1. How does it feel to be named CFO of the Year? What is the meaning of this recognition to you personally?
I was overwhelmed, to say the least. At first, I could not believe what happened as it was all too surreal. Personally, being named as the ING Finex CFO of the Year is an honor and a culmination of the hard work my team and I have put in and the challenges we have overcome along the way. I never dreamt of becoming one and receiving the highly coveted award, I believe, is a great testament to how far I have come, with the help of the people around me.
2. When you were named CFO of the Year, the Event was themed: "A Decade of the CFO: Championing Good Governance. This conveyed the critical role of the CFO as a Good Governance Champion. How did your awareness and commitment to the Good Governance cause come about?
My awareness in good governance begun during the early 2000’s, when scandals involving Enron and Worldcom apparently resulted from poor or lack of corporate governance and my commitment started when I finally accepted the job at Philex Mining, which I knew belong to an “unloved” industry despite its indispensable benefits. We wanted to show that, despite the criticism on the industry, Philex is a genuine advocate of responsible mining, not just in terms of corporate social responsibility, environmental protection, and social development initiatives, but also in terms of implementing sound corporate governance practices. The need for such became more pronounced following the unfortunate incident in Padcal in 2012. As much as possible, we as an organization would like to show that there is indeed ethical and conscientious mining in the country.
3. Why did you choose to be in Finance? Was Finance your first love or was it influenced somehow? Who inspired you to be in Finance?
I always excelled in Mathematics during my school days and I thought to myself that, given this skill, I am inclined to pursue a profession heavy in numbers. As such, I took a degree in accounting and begun my career in auditing and finance after passing the CPA Exams.
4. What do you think is our greatest challenge in embracing Good Governance best practice today? Could you share the challenges from the perspective of a Finance person? As a Finance Person in the Mining Industry?
Generally, though not my experience, I think the greatest challenge faced in implementing good governance is Board acceptance. After all, the tone should be set from the top. I also believe that one of the challenges confronted across Asia, where most companies are closely held, is increasing Board independence, which would mean that majority owners will be forced to give up a certain level of control in the company to groups with no economic stake in the firm. I understand that this is easier to implement in Western countries, where ownership of most companies are widely held.
In the mining industry, strictly speaking, it is easier to embrace good governance since the mining law has already outlined the requirements for companies, like environmental management and social development activities, on top of the company’s own corporate social responsibility initiatives, that serve as building blocks for good governance. The only other component missing to enable a holistic approach, I believe, is corporate governance. The challenge, though, is that not all players follow the law, which affects the image of the responsible companies and the entire mining industry as well.
5. Who do you look up to as a Good Governance Role model? Could you share with us a story and why you look up to this person? We would love to hear you share how he or she inspired you to be committed to good governance?
I always looked up to Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan as my role model when it comes to good governance. Long before corporate governance became a “buzz-word” in the Philippines, MVP, after coming back from his international assignments, has been espousing good governance in all his companies, both listed and non-listed. Being around a number of First Pacific Group of companies, I have seen how MVP strongly advocates sound corporate governance, especially in First Pacific, PLDT, MPIC and Meralco. In our case, the strong support of the Philex Board, led by MVP as Chairman, enabled us to secure the top country ranking in the AGCS for 2015 and 2016. It helped a lot that Philex and MVP share the same passion for embracing good corporate governance. In fact, he initiated the annual holding of internal CG enhancement sessions by inviting foreign CG advocates to speak to First Pacific Group directors, executives, and managers and he even personally attends these events to serve as an inspiration to everyone in the group.
6. Who inspired you to become a good governance advocate and to join ICD? How and why did you decide to join the society? How relevant do you think is the Institution's role in advancing the cause in the Philippine setting? How do you see yourself personally engaging in ICD activities to promote good governance?
There is no particular person who inspired me to advocate good governance and join ICD. My parents instilled in us the value of honesty and integrity and I believe these are strong foundations of good governance. Aside from being the right thing to do, I also want to set an example to my colleagues and the business community, through Philex, that, despite the arguments against mining, good governance is essential and can be achieved. Corporate governance, for me, is more than box ticking and policy-making, but a culture that should be adopted across an organization. While not one size that fits all, CG should be tailor fit for each institution. I believe that by joining ICD, I will be able to learn more about CG and share my experience to a wider audience outside of Philex. At the end of the day, CG-prescribed best practices will only serve as guidelines but the pursuit for genuine CG is based on the values espoused by the Board and the Management, individually and collectively, which I would like to have a stronger influence on.
7. Is there any particular initiative or good governance activity that you feel we must pursue aggressively as an Institution? Is there a specific mindset that we must imbibe or adapt in order to sustain our relevance, to effect the transformative positive change we aspire for?
As it is, I believe the ICD is doing a great job, with respect to achieving its objectives and increasing its relevance in the local business community, as an institution. First, I think ICD can strengthen its presence outside of Metro Manila initially, like in Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, to encourage membership in these areas. Eventually, ICD can expand its reach across the entire Philippines to increase its national base. Second, as a knowledge partner, ICD can recommend the creation of a minimum corporate governance structure for non-listed entities either through legislation or in partnership with regulatory bodies, such as SEC. Finally, for companies planning to go public or issue debt securities, the ICD, again as a knowledge partner, can likewise propose to regulatory or legislative bodies to require a minimum compliance with CG best practices (i.e. SEC, ACGS) or a point system before their application be approved.