Making a mark as millennial achievers

Cocolife Group’s young leaders share their notable journeys as executives

Millennials, whose ages currently range from 25 to 40, are beginning to take more vital roles and responsibilities within organizations as they are expected to succeed current executives.

While they bring with them the lessons they have learned from their mentors, millennial leaders are set to drive organizations afresh towards growth and relevance, especially amid a very defining pandemic that brought forth the ‘now normal.’

For instance, at Cocolife, the biggest Filipino-owned stock life insurance company, millennials are taking the lead as some of its current executives were appointed to their roles as early as their thirties.

Atty. Martin Loon, president and chief executive officer of Cocolife, observed that while this course in his career was not planned, he was led to accept this challenge of making a difference through leadership.

Atty. Martin Loon, Cocolife president and chief executive officer

“I never planned for this, but when I felt I was needed and I could make a difference, I accepted the challenge,” Martin said. “I stopped planning my career, at some point I realized it’s not up to me. There’s a more powerful hand guiding our lives and decisions.”

Atty. Darren De Jesus, president of Cocogen Insurance Company, Inc., also saw a new challenge when he was appointed in his current post after taking other roles in certain subsidiaries of Cocolife.

“I always thought that the feeling of contentment is a red flag for mediocrity. It is always good to diversify, recreate yourself, and take risks on your career every so often,” Darren shared. “These may bear fruit in the form of success if done strategically and correctly.”

Atty. Julio Bucoy, president of Cocolife Asset Management Company, Inc. and head of Cocolife’s Corporate Finance and Strategy Division, started his journey with the company as a consultant, and thereafter assumed a full-time role upon seeing the company’s potential.

“I am driven by the desire to make the most out of what we are given,” Julio said. “I was fortunate enough to grow up with a privileged life, getting the best education and personal security, so I want to make the most out of it and allow others who are not so fortunate to change [their standing in life].”

Leading as millennials

While taking an executive role at a young age is an impressive feat, it nonetheless requires the ability to make the decisions quickly, as well as the grit to face whatever challenges might come.

For Cocolife Group’s millennial leaders, they look up to the vast experiences they have gained, as well as the wisdom gained from former leaders, in effectively performing their roles.

“I believe that the preparation for the roles we eventually play in life starts even in childhood,” Martin said. “Our values, our sense of fairness and justice, our sense of compassion and forgiveness, our determination and grit — all of it started to develop when we were young kids.”

Cocolife’s president, who also is the founder of YDL Law (Yebra, De Jesus, and Loon Law), finds that running a law firm has sharpened his skill of solving problems immediately. “I’m that type of guy. When a problem emerges, I don’t wait for the next day. I solve it right away. I never waste time,” he added.


Atty. Darren De Jesus, Cocogen Insurance Company, Inc. president

Darren, meanwhile, finds that his several experiences as a staff in the House of Representatives and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas have helped him in understanding people faster as the president of Cocolife’s non-life business. “In government, you have to be extra mindful of the people you are dealing with,” he said, adding that his former work also helped him understand deeper how to get things done on a larger scale.

Julio, on the other hand, pursued the notable designation of being a Chartered Financial Analyst while in law school. This allowed him to distinguish himself as a lawyer and a financial professional. Currently, he is one of the very few CFA-lawyers in the world.

“Specific to my role in Cocolife, it has helped me understand both our business under the legal framework we need to operate in,” he shared. “Internally, we joke about myself being a one-stop shop for anything that needs to be done.”

The head of Cocolife’s asset management business also noted that millennial leaders, as they experienced series of changes in their lifetime, are geared up to embrace disruptions that affect their organizations.

“We are the generation that experienced a rotary phone, Easy Call pagers, to the early generation cell phones, dial-up internet, etc. We are the generation that experienced so much change which has forced us to adapt to change quickly. We have seen the consequences of failing to do so,” he said. “[W]e can already see [disruptions] happening and this is where we can provide value at the most critical time. We try to bring in a dynamic vision for the organization that adapts to changes in our business environment.”

Martin finds, nevertheless, that millennials have a role to improve on what has already been built and to further strengthen fundamentals.

“I think we owe a lot to those who came before us, the older generation who laid the foundations and groundwork for what we’re doing now,” he shared. “We cannot claim too much credit for this since the previous generation laid the foundations for the things we do now.”

In overcoming challenges, Martin clings to faith through prayer, as this gives him a lot of clarity and purpose. “I just have faith that all struggles and difficulties are part of the process to form me into the person and leader God wants me to be.”

For Darren, meanwhile, since challenges are meant to be tackled head-on, decisions should be made swiftly yet with complete confidence. Nevertheless, he continued, it helps to have a relaxed mind for these situations. “It does not help to be rattled and jittery when presented with a problem,” he said.

Determination and gratitude

Darren encouraged his fellow millennials to embrace challenging and difficult situations, as this forces them to expand their capacity and hasten their learning curve. “A lot of young workers tend to look for what is most comfortable. This should never be the case,” he said.

Atty. Julio Bucoy, Cocolife Asset Management Company, Inc. president and head of Cocolife’s Corporate Finance and Strategy Division

Millennials are to put themselves as well in a position to succeed and to be prepared when the opportunity arises, Julio added. “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Martin emphasized being grateful for all those who helped them become who they are, who cared about them, and who always tried to find what was best for them in life.

“Whenever we become grateful, we are reminded of where we came from and how we started,” he continued. “It also gives us a chance to reassess and look back at our lives and see what we did right, and what we could’ve done better.”

“Just have faith in the process,” Martin added. “Don’t get tired waiting. Just believe that God’s plans are perfect and trust that His plans for all of us are perfect as well.”

Visit Atty. Martin Loon’s page on the Cocolife website to know more.

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