previously with Ayala Land Inc. as General Manager overseeing the operations of its shopping centers.

His brother Jaime Alfonso is responsible for business development at Ayala, while a cousin, Jaime Urquijo Zobel de Ayala, is involved in an oil and gas exploration unit.

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Ayala under Jamie Augusto had sought to make himself more relevant to Filipino society by diversifying and reorganizing existing businesses. It provided housing for different income groups, expanded banking services beyond the wealthy and middle class, and ventured into health care and education.

Understanding Filipino consumers is the key to Ayala’s business success, Mariana said. His studies in Social Sciences at Harvard and Business Administration at INSEAD, along with his investment banking experience at JP Morgan, help him navigate the dynamics of Ayala and her Filipino consumers.

The pandemic has accelerated the digital switchover, which has opened up new markets.

“The transition is a little more difficult but exciting,” she said as the group continues to focus on its core businesses. To create opportunities in 20 years, the oldest conglomerate in the country must “have an understanding of the consumer through these different touch points in an integrated way and in a way that we can personalize our services,” he said. she declared.

– With the help of Rosalind Chin


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