Real estate veteran David Rafael to steer Aboitiz Land’s beachhead toward Great Transformation.
“We will maximize innovation as our key competitive advantage as embodied in our brand promise to innovate ways to lead more Filipinos home. We expect to see improvements in efficiency, customer experience and our financial bottom line. All this will be fueled by a highly engaged organization.”
ABOITIZ Land is betting on an old hand to normalize the “new” in its real estate portfolio.
The 36-year expertise of David Rafael, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Aboitiz Land, is perfectly aligned with the Aboitiz conglomerate’s vision to transform itself into a “techglomerate.”
Rafael, who holds an MBA (master of business administration) degree from the University of Virginia, has earned a reputation for being an “organizational troubleshooter.”
He is known for reinvigorating poor performances and for bullishly pursuing profitable commercial concepts.
Rafael was the brains behind the opening of Sky Ranch, a 5.7-hectare outdoor leisure and amusement park in Tagaytay City, for which SM Prime Holdings Inc. had forked out P180 million in investments.
Rafael was SM Prime’s senior vice president for Commercial Properties Group from 2009 to 2016 at the time its first Sky Ranch took off in 2013.
Sky Ranch Tagaytay got its ROI (return on investment) in less than five years, thus encouraging SM Prime to replicate the concept in Pampanga and Baguio City.
Rafael’s other big-ticket accomplishments with SM Prime include a 33-hectare warehouse complex, the negotiation and master planning of 660 hectares of reclamation projects in Pasay and Parañaque, and the management of the 67-hectare mixed-use concept of the SM Mall of Asia complex.
Prior to his stint with the Sy conglomerate, Rafael was the general manager of Ayala Land International Sales and Ayala Land Sales, and executive vice president of Ayala Theatres Management Inc.
Mall and cinema natives will recognize his work in the luxurious changes to the cinemas of Glorietta 4.
These huge flexes of his organizational leadership are but a run-up to what he hopes to achieve in Aboitiz Land:
“We will maximize innovation as our key competitive advantage as embodied in our brand promise to innovate ways to lead more Filipinos home,” he said.
He looks to the company’s early bold investments as a foretelling of imminent rewards.
“We expect to see improvements in efficiency, customer experience and our financial bottom line. All this will be fueled by a highly engaged organization,” he said.
Rafael has pegged Aboitiz Land to become one of the flywheels of the Great Transformation of the Aboitiz conglomerate.
Aboitiz Land is democratizing real estate investments.
“We are pioneering products and innovations, and expanding our market base to include the economic housing segment,” Rafael said.
These are the avowed goals despite the string of uncontrollable variables lately.
Rafael singles out the “massive inflation, supply chain disruption, geopolitical uncertainties severely affecting the international trade system” as the main cost drivers of construction materials.
These developments squeeze margins.
“Inflation has affected interest rates as well, making homeownership in the Philippines even more challenging, as most can hardly afford home loan interest rates.
“These factors have greatly affected the way we do business, but have urged us to leverage even more on our culture of innovation in Aboitiz Land so we can get ahead of these challenges,” he said.
Rafael is laser-focused on results without forgetting that it’s tinkering with the system that gets the company to its targets. He is proud of innovations in Aboitiz Land that have unleashed the capacities of its human resources.
“We freed team members from monotonous manual processes so they can focus on inspired, meaningful work,” he said. “We were able to digitize our homebuying service efficiently two weeks into the pandemic, which resulted in our highest sales in 2021 and beat our own record in sales in 2022.”
Its fast-paced digitalization was complemented by the upgrading of construction technology. Innovations like the use of precast concrete panels afforded Aboitiz Land to cut construction time by half.
They applied Building Information Modeling and Trimble Status to increase design efficiency, reduce costs and shorten the project design life cycle.
Conscious of difficult times ahead, Aboitiz Land partnered with mortgage brokers to ease financing for desirous homeowners.
Rafael sees his job as a lookout for the correct conditions in real estate investing.
“We find out who the target market is by checking what is selling, and what product types people are buying and looking for. Then, we find out more about the location — is it a good location? Why? What are the technical conditions of the property?”
The answers tie up with their brand promise.
Trends inform their decisions.
Rurbanization (rural plus urban), Rafael said, will persist in the next five years. The pandemic phenomenon has triggered consciousness for work-from-home and other remote arrangements among companies. Rafael sees this trend pointing to the preference for greener and more open spaces in areas close to emerging cities.
Vacation rentals will be on the rise carried by the tide of revenge tourism. The live-work-play lifestyle will prevail and drive demand for integrated communities.
Amid all these, green and sustainable living will be “the bare minimum” of property features, Rafael observed. He noted more developers securing green building certifications and future-proofing projects as more homebuyers inquire about environmental sustainability.
Aboitiz Land is braced for demographic shifts and the transfer of purchasing power. “Younger investors are becoming more savvy in looking for properties in the market. There’s an observed transition of wealth, and power on businesses and families to third generations,” he said.
Then, reliable OFW (overseas Filipino worker) remittances will continue to bankroll property buying sprees.
Rafael finds himself ready to pounce on these opportunities which he considers highways to growth.
“One’s inability to take advantage of opportunities out there can be a hindrance. This includes lacking appetite for risk, being too conservative, too fixed and too narrow in your career goals. Also getting too comfortable, staying in your comfort zone for too long, thinking you don’t want to change and sticking to a routine. Sometimes, it also makes me think, what if I pursued other opportunities in other industries, especially in other countries?” he reflected.
He looked back at his leadership of Aboitiz Land during the onset of the pandemic. It was survival mode with all hands on deck.
“I can truly say that this is how transformation started because everything we knew — the culture, the processes — we have changed them so dramatically,” he said.
The challenges and the urgency inspired him. And as it’s not yet all roses either, Rafael’s mettle at crisis points might just be the big prod toward the Great Transformation.
Read from The Manila Times: https://www.manilatimes.net/2023/03/17/business/boardroom-watch/david-takes-the-lead/1883039Read More
In response to the recent studies showing that more and more Filipinos are interested in investing in real estate even during the pandemic, AboitizLand partnered with UnionBank of the Philippines for a discussion on contactless home-buying processes.Read More
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