Starting out as a corporate lawyer in the Philippines, Marilyn Victorio-Aquino had no intention of becoming a CEO, let alone a CEO of a transport and logistics company. “Numbers have never been my cup of tea – words are my cup of tea. If you ask me to write up a legal contract, that’s no problem. But if you start talking to me about numbers and calculations, you’ll see me concentrating very hard,” she laughs.
“It’s not the traditional career path for a woman either. I certainly didn’t expect to end up working with warehouses and trucks, but it has presented a good challenge. Women tend to work differently than men: we are very detail oriented while they’re more hands-on. But in the end, we are all working towards the same goals. If you’re willing to learn and work hard, then there’s a place for you in the industry.”
After 30 years at SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan, in 2012 Marilyn left the firm as a senior partner to become the primary lawyer for her long-time client First Pacific, a Hong Kong-based investment management and holding company with operations throughout Asia–Pacific. With existing interests in consumer food products, infrastructure, natural resources and telecommunications, the company was looking to expand its reach to include logistics and transportation through its company Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC). Fuelled by strong industry demand, MPIC entered the logistics business in 2016 when it acquired the assets of A1 Move Logistics, Basic Logistics, Philflash Logistics, and BasicLog Trading and Marketing Enterprises for PHP2.17 billion.
MetroPac Movers recently started operations in its new three-hectare facility in Concepcion, Marikina, bringing the company’s total warehouse capacity to 33 hectares and 160,000 pallet positions.
“First Pacific gave me a variety of different roles that equipped me with the skills I needed to become a successful businesswoman, not just a lawyer,” explains Marilyn. “One of my biggest milestones was when I was selected to organise a new logistics company for Metro Pacific. It took me a year and a half to set up MetroPac Movers, but in 2016 we made our first acquisition and we’ve been running strong for two years now.”
In addition to her role as President and CEO of MetroPac Movers Inc (MMI), Marilyn’s responsibilities within the group also include everything from banking and finance, to construction and infrastructure, to investments, mergers and acquisitions, to mining and natural resources.
Under her leadership, the company has grown into one of the biggest cargo transport and logistics companies in the Philippines. Within a year, MMI had acquired 35 new clients, expanded its warehouse footprint to 235,000 square metres, and purchased 522 trucks equipped with GPS to service its warehousing, freight forwarding and trucking clients.
“Our success stems from our background, our DNA, and our people. Metro Pacific is always focused on being number one in the industry, so you can expect that we would hold ourselves to the same standards in how we do business and how we deal with our partners,” explains Marilyn.
“Metro Pacific has an established reputation in the business community. It’s a reputation that has opened a lot of doors for us as its subsidiary, and it inspires us to uphold this reputation as a brand people can trust and depend on.”
A crucial cog in the wheel of the burgeoning business, people play a large part in ensuring the future success of MMI. “Stemming from First Pacific and MPIC, our management team is made up of industry experts with centuries of combined experience. The logistics business is a service business. Our main resources are our people – whether they’re managers, drivers or warehouse workers,” explains Marilyn. Of the MMI Group’s 2,300 employees, a large part are non-college graduates.
“We’re all about creating futures. No matter what level of the business they’re in, we deliver on our promises to our employees, treating them with care, respect and professionalism. We’re now in the process of organising a scholarship program for the children of our employees to help shape their future and give them job security.”
“No matter what level of the business they’re in, we deliver on our promises to our employees, treating them with care, respect and professionalism.”
It’s this impact on people’s lives that drives Marilyn in her role. “For me, leadership means having a vision and a drive for excellence. It means being engaged with your people and giving them second chances. We work in an industry with strict demands for quality and timing, so mistakes are inevitable. What matters to me is that you learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them,” she explains.
Of Metro Pacific’s PHP100 billion capital spending budget this year, PHP6 billion has been allotted for its logistics business, MetroPac Movers.
“I get to travel around the Philippines, particularly through the disadvantaged regions, and look for the opportunities to use our assets and get these communities what they need. It’s very rewarding and it’s the reason I wake up every morning with a smile.”
Marilyn says efforts over the next few years will be focused on the expansion and development of distribution centres across the country, and that two 20-hectare properties in the north and south of Metro Manila have already been identified for its mega distribution centres project.
“We aim to have these mega distribution centres fully operational by the end of 2019,” she says. “On a long-term basis, we’re looking to increase the size of our distribution centres in Mindanao and we’re keeping a watchful eye on the development of ecommerce and other new technologies in coming years.” Marilyn says the company’s existing offering, coupled with investments to be made in the future, puts MetroPac Movers in a solid position for a leadership role in the highly fragmented logistics services industry.