The Gotianun Heirs: Forging a sustainable and resilient future

November 9, 2023
by Filinvest Development Corporation

The way we do business has drastically changed in recent years. Factors like social movements, great strides in technological advancement, and even the global health and climate crisis have all influenced decisions, directions, and whole business frameworks—for the better.

The talk of sustainability on a global scale may seem arduous. But if we look closer to home, it’s easy to see that hope for a greener and brighter future is also being planted right in our backyard.

That’s thanks to businesses run by conscientious leaders, like those of Filinvest Development Corporation. The Filinvest Group is best known for its work in real estate development, but its portfolio has expanded to banking, power generation, hospitality, and infrastructure becoming one of the largest and most diversified business groups in the country.

Through its nearly seven decades, the corporation has seen its share of change, all while establishing its legacy not just in business, but also in the lives of its stakeholders. Living up to this heritage of service comes with a lot of responsibilities, but the current heirs, Francis Gotianun and Isabelle Gotianun Yap have shown their resolve to carry the torch.

“I believe in preserving our family’s cherished traditions while constantly being open to innovative ideas,” says Francis Gotianun, Filinvest Hospitality’s first senior vice president. “This is the culture we are fostering at Filinvest. Our time-honored values guide us while we freely think outside the box to bring tangible benefits to our organization and business.”

Being Green, Inclusive, and Resilient

The challenge for many long-established businesses is to make sure the shift to sustainability is not just token, with programs or initiatives that are half-baked for the sake of compliance. With a clear sustainability framework identifying “Green, Inclusive and Resilient” as the main pillars, the Filinvest group ensures that sustainability is integrated into the core, system, and culture of the entire organization.

Across Filinvest’s business units, sustainability initiatives take on various faces. In real estate development, for example, the hallmark of a Filinvest property has always been the spaces’ interconnectedness with nature. Building and township designs at Filinvest put nature at the forefront, with at least 60 percent of the project’s footprint being dedicated to open spaces, green parks, or natural waterways. The people who will use the space also play an important role in the design, as mobility within the property is also given great consideration.

Filinvest is able to back this up with numerous recognitions and certifications. Filinvest City is noted to be the first dual green certified CBD in the country. It has received a LEED v4 Gold Certification for Neighborhood Development and a 3-star rating in the pilot version of BERDE Districts.

The Filinvest Group also has 12 buildings that have secured green building certifications from either LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), WELL, or IFC EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies).

Customers at the Heart of Sustainability

Filinvest places customers at the heart of sustainability.  The developer and operator of the Crimson and Quest hotels and resorts chain shared that a “holistic and well-balanced” approach is needed to achieve their sustainable goals.

“At Filinvest Hospitality, sustainability involves carefully balancing the economic and social benefits of the business with the preservation of natural resources, which overall contribute to enhancing our guest experiences,” says Gotianun.

“Our approach is guided by four pillars,” he says. “First, we prioritize ‘Service Excellence,’ consistently providing outstanding customer experiences. Second, we embrace ‘Inclusivity,’ supporting local communities for shared economic growth. Third, ‘Environmental Stewardship’ is crucial to us, as we focus on responsible resource management and eco-efficiency. We design our properties to be resilient and to be less vulnerable to natural calamities. We invest in the growth and well-being of our people, who essentially embody our values and deliver our unique brand of service.”

“By adhering to these principles, we seamlessly integrate sustainability into all aspects of our operations. This ensures exceptional experiences for our guests while preserving our planet’s resources for future generations.”

Filinvest ensures environmental stewardship by contributing to forest conservation efforts in the Philippines.  The company has initiated projects to support carbon forests in Mindanao, collaborating with local governments, academe, and NGOs such as the Philippine Eagle Foundation to expand the coverage of these adopted carbon forests, which now span 205 hectares. Additionally, Filinvest is actively involved in renewable solar projects and sustainable water solutions, further exemplifying their holistic approach to sustainability. These initiatives run parallel to their core business of providing essential baseload energy supply, effectively balancing social and economic demands for stable energy provision to communities in Mindanao and Visayas.

More than green

Sustainability means not only ensuring there is a livable earth left for future generations to inherit—but it also means that those coming after us will be able to live in a peaceful, safe, and stable society.

In simpler terms, that would look like a society where opportunities are equally available for people of all ages, races, genders, and gender identities.

Filinvest takes pride in having a legacy of empowering women leaders: The company was co-founded by Mercedes T. Gotianun; Josephine Gotianun Yap is a stalwart in the real estate sector; its current president is Rhoda A. Huang, and nearly half of the company’s Board of Directors are women. This culture of equality and gender-blind opportunities and growth extends across the board. Women make up 55 percent of the corporation’s employees, 49 percent are executive level, and more than 50 percent are executives, managers, and supervisors.

In the hospitality arm, opportunities are also given to develop talents and passions and promote diversity. In several properties, employment opportunities have been given to persons with disabilities (PWDs). Quest Cebu for example, with the help of Philippine Accessible Disability Services, currently employs five PWDs. Quest Cebu and Crimson Mactan also provide training in Philippine Sign Language to better communicate with guests.

Digital and futureproof

EastWest Bank’s core principles revolve around digitalization and inclusivity, making financing easily accessible to the mass market. The financial industry has been one of the sectors that experienced a great transformation post-pandemic. Digitalization became more than just an innovation for banks and financial institutions—it became a necessity. Filinvest Group’s EastWest touted as the leading consumer bank in the country, has invested in robust IT systems and initiatives to support the bank’s growth digitally. This transformation was made with the understanding of consumers’ needs, preferences, and challenges.

Isabelle Gotianun Yap, Executive Director of EastWest and chairperson of Filinvest’s digital venture arm F(dev), shares various exciting projects being developed by the group.

Understanding the need for more ease in banking, they’ve developed EastWest Pay, “the first contactless payment app where you can pay via credit card by just tapping your phone on the POS – point of sale system,” she says. This new technology is being introduced to the Philippines by EastWest Bank, and is set to change the way Filipinos use credit cards. “You don’t have to bring a card anymore so long as you have an NFC on your Android phone,” Gotianun Yap says.

The bank is also making use of AI through the EastWest System Tech Assistant (ESTA) chatbot. The AI chatbot can service customers, such as assisting in seeing one’s real-time credit card balance, after using EastWest Pay.

These integrated services are all developed to create a seamless banking ecosystem convenient for the customers.

But aside from convenience, financial inclusivity is also one of EastWest’s priorities.

A program Gotianun Yap takes pride in is their salary loans for public school teachers through EastWest Rural Bank. “In 2022 alone, we were able to service 23 percent of DepEd personnel,” she shares.

Another notable project towards digitalization under the helm of Gotianun Yap is Komo which launched in August 2020 amid the pandemic. Komo is one of the first fully digital banking services in the country.

“Komo [is] focused on those early on in their financial journey,” Gotianun Yap says. “The Personal Finance feature of our Komo app has also empowered customers to better understand the use of their funds and help pave the way for saving. It has moved the needle from a transactional app to a financially empowering everyday tool to help guide users in their spending and saving habits—really living up to its name Kontrol Mo (Komo) ang pera mo.”

Filinvest’s commitment to sustainability is not just a corporate responsibility but a fundamental part of their mission. As they continue to grow and evolve, the group will strive for a sustainable, resilient future wherein environmental responsibility and prosperity go hand in hand, creating a brighter, greener tomorrow for all.