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The oldest Philippine conglomerate prepares the next generation of leaders

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(Bloomberg) – As the oldest conglomerate in the Philippines grows and diversifies, the family behind the empire knows it will inevitably take outside talent to take the company and its vast holdings to greater heights.

The diverse interests of Ayala Corp. – banking, property, energy and telecommunications, to name a few – mean that it is unlikely that “a single gene pool” could have all the skills necessary to run multiple businesses, said Mariana Zobel de Ayala, member. of the founding family that has worked in several units. His father, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, is the president of the company and was CEO until he handed over the reins to his brother Fernando in April.

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

“As a family, we all generally 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’s David Ingles. “We understand that we are really here to find the best people for the job at hand; that doesn’t necessarily have to be a family. “

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

As in the generation of her father and uncle, Mariana and her contemporaries interested in the family business are encouraged to work in the different units of the group to understand how the ventures are carried out, how each operation fits into the objectives of the conglomerate and how assets. they can leverage each other.

Mariana is currently deputy director of marketing for the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the oldest lender in the country. Previously, he was at Ayala Land Inc. as general manager overseeing the operations of its shopping centers.

His brother Jaime Alfonso is Ayala’s head of business development, 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 become more relevant to Philippine society as he diversified and renewed existing businesses. It offered homes for different income groups, expanded banking services beyond the wealthy and the middle class, and ventured into health care and education.

Understanding Filipino consumers is key to Ayala’s business being successful, Mariana said. Her studies in social studies at Harvard and business administration at INSEAD, as well as her experience in investment banking while at JP Morgan, are helping her navigate the dynamics of Ayala and her Filipino consumers.

The pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital technology, opening up new markets.

“The transition is a bit more challenging but exciting,” he said as the group continues to focus on its core businesses. To generate opportunities 20 years from now, the nation’s oldest conglomerate must “understand the consumer through those different touchpoints in a way that is integrated and in a way that we can personalize our services,” he said.

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