Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chair and chief executive of Ayala Corp., has become the first Filipino to receive the highest achievement award for a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Zobel is also the youngest alumnus to receive the Alumni Achievement Award from Harvard Business School, which gives the award annually to “distinguished graduates who have contributed significantly to their companies and communities while upholding the highest standards and values.”

According to the award-giving council, “the outstanding men and women who receive this most important honor represent the best in the alumni body and inspire all those who aspire to have an impact on business and society.

Zobel received a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School in 1987. He had graduated from Harvard College in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics, cum laude.

In between those years, he worked overseas before joining the Ayala group of companies, where he held several line positions.

Today, together with his younger brother Fernando, who serves as president and chief operating officer of Ayala Corp., Zobel is credited for the Ayala group’s successes in telecommunications and water distribution as well as its continued successes in real estate development and financial services.


The first to receive the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award was Robert McNamara, in 1968, when he was president of the World Bank. Other outstanding recipients since then have included Daniel Burke, chair and CEO emeritus of Johnson & Johnson; Dr. Daniel Vasella, chair and CEO of Novartis AG; Ratan Tata, chair of India’s Tata group; Louis Gerstners Jr., former chair and chief executive of IBM; Phillip Yeo, chair of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research; and Minoru Makihara, former chair of Mitsubishi Corp.

To Zobel and this year’s four other recipients, the awards were presented at Harvard on Sept. 27 in a ceremony hosted by Prof. Jay O. Light, dean of Harvard Business School.

The other recipients were Donna Dubinsky of Numenta, an intelligent-computing software firm; A. M. Mixon III of Invacare Corp., the world’s leading manufacturer and distributor of home healthcare products; Sir Martin Sorrell of global advertising company WPP Group PLC; and Hansjoerg Wyss of Synthes Inc., manufacturer and distributor of orthopedic implants and instruments.

Ideal candidate

To Zobel, Professor Light said: “The impact you have had through Ayala Corp. makes you an ideal candidate. This award is a symbol of Harvard’s appreciation of the standard you have set.”

That standard has deep roots in the Ayala group–in the values and principles it stands for, as much as in its history and track record.

It is reflected in a remark Zobel made when he accepted the Management Man of the Year award: “Success is not measured by quick and one-time gains but by enduring beliefs and created by a disciplined approach to creating value. Second, success also entails combining profitability with a broader contribution to society.”

The business successes of the 173-year-old Ayala group are well known, as are its wide-ranging contributions to social development. But not always seen are the ways it has affected countless Filipino lives and many communities.

While Ayala has always chosen to engage itself actively in the national development process, it continues to take this step further by finding solutions to various socioeconomic challenges. Many enterprising Filipinos–from merchants and service providers at the Ayala malls, to microfinance institutions through Bank of the Philippine Islands, and to small entrepreneurs that rely on Globe Telecom Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. for their livelihood–are able to nurture their dreams through the Ayala group.

Similarly far-reaching are the group’s sustained actions to promote education in training student leaders, providing elementary education and spearheading the multisector initiative called Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students, or Gilas, which helps to provide Internet access and basic computer literacy programs for students in all Philippine public high schools.

For certain, these social development contributions wouldn’t be possible without the business successes, but the correlation between the two is deliberate, and has been rooted in the Ayala group’s nearly two-century Philippine heritage.

Zobel calls Ayala’s social development work “promoting the public good through the benefits of excellent professional management.”

That is a well-appreciated statement of underlying characteristics that exhibit the conglomerate’s long-term vision and commitment to national development.

The public’s trust

The corporate professionalism and the social commitment have given Ayala a most solid reputation for integrity, and over many decades earned the public’s trust for the Ayala brand.

“Building on trust has enabled us to mobilize talent and to bring together the best people to cater to an increasingly diverse array of customer needs,” Zobel says.

It has also enabled Ayala to build capital and bring in some of the world’s most respected corporations–including Mitsubishi Corp., Singapore Telecom and Development Bank of Singapore, among others–as strategic partners.

With its “human capital”–a highly empowered organization–and strong, global partners, the Ayala group today includes four listed corporations (Ayala Land, Bank of Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom and Manila Water) and accounts for about one-third of the Philippine Stock Exchange index.

For the corporate and other triumphs, Zobel pays tribute, first, to his father, Jaime Zobel de Ayala–who was voted Management Man of the Year in 1987–for decentralizing the group management structure in the 1980s and building the management foundations of present-day Ayala.

Second, he cites the leadership sharing he has with his brother, Fernando–“in an arrangement that it not very common in public, private or family institutions…The Ayala of today would not be where it is without the leadership Fernando has provided on myriad fronts and for his equal participation in decisions I have made.”

And he acknowledges the group’s organization–and the macro context in which it functions.

“Leadership,” he says, “depends on the corporate context, economic history and organizational capability of any institution.”

“Beneath the bright surface of performance of any business leader is the solid substance built by a longer history of a larger community of talented, motivated and disciplined executives that made such performance possible,” he adds.

The Ayala group “collective wisdom, drive and vision shape and constantly refresh my own,” Zobel says. “At the most senior level, we take pride in working as colleagues and partners, whether one works at the holding company or at the operating level.

“We like to encourage a spirit of collegiality, sharing and constructive criticism. The best ideas that flow out are certainly not always mine and the many backgrounds and experiences of our executive rank are too valuable to be kept limited in specific roles.”

Ayala’s evolution

The Ayala group itself has changed in character over the years, Zobel observes. In the past century, what had started as an agriculture- and trading-based group grew into a major Philippine manufacturing and services concern.

The Ayala group started investing in sectors that have become its core businesses well before Zobel joined it in 1981. It pioneered in real estate development in 1960 and modern banking in 1970. It went into telecommunications in 1974 and electronics manufacture in 1988. As its platform for social development contribution, it established in 1961 what has become Ayala Foundation.

And then, “the world changed on us,” Zobel recalls. “Competition in real estate exploded. The banking and telecom sectors were liberalized and new markets were created by the resurgence of new technologies. Globalization altered most of the landscape … And corporate social responsibility moved into the center of business concerns.”

“History is not destiny,” Zobel says. “The challenge for a company with a long history is how to keep fresh the energies on which it was founded while retaining the enduring values that define it. For the Ayala group, the challenge has been how to keep succeeding in changing times by building on the fundamental strengths with which we began.”

Today the Ayala group focuses on three major businesses–real estate, financial services and telecom–plus emergent businesses in electronics manufacturing, technology investments, water distribution, automotive dealerships, international real estate markets and business processing outsourcing.

Zobel is also chair of Globe Telecom, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Integrated Microelectronics Inc.; vice chair of Ayala Land Inc.; and co-vice chair of Ayala Foundation. He is a member of the JP Morgan International Council, Mitsubishi Corp. International Advisory Committee, Toshiba International Advisory Group, Asia Business Council, Harvard University Asia Center Advisory Committee and the board of trustees of the Asian Institute of Management.

He also serves on the national council of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-US), and chairs WWF Philippines.

The involvement in the environmental movement is one of the ways Zobel demonstrates his personal profound concern for the planet and future generations. And among underprivileged children in the Philippines, is perhaps the most recognizable face of Children’s Hour, of which he is a trustee.

In all likelihood, it is a concern that the Harvard Business School award-giving council shares.

Source: Ayala Land Inc. Article Listing


A Leader of Leaders

August 18, 2008

Nation-building as a goal may seem ambitious, but Mr. Ayala believes that achieving this is possible through a two-pronged approach: by leading the country’s biggest property developer in providing for the residential, retail, and office needs of Filipinos; and by nurturing leaders within the firm.


Mr. Ayala is no stranger to the task of growing an already big company and leading a pool of emerging leaders. Although his post at Ayala Land is his first foray into real estate, the ALI chief is not a tenderfoot. He brings with him an extensive experience in general management and he draws on skills in strategy development, operations management, performance management, and organizational effectiveness, having spent 19 years at the US, Mexico, Tokyo, and Hong Kong offices of consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Since he assumed the post in 2004, the company has undergone several changes that are aimed at increasing the value of shareholders’ investment in ALI. Under his watch, new opportunities for growth were created and ALI began expanding its offerings for each of its business units.

The company also successfully segmented its residential product lines to cater to various markets, hence the establishment of Ayala Land Premier for the upscale market, Community Innovations for young achievers, and Avida Land for the middle-income group.

This proved to be effective as ALI posted P22.1 billion in revenues by end-2005, the highest ever recorded by the company. Its net income as of last year was pegged at P3.6 billion, up 21% from 2004.


But Mr. Ayala’s role as CEO does not end at shoring up sales and initiating property developments. Because ALI has always prided itself in having the best people in its team and guiding them to become leaders, Mr. Ayala in effect serves as a leader to the leaders.

“We have made a concerted effort to create an organization that enables leaders to emerge. We have tried to devolve decision-making capacity and clarify accountabilities to empower our teams… This creates leadership opportunities throughout the organization,” he said.

Mr. Ayala admitted that he is more of an overseer than a hands-on manager. This, he said, is also in keeping with the company’s goal of decentralizing leadership and empowering its people.

“I try to see to it that all our colleagues at ALI are equipped and trained to overcome the challenges that work-life presents on a day-to-day basis,” Mr. Ayala said.

“What we need to do is take our solid base of talent in the company to a new level, one in which hierarchies are being replaced by networks and leadership is distributed … rather than [having] pre-programmed directives from some higher authority. Our focus, therefore, is on driving growth by organizing for the future and by creating not a pool of employees, but rather a team of leaders,” he added.

BUSY IN 2007

ALI’s success cannot be credited to one person alone but to the rest of the team, and Mr. Ayala makes sure that his firm is prepared for the coming year. In the pipeline are a number of mall projects, including the much-anticipated TriNoma shopping center in Quezon City , which is expected to increase ALI’s gross leasable area by 30%. ALI will also embark on a geographical expansion of its residential projects, and it will develop information technology (IT) parks for the business process outsourcing (BPO) market.

ALI is also poised to deepen its sales channels, making the balikbayan market a platform for growth in the coming years.

For someone whose aim is to contribute to the transformation of society, perhaps nothing can beat having the opportunity to be in an industry that is, quite literally, engaged in nation-building.

“The best part of being at Ayala Land is that we have the opportunity to become a prime mover in national development. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be with Ayala Land , as real estate as an industry is really a main driver of the national economy in any country,” said Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) President and Chief Executive Officer Jaime I. Ayala.

Source: Ayala Land Inc. Article Listing

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