By Mark Louis F. Ferrolino, Special Features Writer
Retirement is a life-changing decision. It is the point of life when one’s old day-to-day routine officially ends. For most retirees, this stage of life is the perfect time to just rest and enjoy the fruits of their labor. However, for those who took their work seriously, retirement is the best chance to catch up on the precious moments they missed in the past and discover new purposes in life.
Some of these individuals are former top business executives who dedicated most of their time driving their companies to success, while having little time for their families, and even for themselves.
Few days after Jose P. Magsaysay, Jr., former president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Potato Corner, retired last July, nothing has changed much. He still used to have a normal routine of doing some work, but in the comfort of his home. Even after some weeks, when he sat with BusinessWorld for an interview, he shared he was still in a turnover process, ensuring a smooth transition at Potato Corner.
Also called “JoMag” by some of his peers, Mr. Magsaysay became instrumental to the worldwide success of Potato Corner. It was in 1992 when he, together with other partners, started the french fries business and began franchising the year after. Although he left the company in 1997 to pursue a different interest, his comeback in 2001 brought a new wave of growth to the business. With unwavering dedication and smart business strategies, Mr. Magsaysay was able to turn Potato Corner into a well-loved brand, now boasting of over 1,300 branches across the world.
STUCK AT THE CROSSROADS
Mr. Magsaysay’s retirement was actually long overdue. He wanted to step down at Potato Corner as early as 2014, when he had a major surgery.
“That time, I told myself: Maybe, it’s time to retire already. Time naman (It’s about time) to spend time with my family and do something for myself, because my focus all these years was work,” he said. “People don’t realize how difficult it is to become an entrepreneur. It’s really hard work and sacrifice; time with family is not there, time with my children.”
Despite his strong desire to spend more time with his family, Mr. Magsaysay was not able to leave the corporate world. He said that Potato Corner was not yet ready to run on its own, not until this year. “The team was able to level up. Kaya na (Now, they can), especially with new partners, younger partners, younger franchisees… I think the company is more than capable of moving forward without me anymore,” he said.
Mr. Magsaysay’s decision to retire from Potato Corner has never been easy. In fact, he consulted for many years a psychotherapist to discuss about this new phase of his life, when to retire, and how to accept it. As he pointed out, “Thinking about retirement was the difficult part, and when to retire.”
Similar to Mr. Magsaysay, Vicente R. Ayllón, former chairman of the board and CEO of The Insular Life Assurance Company, Ltd., also felt the need to retire from work to enjoy the following years with his family, as well as associates and close friends.
Before his retirement in 2016, Mr. Ayllón steered Insular Life into a better market position. Under his leadership, the company became a mutual insurance firm, which made its policyholders as its owners. The mutualization process drove Insular Life’s assets, net worth, net income, and premium income to grow even more. Mr. Ayllón also led the efforts to diversify Insular Life into allied financial services, which gave birth to its various subsidiaries.
It was also under his watch when the company partnered with UnionBank of the Philippines and MAPFRE of Spain to create the MAPFRE INSULAR Insurance Corporation. With Mr. Ayllón’s leadership, Insular Life continued to be a bedrock of stability, surviving the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the more recent 2008 world financial crisis.
If there is something that Mr. Ayllón misses about working at Insular Life, it is his former colleagues, associates, and fellow employees. “I love meeting with and talking to them. It keeps my energy up and sends my spirits soaring,” he said.
Meanwhile, in terms of work, what Mr. Ayllón misses the most is knowing his schedule for the whole day as soon as he would wake up. As he noted, his schedule was completely planned [by his staff].
ENJOYING THE NEW RIDE OF LIFE
Contrary to the usual setup after retirement, Mr. Ayllón’s life after retirement has become spontaneous. He now enjoys the freedom of doing things and splurging in the company of his family, colleagues, and close friends.
“When I wake up at around 9 [a.m.], I exercise, I do some brisk walking for exercise. I even do it in my lap pool. It’s a good place to exercise… I really like meeting with friends. I usually have dinner with my Tuesday Group where we meet at different restaurants every Tuesday,” Mr. Ayllón shared in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.
Retirement for Mr. Ayllón also means reading his collection of books. “I have plenty of books about the war. I have a small four-passenger elevator installed in my house so when I come home, I take the elevator. It opens to my library located at the third floor. That’s where I keep all my books,” he said.
Despite his age, Mr. Ayllón is still a frequent traveler. Very recently, he came back from a trip to Europe with his wife, Annie Ayllón. They toured the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. His favorite places to visit are Honolulu, San Francisco, Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome; while Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, and Bangkok are his favorites in Asia.
Meanwhile, although Mr. Magsaysay of Potato Corner had just about two months since he retired, he is now able to have a great time with his family, doing some activities such as dirt biking and motorcycling, watching movies, and traveling out of town.
LIVING AT NEW HORIZONS
For Aurelio R. Montinola III, former president and CEO of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), his retirement in 2013 from the bank led him — aside from enjoying the usual perks of a retiree — to get involved in different fields, particularly in education and environment.
Mr. Montinola worked at BPI for 31 years. He ran the bank in a very forward-looking way, while fostering a customer-centric culture and better relationship management. As a testament to Mr. Montinola’s exceptional stewardship, he was named the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) Management Man of the Year in 2012. He was also awarded with the Asian Banker Leadership Achievement Award for the Philippines twice. In 2011, however, Mr. Montinola needed to step down as the head of the bank as part of its normal retirement and succession plan. His term was then extended for two years to help find his successor.
The moment he stepped down from BPI, he was asked by his mother to take the chairmanship role in the board of directors of Far Eastern University (FEU), working primarily on its strategy, networking, talent management, and expansion. In the same year, the top-ranked banker joined the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines as member of the board, and chairman in 2016. Among others, Mr. Montinola is currently the chairman of BPI Philam Life Assurance Corporation, vice-chairman of Philippine Business for Education, member of MAP, and trustee of Makati Business Club and Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.
“My favorite statement is ‘I’m semi-retired’,” Mr. Montinola told BusinessWorld in an interview. “Even my kids, they tell me: ‘You haven’t retired, you’re still very busy.’ But from my point of view, I’m very focused on what I like, I’m busy physically up to a certain time.”
Despite being actively engaged in different things, Mr. Montinola still prioritizes his time with his family. They usually travel abroad and visit some “exotic” places, as he described.
What makes Mr. Montinola’s life significantly different since he has “semi-retired” is the chance to make his own schedule. “Because when I was working, I used to make a joke: I don’t have a schedule, I get scheduled,” he said.
Indeed, retirement is the chapter of life when new pages begin. It is a time of shifting priorities, finding new purpose, and creating new memories. Although the mentioned industry leaders already left their office responsibilities behind, their missions in life definitely continue. — With Erika F. Mioten and Francis A.T. Valentin