CEO Moments: What Razon, Ayala, and Sy Have Learned from the COVID-19 Financial Crisis

Lessons learned by the country's top business leaders.

At Go Negosyo’s Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Conference, four of the country's biggest entrepreneurs and CEOs gathered to discuss the COVID-19 economy, with the topics ranging from macroeconomics, MSMEs, and government spending. 

The talk later pivoted to the integral role of leadership in times of hardship, putting the spotlight on each leader’s realizations or “CEO moments” during the COVID-19 crisis.

Here’s what each business leader had to say about leadership, community, and what the COVID-19 crisis has taught them:

Enrique Razon, chairman and president of International Container Terminal Services Inc.

Photo by Courtesy of Entrepreneur Philippines.

"To always expect the worst. But of course, always hope for the best."

"What continues to amaze me is the spirit of the people, how most people step up in situations like this. One thing everyone should learn is to be prepared for the next one. Surely, there will be a next one. When I was very young, I read in a book, “There are no desperate situations, only desperate men.”"


Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, CEO and chairman of Ayala Corporation


"To cooperate to get ourselves out of this crisis and do what we can to be catalysts for change."

"There’s no playbook for something like this. You have to use your common sense, your instincts, have more more empathy than ever before, listen more carefully. I think what this crisis has shown is that we’re all part of a system that’s more integrated than ever before."

Teresita Sy-Coson, co-chairman of SM Investments

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"As a leader, you have to be in front when the crisis comes, especially when it’s  unexpected."

"And I’m happy to note that many leaders in our business units have stepped up to the front, got hold of the situations, assessed, took care of the employees, engaged in the customer, and looked inward to see how we can survive the pandemic."

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia

"Transparency and honesty with your staff."

"To really build a togetherness and continue communications so ideas come out and we can restructure the business. Zoom calls broke down invisible walls and say guys, either we work together or find new ways of working together, or else we’re finished."

These quotes have been shortened for clarity and brevity. You can watch the entire conference here.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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