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Best CEO of the Year 2019
The winners of the Asset Corporate Awards 2019 Best Chief Executive Officer of the Year have all done a lot of good work in ESG
18 Nov 2019 | The Asset
Clockwise from left: Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Preeyanart Soontornwata, Chang-Ken Lee, Si Furong, Daniel Wu, Joseph Huang, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, George Hongchoy, Wang Xiaochu
Clockwise from left: Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Preeyanart Soontornwata, Chang-Ken Lee, Si Furong, Daniel Wu, Joseph Huang, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, George Hongchoy, Wang Xiaochu


If there are common descriptions for the recipients of The Asset Corporate Awards 2019 Best Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Year, they would be “forward looking”, “proactive”, and “focused.”

All eight recipients of the “Best CEO of the Year” awards have had a lot of experience with environment, social, and governance (ESG) issues both internally within their own organizations as well as externally among other stakeholders and the public. They have also engaged in such activities in their own domestic markets as well as at the international level.

Many of them have actually been doing ESG-related work long before it became a trend among corporates and the business community.

A recognition and understanding of how the UN sustainability  development goals (SDGs) impacts their own companies as well as other stakeholders is also a common attribute of the recipients of the “Best CEO of the Year” awards.

Among the SDG-related issues that they have identified and focused on as relevant to their respective corporates are: environmental responsibility, social responsibility, innovation, as well as diversity and inclusion. In a sense, the focus on these particular SDGs by these CEOs is an indication that they are the ones that are most relevant to Asian corporates at this stage of the region’s development.

Some of them are also repeat awardees which means they have been recognized as “Best CEO of the Year” by The Asset previously, perhaps a testament to the dedication and consistency that they have shown in their work.

In a sense, all of the “Best CEO of the Year” awardees are ahead of their time in terms of recognizing the urgent need for sustainability as well as in actually implementing concrete programs and projects.

It is in this context that The Asset announces the winners of the “Best CEO of the Year 2019”. They are:

* Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chief Executive Officer, Ayala Corporation

Zobel de Ayala has been a director of Ayala Corporation since May 1987 and has been its Chairman and CEO since April 2006. He has been named a United Nations SDG Pioneer for his leadership of Ayala’s sustainable business strategy and operations. Under his leadership, Ayala Corp. has been recognized as the best in corporate governance, best in ESG, and best in socially responsible investing (SRI) by various prestigious organizations and institutions in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He is acknowledged as one of the leading corporate leaders not only in the Philippines but also in Asia and globally.

*  Preeyanart Soontornwata, Chief Executive Officer, B.Grimm Power

Soontornwata has been recognized as one of the leading female CEOs in the power sector, not only in Thailand but internationally, after building the company into a major player in the industry following the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 when she became CEO.

Under her management, B.Grimm Power has never used coal as a fuel source even when it was easier and cheaper to do so thus building itself into a market leader in renewable energy, a sector that is now experiencing rapid growth and demand. She is also pushing the company into developing energy storage solutions in collaboration with partners from South Korea, a futuristic move that can only further strengthen its role in the renewable energy sector.

* Chang-Ken Lee, President, Cathay Financial Holdings

In a sense, Lee, who has been CEO since 2011, is ahead of his time in strengthening corporate governance and the group's regulatory compliance culture in Cathay Financial Holdings when most of their peers in Taiwan were just beginning to recognize the importance of these issues. Lee led the establishment of the whistleblowing system, strengthened anti-money laundering/countering terrorism financing mechanisms, and organized a wide variety of regulatory compliance education and training programs within the group.

Lee also pushed the company to adopt the international sustainable finance framework, including the Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), Equator Principles (EPs), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB), thus raising the group’s standards to global levels.

* Si Furong, President and Executive Director, China Comservice

Si, who has been CEO since 2013, has been instrumental in spearheading the company’s digital transformation that allowed it to refocus its business model from being a service provider for the telecoms sector into a service provider for the digital sector. As a visionary, Si foresaw the strategic opportunities brought by the latest technological developments including big data, cloud computing and AI.

He also realized the importance of team building and relationship building as well as the importance of effective communication between the company and other stakeholders by leading the establishment of continuous training efforts as well as maintaining direct and close communications with its investors through diverse channels.

* Wang Xiaochu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, China Unicom (Hong Kong)

This is the third time that Wang will be a recipient of the “Best CEO of the Year” award, having previously won it in 2017 and 2018.

Wang’s latest achievement has been to extend the V-shape rebound in the company’s net profit while its service revenue growth continued to pick up and free cash flow yield registered another record high. He also spearheaded the company’s mixed-ownership reform which has started delivering notable enhancement in growth quality and return. China Unicom is also seeking new opportunities in 5G by continuing to strengthen its capabilities in this space.

In terms of ESG, Wang has been pushing the company to higher standards of corporate governance, transparency and investor communication, which are vital to the long-term success and sustainability of its business development efforts. This has expanded China Unicom’s capital markets footprint, thus enhancing its competitiveness and sustainability.

* Daniel Wu, President of CTBC Financial Holding (CTBC Holding)

At CTBC, Wu was proactive in initiating the separation between oversight and management as part of raising the company’s corporate governance standards, something that is considered unique among CEOs in Taiwan. Wu realizes that raising corporate governance standards is beneficial to the long-term strategic development of the company and its continuing sustainability.

CTBC is also one of the few publicly listed companies that has independent directors as the majority on its board. Wu also led the revision of CTBC’s Corporate Governance Best Practice Principles which ruled that the term of each independent board director should not exceed three sessions.

Wu also chairs CTBC’s corporate sustainability committee, which originated from the CSR Task Force that was set up in 2011. The committee, includes the presidents of all CTBC subsidiaries. Independent directors are invited to attend its meetings. The committee ensures that CTBC’s policies are consistent with its sustainability strategy, which focuses on “transparency, responsibility, understanding, satisfaction and together” (TRUST) with the aim of meeting the UN SDGs.

* Joseph Huang, President and CEO, E.SUN Financial

Huang is a repeat winner of the “Best CEO of the Year” award, having won this recognition in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, perhaps a testament to his dedication and consistency in terms of E.SUN Financial setting the benchmark for corporate sustainability in Taiwan. This is the fifth year in a row that he will be awarded “Best CEO of the Year” by The Asset.

Huang has led E.SUN in addressing sustainable development challenges by balancing the company’s long and short-term targets with social responsibility while drawing on the efficient use of its resources.

Huang is also CEO of the E.SUN Volunteer & Social Welfare Foundation and has led a number of ESG initiatives including the E.SUN Golden Seeds Project, an initiative to build libraries in remote areas, and the E.SUN Cup International AAA Baseball Tournament, an event that facilitates the discovery of young talented athletes.

As a CEO of the E.SUN Volunteer & Social Welfare Foundation, Huang follows a 3i strategy with a systematic approach to fulfill its corporate social responsibilities and setting the decarbonization targets to 2025. E.SUN has set specific goals since 2016 of reducing per capita carbon emission, water consumption, and waste generation by 1% each year and 10% by 2025.

* George Hongchoy, Executive Director and CEO, Link Asset Management

Hongchoy was also awarded the “Best CEO of the Year” twice in 2015 and 2017, making this year the third time that he will be awarded “Best CEO of the Year” by The Asset.

Hongchoy, who has been CEO of Link Asset Management since 2010, has led the company in strengthening its property portfolio with quality assets that offer long-term growth potential and synergies with existing assets.

Led by Hongchoy, Link has introduced business intelligence systems to analyze vast amounts of information and make data-driven decisions such as strategic placement of shops and dynamic management of car park availability. In 2018, Hongchoy also continued to invest in technology and strengthen Link’s digital efforts to provide a complete customer shopping experience and build brand loyalty. In December 2018, Link launched the first retail tenant staff appreciation event, the “LIKE Link’s Shop Staff” campaign, via Link’s award-winning Park & Dine mobile app to strengthen ties between retail businesses and their employees. The initiative was supported by over 300 tenants.

Award for Corporate Stewardship

* Supattanapong Punmeechaow, President and CEO of PTT Global Chemical (GC)

Punmeechaow, who became CEO of GC in 2014, was awarded the “Best CEO of the Year” in 2018. In recognition of his continuing work in the development strategic execution, especially of the company’s downstream business, Punmeechow is being presented with the “Award for Corporate Stewardship” this year.

Punmeechaow has been instrumental in building GC’s program for conservation of natural resources and the environment by reducing the volume of single-use plastic. To address this issue, GC has built a recycling plant, considered a milestone that will complete the company’s value chain. GC and ALPLA, a world leader in the development of plastic packaging, have signed an agreement for the establishment of a joint venture in Rayong Province, that is considered a model project for cooperation and operation with all sectors of society throughout the whole value chain.

Under Punmeechaow’s leadership, GC was ranked 19th in 2019 and 26th in 2018 in the ICIS (Independent Chemical Information Service) top 100 global chemical companies with outstanding operational excellence, having moved up from 35th in 2017.

 The Asset ESG Best Corporate Awards, now in its 20th year, will celebrate the winners of the 2019 annual rankings and The Asset Best CEO Awards on December 5 at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. To view the list of The Asset Best CEO winners, please click here. To join the dinner celebration, please click here. To join The Asset ESG Summit, please click here.

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