When the ‘Good Guys’ come in first

Published September 7, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

‘Nice guys finish last’ is the phrase often used to reference the general lack of incentive/respect provided by society for virtuous behavior, and rewarding those with more superficial qualities. So perhaps it takes a global pandemic for us to finally recalibrate that viewpoint, and give recognition for the Good Guys who find simple, yet meaningful, ways to show proper care and concern for their employees, their stakeholders, their consumers, and us – their public.

The ‘Good Guys’ find simple, yet meaningful, ways to show proper care and concern for their employees, their stakeholders, their consumers, and the public. SM Supermalls President Steven Tan, SMDC President Jose Mari Banzon and SM Prime Holdings President Jeffrey C. Lim share light moment during the SM Prime video shoot.

Since the onset in March of the COVID-19 Community Quarantine, SM Prime Holdings, Inc, and two of their major subsidiaries, SM Supermalls & SM Development Corporation, have led the way in showcasing Corporate Social Responsibility at a time when their integrated development revenues would take a hit. While there was a saving grace of the first quarter of 2020 seeing growth for SMDC, the overall picture for SM Prime saw them absorbing a second quarter 80% downturn compared to the same period in 2019. And yet, given the ongoing economic & health crisis, it was a time to look beyond the bottom line, follow the lead of the Sy family, embrace the SM Core Values, and find ways to be of service to the Government and the entire population.

As SM Prime President Jeffrey C. Lim was ready to point out, one of the best decisions made during this national health crisis has been converting the MOA Arena to a mammoth swab testing center for returning OFW’s. The recognition was made that it was not fair to assume the Government could solve the problem by itself; and it needed the all-out support of the private sector. Continuous employment of SM Prime personnel was emphasized; and whether the numerous SMDC properties or the SM Supermalls‘ 74 Malls all over the country, strict safety protocols were strictly complied with.

At SMDC, President Jose Mari Banzon was proud to say that uninterrupted service by the on-site staff was guaranteed, as transportation was provided. Weekend markets to provide residents access to fresh produce were organized, as were personal shopping services for the elderly and PWD residents. There were bloodletting activities to foster voluntarism; and webinars created, focusing on mental health, cyber security, fitness and wellness, and even promoting entrepreneurship.

As can be expected, it was SM Supermalls hardest hit by the prolonged Community Quarantine. As Steven Tan, SM Supermalls President recounts, 70% of their tenants are SME’s with no recourse to deep pockets, and rental concessions were arranged. As the Malls gradually reopened under GCQ, it was crucial that the safety of Mall-goers was ensured; and this included anti-microbial copper film for elevator buttons, and UV light disinfection for escalator hand rails.

In the provinces, where 3rd party delivery systems aren’t strong, SM reached out to the displaced jeepey drivers, recruiting them to effect deliveries. Online shopping, and said deliveries or take-outs, became the norm as SM were looking for ways and means to support their tenants and help them get through this tough time for all. Viber Groups kept the SM Malls community abreast of what was available, and how it could get to you.

Let’s now scratch the surface; get to know a little bit about the SM Prime’s Good Guys, go beyond the titles they carry:

Jose Mari Banzon is the one you don’t want to get caught in a foot race with. A marathon enthusiast; when prodded, he admitted he has a best time for 26.2 miles of 3 hours and 32 minutes (breaking 4 hours is the ‘wall’ most non-professional runners aim for). We laughed about his pandemic anecdote that after only two months, his treadmill at home broke down, as it wasn’t built for distance. He swears by his wife’s Roast Chicken as his go-to home-cooked meal. Placing the right value on the relationships you create is his best-learned COVID lesson; working with others, relying on them, and recognizing how they in turn rely on you were all heightened during this health crisis.

Steven’s Choice Radish Cake, steamed dim sum style, is the inside joke of what food choice is Steven Tan’s pandemic favorite. And for Steven, the most crucial lesson learned during the last six months is the importance of health – referring to the health of family, of friends, of work colleagues, and the Supermalls’ customers. One Manager passed away in March, succumbing to the virus. Friends of Steven know how much he loves traveling, and if there’s one place he’s truly missing, it would be Paris. He took his MBA there; and since the age of 21, he could be found strolling down the Rive Gauche at some point in the course of every year. For Steven, a visit to the City of Lights is his recharging ritual.

If pressed to say what new thing he ‘learned‘ during the pandemic, Jeffrey C. Lim would laugh and say he’s more tech-savvy than he’s ever been. Boiled eggs was his simple go-to food during the pandemic, and it resonates with how his big realization is that ‘You don’t really need so much to live the day-to-day’. The quarantine kept him from his love for Golf, and he shakes his head admitting it tremendously affected his handicap, in a bad way. I asked around, and the people I got to corral were unanimous in saying Mr. Lim is super-no frills, and always approachable; so it didn’t come as much of a surprise that when I asked him what was the most difficult thing he had to do during this pandemic, his eyes twinkled, and he joked, ‘This video shoot.’