AE Team | December 10, 2018
Aboitiz Group President and CEO Erramon Aboitiz joined a distinguished group of individuals recognized for their exemplary abilities in their respective fields as he received Honorary Doctorate Degree in Management from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).
The prestigious institution, through its president and dean Dr. Jikyeong Kang and chairman Peter Garrucho, conferred the honor to EIA at AIM’s Commencement Ceremony on December 9 in Makati City, where he was also invited to be the commencement speaker.
In his message, EIA emphasized the importance of upholding the values on which the Aboitiz name has been founded. These values, he explained, are at the core of the Group Purpose to drive change for a better world by advancing business and communities.
In 2016, UnionBank chairman Justo A. Ortiz was conferred his own honorary Doctor of Humanities from the University of Sto. Tomas, recognizing his extraordinary achievements in the fields of nation-building, education, values formation, and youth development.
Watch our video from the event below:
EIA’s AIM Commencement Ceremony speech:
Distinguished leaders of the Asian Institute of Management — Board of Governors Chairman Peter Garrucho, President and Dean Dr. Jikyeong Kang, members of the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees, to the faculty, the graduates, my wife Judy, brothers and nephews who are here today, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
I am truly honored and deeply grateful to stand before all of you as I humbly accept an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Management from your esteemed institution. To be invited to be today’s commencement speaker is an additional distinction.
Over the past 50 years, the Asian Institute of Management has contributed immensely to sustaining the growth of businesses and societies, not only in the Philippines, but in Asia, by developing professional, entrepreneurial, and socially responsible managers and leaders. Today, you graduates join the rank of this exceptional class of executives.
Allow me to accept this honorary degree on behalf of the 31,000 team members that currently make up the Aboitiz Group, as well as the thousands more who came before us. The Aboitiz Group is where it is today because of all of them and their efforts, and it is truly them that deserve this honor. Many of our team leaders are in fact graduates of your management programs and applying their acquired knowledge in the real world has further contributed to the success of our organization. For that, we thank AIM and its professors.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Aboitiz, it is a business enterprise that had its humble beginnings as a small abaca trading firm in Leyte over a century ago.
In 1920, Aboitiz & Company was incorporated after operating as a partnership for many years and ironically in that same year, it experienced its first major financial crisis. The company had built up a sizeable inventory of hemp on borrowed money when prices collapsed leaving it unable to cover its debts. Against the advice of many, Don Ramon Aboitiz refused to declare bankruptcy.
In a letter to his brother, he wrote:
“The biggest fortune I have is my word and reputation. Money can be lost and can be recovered; but once your name and reputation are lost, one’s word is worthless and one is truly finished.”
It may have taken many years to pay off the PHP2-million debt, but it was a worthwhile price to pay to be true to what we valued the most — our word of honor, our palabra de honor, and our name.
Had it not been for the sheer determination, hard work, and strong commitment of our Aboitiz forefathers to honor our word and our debts, the Aboitiz Group would not be around today.
That was a defining period in our history because it laid the foundation of the Aboitiz legacy of integrity in its highest form, always safeguarding our name from reputation risk.
This was a valuable lesson to the Group and a story we retell time and again. We carry on Don Ramon’s and our forefather’s legacy of integrity, always safeguarding our reputation, the very thing we consider to be our most valuable asset. It took us generations to build, grow and nurture, and we want to ensure that this legacy will continue to be upheld in succeeding generations.
Simon Sinek, in his book ‘Start With Why’, writes that “the greatest challenge any organization will face is success itself”. As companies grow more successful, they start focusing on the WHATs and the HOWs; what to achieve and how to achieve goals that are more tangible, and results easier to measure and reward. They stop focusing on the WHY; why we are in a particular business in the first place.
In Aboitiz, we realized that to sustain our business for the next 100 years, we had to clearly define and articulate our WHY, our purpose. Why we exist and what greater good we serve. It is important that we see ourselves in that purpose: How we can make a difference every day by living that purpose and making it real.
It is our WHY that will drive us to push and persevere in the face of adversity and to remain relevant to changing times.
Two years ago, we launched our group purpose: To drive change for a better world. This purpose is no different from what we and those before us have been doing over the last century. Ever since the time of Don Ramon and our forefathers, we have always found ourselves leading, influencing and driving change for the betterment of our fellow Filipinos, our communities, and the nation.
We facilitated trade and commerce for a hundred years through our shipping business, pioneering containerization and introducing the iconic Superferry and SuperCat brands. We offered clean loans to public school teachers who could not afford the requirements imposed by commercial banks and had no choice but to turn to usurious money-lenders. We supported growth and development in Davao, Cotabato, and Jolo by bringing reliable electricity to these areas. This effort has not stopped as our rural electrification programs continue to connect far-flung communities to the convenience of electricity. We were the early developers of renewable energy, harnessing clean energy from run-of-river hydro plants to energize communities. The best-kept secret is in fact that today, AboitizPower is one of the largest producers of renewable energy in the country.
Aside from being in the power business, the Aboitiz Group is currently in banking, food, infrastructure, and land. Our portfolio represents industries that provide the basic needs of consumers, sets the foundations for nation-building, and grows in parallel with the Philippine economy. The Group has made a name for itself in its CSR efforts, but we truly believe that it is through our businesses that we actually make the greatest impact on improving the quality of life of our fellow Filipinos. It is through our products and services that we are able to deliver on our promise of Advancing business and communities, what we refer to as our ABCs.
In power, we provide the Philippines with a balanced mix of energy sources to power and empower economic progress and communities, addressing our country’s energy trilema. Our goal is to make electricity available to every Filipino and make our country more competitive by driving down the cost of power.
In banking, we provide smart banking solutions and digitalization that will elevate lives and fulfill dreams through financial inclusion to the underserved sectors of society.
In food, we cultivate relationships with our partners to ensure the sustainability of the food chain.
In infrastructure, we provide innovative infrastructure-related solutions that will drive economic progress and uplift the lives of our countrymen.
In land, we help people live better lives by building deliberately designed residential, commercial and industrial communities.
As businessmen, there is no doubt we seek profits and a return on our capital. We, however, are equally guided by a strong sense of purpose that goes beyond just making money. Perhaps what makes our jobs more challenging is introducing the “AND”. “AND” adds another dimension to why and how we do things. We need to get a reasonable return on our investments “AND” ensure we are driving change for a better world. There is no reason why every action, every decision cannot somehow contribute to this greater purpose.
Sustainability is at the core of our growth story anchored on our philosophy that we can do well by doing good, always making the right long-term decisions that balance the interests of people, planet, and profit.
To support our growth aspirations and for us to remain relevant, we continue to strengthen our organization and build the management team that will take us into the future. Today, we consider ourselves a family-led, rather than a family-run, enterprise, with non-family professionals taking on very senior leadership roles.
Our unique culture, nurtured and strengthened over generations, is the secret sauce to the Group’s success. Every action we take or every decision we make is anchored on the Aboitiz time-honored values of integrity, teamwork, innovation, and responsibility.
Our values and culture keep us centered, steady, and focused on fulfilling our purpose and our brand promise to drive change for a better world by advancing business and communities. Every day, we strive to make a difference by living our purpose and making it real.
All of you graduates are here because you are leaders with ambition, with qualities and the potential to become great business leaders. Allow me to quote the eminent Washington Sycip, AIM’s former chairman emeritus, who once said, “Leadership qualities must be backed by high ethical and moral standards, humility, fairness, and a willingness to learn and change.”
So as you step out of the halls of the AIM, do keep this in mind. Your education and the values you have imbibed from this institute have prepared you well to seize limitless opportunities ahead.
Do the right thing and do the best you can. Like Aboitiz, consider your reputation as your greatest asset – one that you will protect at all cost.
Have a purpose. Follow your passion. And never give up. Ask yourself…Why am I here and what greater good do I serve? Live the life you are passionate about. Pursue your journey of learning and leading in your chosen field of endeavor even in the midst of challenging, rapidly shifting environments. Believe in what you do and let that feeling energize you. Never giving up means believing in yourself and never compromising your values, yet accepting failure and learning from it.
Think big, think long-term — just like Aboitiz and other businesses that started small but over time achieved big things. Bill Gates said: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
And lastly, don’t try to do everything yourself. Collaborate with others. As Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach, once said: “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
To all you graduates, congratulations and I wish you all the very best! Move along your journey with purpose.
To AIM, continue to be at the heart of an ever-changing Asia, to lead and blaze new trails, to inspire real-world learning, and to transform principled leaders.
Thank you and good day to all!