Antonio G. “Jumbing” de Rosas, CPA, CGMA
Antonio G. “Jumbing” de Rosas, CPA, CGMA

CEO: Empower people to achieve success

Although serving as CFO can give you the foundation to succeed as CEO, understanding people is just as important as mastering the numbers.

By Ken Tysiac

Working as a finance chief gave Antonio G. “Jumbing” de Rosas, CPA, CGMA, the background he needed to run Pru Life UK, the Philippines subsidiary of British insurance giant Prudential Plc.

“The CFO position gets you the knowledge that you need to be able to drive the company,” said de Rosas, who was named the company’s chief executive in 2010. “But it is still a very big step from CFO to CEO when it comes to people engagement.”

De Rosas is tasked with growing Pru Life’s business in the Philippines, where life insurance market penetration historically has been low. Paying careful attention to the people aspect of the company has produced favourable results for the CEO. Under his leadership, Pru Life UK, which is not affiliated with US-based insurer Prudential Financial, has seen its total gross premium income grow from PHP 7.8 billion (about $178 million) in 2010 to PHP 18.5 billion ($423 million) in 2013. That success has come from a simple point of view: “It’s more about others than yourself.”

De Rosas shared some of his tips for successfully leading people:

Inspire. The motivational duties of a company leader became abundantly clear to de Rosas as he prepared for his first speech as CEO. He was scheduled to address 2,000 agents, and his mission was to encourage them to sell. He has a simple formula for such a speech: “I have to touch their hearts,” he said.

Speak simply. When addressing an audience, de Rosas speaks from the heart and with empathy. He relates personal experiences where applicable. He speaks in simple language with transparency and considers the employees’ views on the subject matter. “I have credibility to do this, since I rose from the ranks,” he said.

Connect. During the month of their birthday, Pru Life UK employees are invited to a group lunch with the CEO. The program started as a 20-minute coffee with the CEO where employees would ask a few quick questions. It evolved into a 90-minute lunch during which attendees get to know de Rosas and ask deeper questions. A fitness buff, de Rosas also participates in sporting activities alongside employees during summer outings.

Train. Shortly after de Rosas became CEO, human resources had difficulty getting employees interested in the training programs. “Too busy” was a common excuse. But the company constantly reminds employees of the benefits of employee development. The message has gotten through; now there are waiting lists for some training programs.

Communicate. Corporate leaders often comment on how well the executive team at Pru Life UK is aligned. De Rosas said this alignment is enabled by constant communication and well-defined roles. The company’s executive committee meets at least once a week, and the committee members’ compensation is tied to common metrics. So rather than reporting on what is going on in each division, committee members talk about how they can work together so that those common metrics are achieved. The meetings are informal in character and akin to a family having a discussion over a meal, de Rosas said. He also believes in meeting with other executive committee members in person when he needs to talk with them. “I think the leader sets the stage by being an example,” he said. “And others will follow.”