Vicente Ayllon - B.S. Commerce 1952

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Vicente Ayllon - B.S. Commerce 1952

Post by icemint on Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:54 pm

Vicente R. Ayllón: Paragon of a Patriarch behind Insular Life
By Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star)

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Vicente Ayllón, Insular Life chairman and CEO: He has devoted 54 of his 78 years to this distinguished institution.

At 78, Vicente “Ting” R. Ayllón still presides as chairman of the board of The Insular Life Assurance Company, which celebrates its 99th anniversary this month. Longevity works in parallel great directions of purpose.

Not too many corporations in the country can lay claim to being on the cusp of a century. It has certainly helped that Ayllón, who joined the company when he was but 24 years old and Insular Life still had its building on Escolta, has devoted 54 years of his life to this distinguished institution.

His first job was as a junior clerk, higher only than being a messenger. He thus learned the ropes the hard way, rising to become a senior clerk, then a supervisor. Hitting his stride while handling group insurance, in charge of attractive large companies such as Shell, Caltex, and Pilippine Manufacturing Company or PMC, he was rewarded with a promotion to assistant manager.

When the company opened an office in Barcelona, he was asked to go along with two other Spanish-speaking executives. After all, he had studied under the Spanish Dominicans at Letran, and spoke Spanish with his mother at home.

In 1977, he became Insular Life president. Ten years later, Insular Life mutualized under the presidency of the man who is credited for having created the Greenbelt in Makati, opened up Buendia Avenue, sold the last properties on Legaspi Village, and put up Salcedo Village. It became a mutual company, no longer part of the Ayala Group. Since then, it has continued to grow from strength to strength.

Now Ting fondly looks back and says, “While the Insular Life of today is very much different from the Insular Life that I joined more than 50 years ago, it has kept the timeless values that guided our forefathers in the company. We encapsulated these into what we call our four core values: commitment to excellence, integrity in work, respect for the individual, and upliftment of the Filipino.”

This captain of industry who has steered the company through good and bad weather well into the 21st century adds that Insular has learned many valuable lessons in the course of its corporate life.

“We of the current generation of employees owe a lot to those who came before us, who handed from one generation of employees and agents to another the values of integrity, prudence, word of honor and hard work. We try to maintain a quality of life for our people within the work area and in their respective family lives, even as we impose high standards for ourselves and the company.

“We are far from perfect, but through all the challenges, we are able to rise and move forward, because we keep our focus fixed on whatever is good and fair for our policyholders and the public. Prudent and fundamentally sound investment policies, firm underwriting guidelines, and strong actuarial basis have always been the foundation of Insular Life’s management practice. And all these translate to a strong and stable financial position with assets amounting to P60 billion, and net income of P2.1 billion in 2008.”

Despite being one of the few Filipino corporations to knock on the doors of a century-mark milestone, while remaining to be the largest and most trusted Filipino life insurance company in the country, Insular has generally refrained from advertising itself in mass media. Ayllón explains:

“In the Philippines, life insurance continues to be a product that is not bought; it must be sold. And to sell life insurance, you need professionally licensed life insurance agents to assess your financial needs and provide you with the best sound advice based on your needs. Thus, the agency system is still the biggest channel by which our products are sold. Advertising in mass media does not drive our sales, and so we would rather channel our resources toward activities that will increase the capacity of our sales agents to sell more policies, and that would be in the areas of training, motivational drives and sales support. We still maintain a certain level of presence in mass media, in order to be top of mind among the public, especially among the younger generation of Filipinos.

“I believe the good reputation that we continue to enjoy is very much hard-earned. Our agents and employees are constantly aware of their responsibility of keeping the trust and confidence of our policyholders at an all-time high because insurance is first and foremost a business based on trust.”



Insular’s development couldn’t help but be intertwined with the nation’s history in the last century. As a partner for progress, its contributions to the insurance industry and to the country’s welfare are well known. Funds that are pooled from policyholders’ premiums have been lent out to credit-worthy enterprises, or invested in giant industries in the fields of oil, water, highways, telecommunications, power generation, container services, shipbuilding and property development, in both the public and private sectors.

Ayllón adds: “We also have substantial investments in government securities that fund the construction of roads, schools, other infrastructure projects, and so on. We have been contributing to the generation of long-term domestic capital because for almost 100 years, we have encouraged millions of individuals to keep their money saved well into the future. Thus, if you buy a life insurance for yourself, you are also helping strengthen the economic future of the Philippines. For almost a century we have participated in the mainstream of Philippine economic history and we intend to continue to do this in a more meaningful way, to help improve the quality of life of Filipinos.”

The company’s support of arts and culture has also been one of its distinguishing features. It keeps one of the most extensive collections of Fernando Amorsolo paintings. The Napoleon Abueva sculptural bas relief that used to greet passers-by along the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas remains an art landmark despite its transfer to the corporate headquarters in Alabang. Insular also helped sustain theater company Repertory Philippines during its formative years. All of these initiatives have been a sterling aspect of the company’s history.

“Yes,” Ting allows, “we continue to give our share in helping educate people and develop the love for arts and culture. We have commissioned several Filipino artists to create works of art that now adorn our ground floor lobby at our headquarters in Alabang, Muntinlupa. We have the marble sculpture of Malakas at Maganda by Impy Pilapil, the Higaonon and Itneg Maidens made of brass by Jose Mendoza, and a stylized version of a bird in flight made of aluminum and glass, also created by Mendoza.

“Our latest foray is our support for the Filfest Foundation, Inc. Filfest or Friends of Insular Life was formed by a group of ladies residing in the south to create a program of performances that elevates entertainment to an appreciation of classical music and dance. All performances are staged at our 524-seater theater in Alabang. We are also able to expose the residents in the south of Metro Manila to international artists whom we invite to perform in our theater.”

Filfest just ended its second year this November with the show “Harana” staged by the Philippine Opera Company. Through a venue grant and a subsidy of the production, Insular is able to provide opportunities for Filipinos to showcase their talents in music and the performing arts.

Ting Ayllon also continues to believe in “being one of the boys” within the company. He still makes it a point to share in a convivial breakfast with employees once a month, and looks forward to leading everyone into a spiritual retreat in January when he turns 79.

“You know,” he says with a broad smile, “I look forward to the monthly birthday breakfast because this is my way of staying young! Levity aside, this is a practice that I do on a regular basis because it is the best way for me to know the pulse of our people. For his part, Mayo Ongsingco, our president and COO, also hosts quarterly birthday cocktails for supervisors and senior personnel for the same reason.

“The spiritual retreats are opportunities for our executives to remain grounded on the most important things in life, to put everything in their proper perspective. In the daily grind of corporate life, sometimes we become so engrossed with our work and making our targets that we neglect our health, our family life, our values. Aside from bringing us back to our center, our spiritual retreats build teamwork and strengthen our commitment to our corporate mission and core values. So, this is an exercise that we try to do on a regular basis.”

The commercial potential of Insular’s prime site in Makati’s financial district continues to spawn speculations about possible plans for further maximization. Ayllón also takes time to speak on this matter:

“At present, our office building along Ayala Avenue is more than 100% occupied since we have tenants even in the building’s basement, rooftop and staircase landings. Definitely, the location of our property in Makati is a very prime one and demand for office space in such an address is very high. The commercial potential of this site is really something that we plan to optimize. As such, to further provide us with greater developmental freedom, we have already purchased the parking lot, along Valero, behind our building. Given the combined size of these properties, we have the capability to build the tallest and largest building in the country in the future. However, we are taking things in stride considering the lingering depressed economy and the decline in locators of foreign-owned businesses.”

Having led Insular Life for 30 years, where does he envision the management team to take the hallowed company from here on, and what can the public expect from it in the future?

“We shall take advantage of our 99 years of financial knowledge and insurance experience to better understand the needs of Filipinos in various life stages. We shall continue to be a pioneer and a local champion in the Philippine life insurance industry by offering innovative products and services that aim to uplift the lives of the Filipino people. As such, the public can expect from us more value-adding financial products and services that provide protection, savings potential and investment earnings. We shall aim to provide greater convenience to our policyholders by continuing to expand our payment facilities and market reach.

“Insular Life continues to evolve with the times, keeping itself relevant to the present generation. I don’t think any company can thrive for almost a century without constantly reinventing itself. Our life insurance products today address the emerging preferences of the market — short premium paying period, earlier endowment pay-outs, insurance protection with hospitalization benefits, educational benefits that grow every year, to name a few.”

Insular Life will also continue to invest in young people. For this purpose, it established the Insular Life Educational Foundation, which offers scholarship grants to the best and the brightest students from the top 1,000 public and private schools who would consider pursuing a degree in BS Education or a teaching career.

Ting asserts, “We feel that to have a progressive country, we need young people who are well-educated. And the best way to educate people is to have the best teachers.”

It may well be said that being at the helm of a 99-year-old financial institution that continues to be a significant partner in building our nation — from the micro level in terms of helping individuals and families become financially protected against uncertainties in life through the benefits of life insurance, to the macro level by way of investing in various industries that keep the Philippine economy humming — Vicente R. Ayllón has been both a doer and a teacher, thus a paragon of a patriarch whose example demands emulation.
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