Call it the Corporate Governance (CG) Challenge – how does a CEO make the organization understand what CG is all about, and lead its people to embrace the principles?
The organization happens to be P&A Grant Thornton, one of the country’s leading professional firms providing audit, accounting, advisory and tax services, where Maria Victoria, or Marivic as she is often called by her peers, has been Chairperson and CEO for over five years. She is also currently a member of the board of directors of Grant Thornton International Limited (GTIL), serving her second 3-year term as an elected director.
A fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), Marivic has applied a lot of the things she learned from the various programs of the institute and from insights shared by other fellows in regular and special meetings. “I joined ICD to learn how to understand the way the board members of our clients think, what they are concerned about,” she narrated. “After completing the Professional Directors Program in 2010, I realized that the adoption of corporate governance principles is essential for an organization to achieve sustainable success, including my own. Thus, after the program, our Firm embarked on a CG journey, starting with the re-examination of our strategies. Deliberately, we involved our leadership team in the discussions to gain strong commit to the goals and strategic plans that we set.”
She shared that they have developed their own strategy scorecard, which serves as a guide in monitoring the Firm’s progress in relation to the different strategic plans. “We created a strategy execution team to lead this, and we are now at the stage where performance is directly linked to strategy,” Marivic said.
Marivic recently celebrated 20 years in the Firm which will celebrate its 30th year in February 2018.
How does she stay motivated in a firm she has been part of for two-thirds of its existence? “I like the diversity of the concerns that I am involved in, there’s always something new to learn. I enjoy the people I work with. Being able to help our clients find solutions to grow their business is really fulfilling. These factors make my work dynamic, and my personal development continues”, Marivic said. “Being able to contribute to the growth of the network of Grant Thornton member firms in my role as board director is also an invaluable opportunity.”
Her passion for continuous learning and application is deeply-rooted. “My first job was a teacher of mathematics. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics for Teachers on a government science scholarship,” she said. This was followed by a Master’s Degree in Accountancy from Polytechnic University of the Philippines and further studies including the Top Management Program at Asian Institute of Management, the Leadership Program at Harvard University, the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School, and the Grant Thornton Strategic Leadership Program at Oxford University. “My work in previous organizations that I was connected with - the Department of Finance, Senate’s Tax Study & Research Office and Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Co. of Manila (AG&P) - including my previous role as a tax partner of the Firm, all contributed to what I am now. The experiences in those previous jobs are very useful and have equipped me in performing my present role,” Marivic narrated.
Importance of Training the Board
Does she think that members of boards of directors ought to appreciate taxation more? “Absolutely. Aside from the financial implications, any allegation of huge unpaid tax obligation affects the organization’s reputation,” she explains.
On individuals aspiring to become board directors, Marivic advises them to deliberately prepare themselves for such future role. “While executives usually earned their positions because of technical expertise, the challenge that they must face is how to acquire a wider view of the organization and the environment that it is in,” she said. “For those aspiring to become a board director in the future, I suggest that they pursue continuous learning, update themselves on new and emerging trends and developments, and accept assignments that will expose them to new functions, roles or projects. All of these will help them develop a broader perspective of the operations of the organization and provide them a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities that it must address.”
"They can also volunteer as director for a small organization.. …Walang sayang na experience,” Marivic claimed. “It is important that we are able to appreciate the knowledge and skills we pick up from all of these experiences, and apply them.”
Marivic is married to lawyer Rene Españo. They have 3 children: Julius Rene, 25, an industrial engineer; Denise, 22, a marketing associate; and Juan Miguel, 18, in senior high school. The family likes travelling and going out together. Marivic herself has a few hobbies. “In my free time, I like reading books and materials about leadership and new ideas. Aside from ICD, I am actively involved in several professional organizations such as Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), Financial Executives of the Philippines (FINEX), and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), among others, – and we do a lot of work there!” she laughed.
Because there is still much to learn. And apply to real life.