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“Put more focus on people”: Cristina Samson

The 32-storey flagship establishment of Menarco Tower is a home for tenants and a corporate space for businesses that embodies Menarco Development Corporation’s philosophy of creating spaces that elevate human life. As COO Cristina Samson explains, that same philosophy was instilled in her even before she joined the company in July last year.

Cristina Samson, COO of Menarco Development Corporation

“I’ve known of Menarco since before they started to build their first tower,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “I joined because I believed in the philosophy of sustainability and thinking about people and the planet, and that has always been part of my core.”

With an average annual economic growth increase of more than six per cent between 2010 and 2019 in the Philippines, urbanisation has increased alongside a larger consumer demand supported by growth in business process outsourcing, property and real estate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economic growth in the country, driven by heavy declines in consumption and business ventures. But the economy is beginning to recover – the country saw a 3.7 per cent year-on-year expansion in the first half of 2021 – and vaccination numbers have surged, suggesting that the real estate cycle will coincide with a future upturn in financial gain.

“The thing about real estate is that there is a cycle,” Cristina says. “Real estate is not immediate, especially in our business, where it takes two, three, four or five years to finish a building. I believe we are part of a real estate cycle that lasts about seven-to-10 years, and I think now is a good time to start a new project.”

That new project is Menarco’s mixed-use high-rise building located on a prime thoroughfare of Bonifacio Global City. Designed by a Pritzker Architecture Prize awardee, the project contains an interconnected and efficient smart-building ecosystem across its residential, office and retail spaces.

Cristina says the building is the embodiment of Menarco’s commitment to people and the planet, and shows the company isn’t prepared to sit on its hands. “If we wait for things to improve in two or three years from now when the pandemic is over, it might be that we’re already at the end of the cycle – which is not ideal for the company, as I want to be there at the start of the new cycle. This is the time to plan it out.”

A value proposition

For Cristina, Menarco’s intrinsic values of authenticity, courage, empathy, mindfulness and excellence are the link to equality within the business. This is exemplified by the fact that both the CEO and COO of Menarco are women, something especially rare in the real estate industry.

“There is a philosophy and value that we instil within the company where we want our employees to be honest and critical in a respectful way, and not always agree with what the COO or CEO is saying,” she explains. “You can do and say what you want and it will be respected, accepted and considered.”

This push for equality is a signal to clients present and future of Menarco’s values and deep understanding that prioritising people and planet over profit is the key to sustainable growth and operations.

“The relationship between the tenants, developer, third-party partners, brokers and consultants has helped the company because of our shared philosophy, but you have to be able to communicate it on a personal level.”

The measure of success in property and real estate goes beyond the tangibles and is often complex, but Cristina puts it all down to one key message. “Put more focus on people,” she says. “What we’re trying to do right now is really look at the people, especially at this time, and not just look at the bottom line.

“One of the things since I joined was making sure that we’re all aligned, and that the people benefit from the company rather than us benefiting from the people.”

From the ground up

As a former president and managing director, Cristina’s background has been growing companies from the ground up and ensuring they are on the right trajectory.


Keeping it Personal

“When it really matters, Menarco has always been there,” Cristina says. “It has the brand, it has the philosophy – and I’m here to put it on a more personalised level, to make sure people don’t just know about it, but they really feel part of it.”

“Since I joined the industry, one of the things that pushed me was wanting to grow a company,” she says. “What I’ve done in past companies was establish them from the core. Even if I was not yet in the top position, I was very much a major part in growing the company into what it is today.

“With Menarco, it’s just going back to what I used to do, which is to start it and then do it – that is the perspective and the plan for the company to make it an industry leader.”

“We have been working with MDC since 2014. We have provided complete engineering design services, mechanical, electrical, electronics, plumbing, fire protection and vertical transportation. We are grateful and honoured, and it has always been a pleasure working with MDC.” – Ferdinand Naniong, President, Meinhardt Philippines

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