In economically distressing times, it’s the chief finance officers (CFOs) of corporates who will be doing the ‘heavy lifting’ in unlocking the value of their organizations so they could bounce back faster – especially in a cycle immensely disturbed by a pandemic; or even when an economic era collapses and new paradigms would be emerging.
This is the same challenge that 38-year old Reynaldo P. Abilo, the new CFO of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC), will be confronted with – to help reverse the ‘horror show’ of demand slump as well as negative top and bottom lines that the Covid-19 health crisis had caused to almost all players in the oil industry.
Abilo, who is commonly known as Rey to his peers, colleagues and friends, is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who possesses more than 16 years of track record and solid credentials in the finance field — both in the Philippines and from sterling global assignments before he was named CFO and Vice President for Finance and Treasurer of Pilipinas Shell in January this year.
That wealth of experience, he claimed, prepares him well for the task of leading Pilipinas Shell’s finance team – and how he will steer the organization to unlocking values that will enable it to spring back from the pandemic-induced financial torment the company had been trapped into last year.
“I am an enabler. The first thing I need to do is enable the finance department to be a good partner to Shell,” he enthused, while adding that “what is important is there’s a good visibility and transparency of the values and risks. So as a CFO, that’s my primary role.”
He explained that “for all the initiatives, projects and all the things we’ve been working on, we should have a good, clear idea of what’s the value on the table – because that should drive our decisions. At the same time, we should look at the risks that we have to manage as we deliver on those projects or those activities.”
In the newly unveiled five-year investment growth trajectory of PSPC, it will be his finance team that will serve as the management’s anchor in unlocking more appreciable and extraordinary values that the company could offer to its customers – that in turn could also bring well-deserved dividend values for its shareholders as the oil firm targets to return to retained earnings post-Covid.
In the P3.0 billion to P4.0 billion capital outlay programmed by PSPC in beefing up its mobility stations and in scaling up its medium-range world class import terminals, Abilo said his team will “enable value generation, enable integration among departments and classes of businesses so that we can unlock values to the company.”
He asserted “my knowledge and expertise in capital evaluation and investments would be something that I can definitely bring to the table – how we can refine our investment decision-making processes, so that all these investments translate to better financial incomes and financial yields for PSPC.”
By far, this young finance executive isn’t new in shepherding a team along PSPC’s change management journey – because when the oil firm decided on its listing at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) in November 2016, he took the lead as chief audit executive in building the internal audit system of the company from scratch.
Showcasing global Filipino talents
Having graduated Cum Laude with BS Business Administration & Accountancy degree from the University of the Philippines, Abilo is unequivocally a ‘home grown’ talent – but one who has conquered the international realm of the finance field to showcase the world-class capabilities of Filipinos.
He was on global assignment in Singapore for Shell on a five-year stretch from 2012 to 2016; and that similarly exposed him to various markets – from Europe, Americas and the Middle East, on his role as global investment manager for the downstream B2B business –an exceptional feat indeed for an executive who was just in his late 20’s then.
Adding on to his mastery in the profession had been his previous employment as audit associate at SGV & Co., the country’s top audit firm affiliated with Ernst & Young; and he also worked with another multinational firm prior to his stint at Shell. His main advocacy is likewise rooted in his mantle as chairperson of the Young Finance Officers Committee of the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), the country’s premier organization of finance professionals.
“I have been exposed to a lot of markets within the Shell group, a lot of business models – so it is something that I can bring to PSPC as we go through this transition from a supply chain-owned refining products to fully-import business model,” Abilo narrated.
He further reckoned that “my experience in global roles and also my youth help me be more curious about business models; about what’s happening externally because you know these processes need to be included in those discussions in order for us to be able to innovate as a company.”
The PSPC finance chief qualified that it’s also important “to be attuned with the changing times – with what’s happening, particularly given the pandemic, the new normal, digitalization and other emerging trends.”
Those gainful employment overseas and diverse market exposures are now serving also as his inspiration to motivate other Filipino talents – especially in the finance field — that they too can exhibit impressive and outstanding skill set in the international arena.
“Working in Singapore as an expatriate there for five (5) years, I thought it’s good that Filipinos will be at a global scene and that Filipinos will be seen as very competent, credible and good executives for Shell,” he expounded.
Abilo added that “from a totality perspective in PSPC, my goal is to develop talents, to make sure that we continue exporting talents globally – to expose our talents to the global and regional operations because at the end of the day, Filipino talents are world class and they can contribute so much for Shell group and for the companies in PSPC.”
And in the pay-back rhythm of corporate sea changes, he emphasized that “in the long-term, these world class talents will go back to the Philippines and would lead operations in the country and will lead PSPC achieve greater heights in the future.”
Repositioning PSPC as ‘big brother’ of corporate governance
For his role as Shell CFO and on his more expansive advocacy at FINEX, Abilo noted he is most passionate about advancing ‘corporate governance’ or instituting structure of rules, practices and processes in a corporate organization, “because you enable success or delivery of the business; at the same time, making sure that ethics and compliance are firmly embedded in the company’s operations.”
And he was forthright enough in stating that he cannot tolerate dishonesty and corruption within his team and the organization. “In Shell, we always espouse honesty, integrity, respect for people…and through my career in Shell, I’ve worked very hard to reach the level where I am.”
Abilo vouched that he looks up to his father in embracing those values in his profession, “because I came from a modest family. And my father, despite all the hardships and all the things that he will need to do in order for us to have good education, he always maintained integrity and he always tells us to do the right thing even though no one is looking. So that’s something that inspires me.”
And at Shell, he stressed that “for company to be successful and sustainable, we need to have good corporate governance. We already have leading practices in corporate governance, but the challenge is how to sustain it and how to even bring it further to a ‘best practice scale’ wherein PSPC is seen as a ‘big brother’ in terms of governance and how we can spread these practices in the industry; at Shell; and in the local business community.”
Within FINEX’s territory, he conveyed that they’re also bridging gaps in developing young talents, training young finance officers – especially on how they could turn into successful CFOs someday.
Conclusively, through all the socio-economic provocations of cataclysms or even a pandemic, the Pilipinas Shell CFO professed that “I have high hopes for the country because the Philippines has so much potential – and if only the business sector together with the government and the communities in general would work together, we could achieve a lot of greater things for the country.”