From sales promotions assistant to CEO - Philam Life ex-CEO Ariel Cantos shares the lessons learnt in his journey

| 07 Oct 2019

Interview with Mr Ariel Cantos, Senior Advisor to the CEO of Philam Life. (Video by Azri Bahari and Sharon Zhong.)

Mr Ariel Cantos is Senior Advisor to the CEO of Philam Life. Before assuming his current role, he served as the CEO before stepping down in March 2019. Asia Advisers Network sat down for an exclusive interview with him to reflect on his journey and to pass on his wisdom from over 37 years of experience in the insurance industry.

Rising through the ranks from his start as a management trainee and a sales promotions assistant to the highest position of the organisation, he said there is no substitute for hard work.

“Do your best every day. Do not be afraid to work really hard. Ultimately, in time, you will be able to reap the benefits of your hard work,” he said.

The greatest lessons in life and career

On his greatest lessons in life and career, he said his career in Philam Life has demonstrated that “Where you start in life, should never dictate how far you can go or how high you can fly.”

Secondly, do not be arrogant in thinking that your success is only down to your efforts.

Ariel said, “No matter how hard you work, no matter how good you might seem to be, you can never do it alone. It's so important that you work with others as part of a team and collaborate because you can achieve much, much more when you work together.”

And the final lesson he shared was to have a positive mindset.

“I have always believed that having a positive mindset is very important. No matter what happens in work and in life, no matter how it seems to be so challenging and problematic, if you train yourself to look at something positively, you will always find something that is positive,” he said.

Advice for young executives

A success characteristic he has observed is that do not be afraid to assume as many responsibilities as possible.

He said, “I've always emphasised to our people that if you are given projects, accept them because they will only make you better. Whether you succeed in doing that, or even if you fail, you will still be better because of the experience.

Watch also: Philam Life CEO on narrowing the protection gap in the Philippines

“And can you imagine if you are given so many projects and responsibilities? That means that you are given so many opportunities to develop. And when you're given those opportunities to develop, ultimately that will amount to your success.”

What makes a great leader?

Popular and well-loved in Philam Life where he spent some 35 years, a principle he lives by as a leader is to connect with people with a sincere desire to really take care of them.

He has found that to be very effective to get people working together as a team to achieve goals. “If people really believe and feel that you are there working with them to make them better and to help them become successful, you will get their support and their cooperation,” he said.

“When you take care of your people, develop them, and help them become successful, you too will be successful. And ultimately the organisation will grow.”

A meaningful industry

Giving his views on the industry, he said that after years of seeing the industry move towards investments and savings, effort must be made to shift the focus back to protection. “Because ultimately that’s what life insurance is all about.”

And there are still many opportunities in the life insurance industry, especially in the Philippines.

“The penetration rate is still single digit, low single digit. And to me, this is a great opportunity for us in the industry to really do our very best work together so that we can make people really, really believe in the value of insurance and protect themselves and their families,” he concluded.

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