20 Business Revolutionaries: Jaime Augusto II and Fernando Zobel de Ayala

August 18, 2008

Jaime Augusto II and Fernando Zobel de AyalaBy 5 a.m., the Zobel brothers are already up, perusing the latest news from around the globe, catching up on paperwork, and reading reports. When a detail needs to be clarified, it is not uncommon for them to send a text message to their managers asking if it’s OK to call — a small habit that implies an awareness that the rest of Ayala corporation does not run on their time, even if they head the country’s largest conglomerate.

“They’re gentlemen down to their fingertips,” said Victoria Garchitorena, Ayala Foundation, Inc. president, who remembers that when her office was located at the Ayala Museum , she was rarely summoned by the brothers to their offices when they wanted to meet. “They would walk from their office to mine, it was no skin off their nose. And I guess they also knew that it was good for the foundation staff to see them once in a while.”

Even before corporate social responsibility (CSR) was pushed into the limelight, the brothers already wanted Ayala’s core business competencies to contribute to the greater good, “The full flowering of that idea is doing business at the bottom of the pyramid,” said Ms. Garchitorena. Manila Water’s “Tubig Para sa Barangay,” and Globe Telecom’s Bridging communities (BridgeCom) program are two concrete examples of how Ayala-led companies have CSR projects that are congruent to their business plans. “That’s the perfect situation because your business goals and your social development goals are aligned.”

“One of the things that make them different from other owners or CEOs is that they’re so eager to learn from everyone. They’re not know-it-alls or the ‘listen-to-me-and-I’ll-tell-you-what-you-need-to-do’ type,” said Ms. Garchitorena.

During management meetings, neither Jaime nor Fernando will hesitate to ask questions when they don’t quite get what’s being said. “They really have deep respect for their management team. They’re open to ideas and they also have the humility and the self-confidence to say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t understand. Please explain.'”

Ms. Garchitorena added that the brothers share the same sense of humor, which manifests itself in the form of tricks, teasing, and verbal repartee, in turn, they’re also willing to be the object of jokes.

Jaime and Fernando always present a united front when it comes to Ayala Corporation. Although they may initially have different ideas, they are committed to threshing things out until they reach a decision that is amenable to both of them. And once that decision is reached, they support each other all the way.

The Zobels possess a winning combination of good genes and a good upbringing. Ms. Garchitorena credits Don Jaime and Bea Zobel, Jaime and Fernando’s parents, for the brothers’ shared work ethic and down-to-earth demeanor.

“They didn’t feel that they were entitled to all these privileges because they were Zobels. They’re very hardworking,” she said.

For example, when Jaime was a child, he sent his mother a letter apologizing for the extra cost that they would be burdened with because he had enrolled in an additional class; Ms. Garchitorena believes it was gardening. “He had no idea how wealthy they were. I thought that was so telling of how they were brought up. They don’t take things for granted. I think that’s indicative of why they are what they are now,” she said.

Asked to expound, Ms. Garchitorena replied: “They’re good looking, they’re intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re rich, they’re successful, they’re charming, they’re disciplined, they’re sincere and honest, they’re generous, they’re good sons and husbands and fathers, and they have a heart for the poor. Need I say more?”

Source: Ayala Land Inc. Article Listing

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