Ayala Group focusing on four business areas with ‘tremendous’ growth potential

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Fernando Zobel de Ayala MAP
Ayala Corporation Chief Operating Officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala (center) received the “MAP Management Man of the Year 2018” award at the annual general Membership meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Tuesday. With Mr. Zobel are (from left to right), MVP Group of Companies Media Bureau Managing Director Michael T. Toledo; Far Eastern University Chair Aurelio R. Montinola III; MAP President and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. President and CEO Ramoncito S. Fernandez; and Convergys Philippines Chair Marife B. Zamora.

AYALA CORP. has decided to focus on four business areas that hold “tremendous” potential in bringing the Philippines to where the group envisions it to be in the next 30 years and bring a lasting, meaningful impact in building a future-ready country.

“These sectors are inclusive finance, education, health care and sustainable tourism,” Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president and chief operating officer of Ayala Corp., said in his speech on Tuesday when he was conferred the award Management Man of the Year 2018 for his outstanding achievement as a corporate manager.

Mr. Zobel, the 42nd recipient of the award given by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), told the members of the organization about the “ingredients” that would elevate the country to the next level.

“Our journey towards future-readiness requires a strong platform,” he said, pointing to what Ayala Corp. has been building over the past years.

On financial inclusion, Mr. Zobel said it was unacceptable that only 23% of Filipinos are part of the banking system. The rest are exposed to unauthorized lenders charging exorbitant rates and face the risk of the “unofficial economy.”

“We are doing our part in providing channels and mobile solutions,” Mr. Zobel said, citing Bank of the Philippine Islands’ BanKo which serves micro, small and medium enterprises with their lending requirements.

“We further recognize that mobile technology has likewise provided a unique opportunity to serve the financial needs of a broad segment of our people,” he said.

He said the group now provides several solutions for payments and mobile wallets, digital lending and wealth management and credit analytics.

Ayala and Globe Fintech Innovations, Inc. (Mynt) last year entered into a strategic partnership with Ant Financial Services Group to accelerate financial inclusion and upgrade payment services.

“While the Philippines is still far from having fintech as ubiquitous as it is in China … we’re excited to further develop our fintech industry” to reach the financially underserved segment of the population,” Mr. Zobel said.

To ensure the success of financial inclusion through mobile technology, he said massive investments will be required.

On education, Mr. Zobel cited a study that placed half of the global labor force or 375 million workers will have to switch jobs by 2030 as certain professions are rendered irrelevant, although new opportunities would emerge.

“Our educational system is in serious need of help,” he said, but adding that the private sector had been contributing in a “significant way.”

For the Ayala group, its solutions revolve around some of the problems that need to be addressed in schools, including the reduction in the dropout rates, increasing the employability of students, and producing competent teachers to sustain educational reforms.

Among these solutions is the Ayala University, a digital learning platform that brings together carefully selected online global content from the best schools.

Mr. Zobel also cited a partnership with the National Teachers College that equips educators with the necessary skills to drastically improve the quality of instruction.

The third area that the Ayala group is focusing on is health care, a critical need for a country that lacks affordable and quality health services.

“How can we possibly have healthy work force and higher quality of life for our people without proper health care,” Mr. Zobel said, citing a study that showed 43% of Filipinos have not seen a doctor in more than a year.

He said the Ayala group believes health care is a fundamental right, thus shaping its approach to its health care business. The group has been focusing on disruptive models and technologies to make health care products and services more accessible and affordable to a broader sector of the population.

On tourism, Mr. Zobel said the country has yet to embrace the sector as a valuable component of its development.

“While tourism continues to contribute much to the economy, there remains a significant value to be unlocked,” he said.

Mr. Zobel, who is also vice-chairman of Ayala Corp., followed his father Jaime and brother Jaime Augusto who were given the same recognition as Management Man of the Year in 1987 and 2006, respectively.

Among others, he thanked his father for taking the risk in entrusting the management of Ayala Corp. to him and his brother at a young age. — Victor V. Saulon