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Keeping people at the heart of a winning strategy

September 24, 2021

Willis Towers Watson shares the secret to its successful 40 years of providing world-class advisory, broking services and business solutions in the Philippines

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a torrent of challenges for many businesses, from keeping their own workforces safe from infection to working around the physical restrictions necessary in the new environment.

This was how it was for advisory and broking firm Willis Towers Watson (WTW) Philippines, but it was made much worse when their head James Patrick G. Matti caught the virus as well.

Mr. Matti got infected with a severe case in March last year and was hospitalized for twenty days, five days of which was in intensive care. Looking back at his experiences in an interview, he recounted how much he started to relish the small pleasures he was given, such as the first chocolate bar he had once he finally recovered.

“It was like I was a new man. You really get to appreciate the blessings in life. I appreciated sunshine. I appreciated the well-wishes of friends and family. You really have to celebrate life,” he said.

Mr. Matti recounted how the experience has made an impact in his own life, and how it has reinforced his vision for WTW.

At the end of the day, it’s the quality of our talent and their collective passion to make a difference in our society, with our shared end goal of uplifting the standard of living of the Filipino.”

James G. Matti | Head, Willis Towers Watson Philippines

“The rigors of business are tough because at the end of the day you need to deliver results, specifically financial results based on the capital given by shareholders. But at the same time, you have to realize that there are more important imperatives to business.”

“My own experiences with COVID have made me far more courageous in giving honest, independent, and objective advice to our clients. Gone are the days of self-absorption where we only think of our own growth at the expense of others. At a time like this, it’s extremely critical that all boats should be rising and we should be helping one another in the true spirit of bayanihan.”

For 40 years in the Philippines, WTW has been providing business solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Utilizing market analytics and behavioral insight, the company seeks to create a unified approach to people and risk leading towards a path of growth and sustainability for its clients.

WTW has been instrumental in landmark developments such as the design and architecture of the 2015 and 2019 Salary Standardization Laws as well as the Compensation Position Classification System (CPCS) for Government-Owned -and-Controlled Corporations (E.O. 203). The company has also worked for several high-profile clients, including the largest conglomerates, prominent multinationals and venerable institutions in the country.

The success of such projects, Mr. Matti attributed to the quality of their talent and their collective vision for the company.

“At the end of the day, it’s the quality of our talent and their collective passion to make a difference in our society, with our shared end goal of uplifting the standard of living of the Filipino,” he said.

“The reason to which I would attribute our continued success in the Philippines is the fact that we have been blessed with top talent. Not only intellectually, but in the manner that they find meaning, purpose and relevance in their work, that they are out to serve our clients to hopefully resolve their issues and problems, and at the same time enhance our business so that we can become more productive and profitable, relevant to our needs and requirements.”

“It’s really our key formula. That’s the strong essence of WTW. And one hallmark that we have is that we are here for the long haul,” he added.

A Legacy Of Excellence

A core strategy of WTW, according to Mr. Matti, has been to “walk the talk,” that is, to serve as an example of the kind of business that would both serve the needs of the Filipino people, as well as thrive in the changing industry landscape.

“We continue to be committed to not only help clients navigate through the increasing complexity and challenges brought about by the pandemic, but to allow them to be confident to face the new landscape in the post-pandemic world,” he said.

Patrick Marquina, the company’s Talent and Rewards Leader, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has offered equal opportunities and challenges for organizations to reconsider their employee experience across the different aspects of work.

“The breadth and depth of our expertise spans across our experience of 40 years in the Philippines. We have the largest database on compensation and benefits that guide the way we partner with organizations in the Philippines to help them attract, retain and engage their employees. Supported by rich data and analytics that we have built throughout the years, we are able to advise our clients in the best way to take care of their biggest asset which is their people.

“Organizations are accelerating their technology deployment plans to ensure the survival of their business. HR is in a unique position to make a strategic impact on businesses and their workforce, and WTW can be their strategic partner to guide them through this journey and transformation,” he said.

Employee well-being has emerged as a new priority for businesses as a result of the pandemic and many companies are readjusting their strategies and programs to compensate — an area that WTW specializes in.

We partner with our clients in achieving a benefits program that is fit for purpose, engaging, compliant, future-ready and sustainable.”

Susan J. La Chica | Health and Benefits Leader, Willis Towers Watson Philippines

“The pandemic has created an opportune time for companies to focus on developing a longer-term health and well-being road map. More leaders are acknowledging that a proactive and holistic approach to strengthening the health and well-being of their workforce is required to produce a positive business impact,” Susan La Chica, Health and Benefits Leader, further noted.

“We have unparalleled experience in assisting many of the country’s largest companies in providing total benefits solutions for their employees. We partner with them in achieving a benefits program that is fit for purpose, engaging, compliant, future-ready and sustainable,” she added.

Romeo Carabeo, the company’s Retirement Leader, added that financial wellbeing is a relatively new benefit gaining ground and there is a growing realization that this is an area that should be a key component in the rollout of any benefit program for employees.

“Encouragingly for employers, there is evidence that employees want the support of their employer to help them address their financial concerns created by the pandemic. They want to better understand and be in control of their financial priorities, and maintain a resilient financial position in the future,” he said.

The response to the global COVID-19 pandemic is also shaping how companies view and manage risk, fueling the desire of WTW to develop innovative and bold solutions that can help clients strengthen their business resilience.

“Now more than ever, effective risk management is key to ensuring sustainability, security and growth of an organization. The forced change to remote working and greater reliance on technology has increased the organizations’ vulnerability to different threats such as cyber risks, and we are working with companies to manage this change effectively, protect their business and shareholders’ interests,” Mr. Matti added.

“Furthermore, as one of the world’s leading risk advisors and experts in assessing and mitigating climate risk, WTW is committed to supporting measures aimed at helping to tackle climate change. We support our clients in their need to manage climate risk as a low-carbon, resilient economy is no longer solely a matter of conscience but a strategic and financial imperative,” he emphasized.

He said that it all comes back to empathy and compassion. Being a COVID survivor himself, Mr. Matti has experienced firsthand the hardship the pandemic has brought to the Filipino people. WTW, he said, remains committed to keeping people at the core of its strategy towards a goal of creating a meaningful impact for both the country and the business.

“You really have to have empathy and compassion. At the same time, you must have the strength and the courage to make a difference, to make those decisions. In my case, as the head of the company, I have a fiduciary and moral responsibility to our people, shareholders, our clients, and our various stakeholders. I have to ensure that the decisions I make are relevant, beneficial and significant for the business. For our people, especially,” he said.

This story was published by BusinessWorld on September 27, 2021.

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