Last year we celebrated 100 years. You can’t be around that long without learning from mistakes and doing things better.
One of the things Aboitiz did – over the course of five generations and a rapidly expanding workforce in an increasingly complex environment – was to simply remain focused. Two of the things we paid particular attention to were People and a “Passion for Better Ways,” which we now call innovation, or “advancing business and communities,” as our brand promise says.
I always talk about people first because everything we do in life is about people. The fate of our planet rests squarely on the shoulders of the people who live on it. I think this point should be made before any discussion of a Great Reset is.
So we focused on our people, who we call our A-people, and this brings me to our next point of focus, innovation, because you can never truly bring your A-game without being innovative. You might be flawless in the present, but to maintain your A-game you need to have a sharp and steady eye on the future.
And this is what the Great Reset is all about, isn’t it? We need to reset for the future, which the pandemic has abruptly thrown at our faces as the present. Fortunately, we had already been “resetting” the way we work at Aboitiz and so we were able to adapt quicker without much disruption. The passion for better ways that we’ve been nurturing in our people since the company was founded allowed us to be “a future-ready organization.”
We were already innovating decades ago by doing things like starting containerization in the Philippines. We made it easier, faster, and more comfortable for Filipinos to travel by sea when we launched the Superferry and SuperCat. We pioneered run off river hydro plants in the 70s. And now we are leading in the digitization of banking and financial services through UnionBank.
The only way for us to be prepared for a new normal and emerge from any crisis is to learn the lessons, acquire more knowledge, and use that knowledge in an effective way. We needed to not just come up with good ideas, but also turn those ideas into actions with measurable impact. This was our intention when we launched our latest business unit, Aboitiz Data Innovation (ADI), which will take full advantage of data science (DS) to remarkably improve every aspect of not just our businesses but others’ as well. This is one way to advance business and communities – sharing and using everything the world has to offer in order to sustain it.
DS is so important that it demands to be studied, and so we decided to invest USD10 million in a school devoted to it – the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Aboitiz School of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (ASITE), which established the first graduate DS degree program in the Philippines. What better way to combine People and Innovation than by training the next generation of data scientists?
With all the new technology coming in, we needed to help the government in its application. For example, UnionBank helped the Banko Central make policy changes for digital banking that allowed Filipinos to open bank accounts from their own phones and KYC processes to be done online. ADI will leap us forward and allow us to play on the global stage. Countries like Singapore have created environments for themselves that have allowed this to happen – we need to do the same. We need to take all the knowledge we can get from the people we work with all over the world and bring it home.
Data clearly shows that poverty and climate change are serious issues that desperately need attention, so we wasted no time in creating a clear Sustainability Roadmap to ensure our contribution to the United Nations’ sustainability goals. And as a Group that provides life-essential services and products to 20% of the Philippine population, our responsibility to environmental, social, and corporate governance has never been more prioritized as we continue to drive change for a better world.
I recently read a book titled The Remix and it spoke directly to the ideas of people, innovation, and the Great Reset. It was relevant for us because it was aligned with what we are currently doing, which is leading and succeeding in a multi-generational and multicultural workplace. With team members from all over the world, Aboitiz has never been more diverse, and we are seizing this diversity to stay inclusive and keep blending the best ideas and practices from all age groups and cultures – a true convergence of minds. This is the attitude we’ve had from the very beginning: constantly widening the funnel to collect more of what we need to lead.
I spoke about people first and will speak about them last, because it all starts and ends with you and I. When you cut through all the complications of life and find that clear moment of purpose, it all boils down to that.
Now more than ever, we need to take care of our people by providing education and opportunities for them, their families, and their communities. We need to provide them with the tools they need to become capable of succeeding on their own. This is what we want to be and do as leaders.
In my capacity as one I hope to be the best I can be for the people around me by not just improving their lives but also helping them to be enablers for good. We want to roll out meaningful societal change in the Philippines. We want to be proud of what we’ve accomplished as a Group by taking care of ourselves, our team, and our families with the expectation that they all pay it forward and do the same for the people around them. That’s how you advance business and communities. —BY SABIN M. ABOITIZ