Meeting with CARD MRI Founder & Chairman – Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip
Q1. At what stage of your life, you thought about the possibility of CARD MRI? What motivated you to implement the idea?
I started CARD as a NGO but here in Philippines the future of NGO is limited with the founder life and death. NGO dies with founder death. I wanted to start something that would go beyond the legacy of the founder. In 1998, I started CARD Bank and in 2000 CARD insurance. The bank regulates continuously and doesn’t depend upon the founder but it is dependent upon the governance. I started different organization so that we can support the growth of each organization by complementing each other. We formed CARD MRI, where MRI stands for mutually reinforcement institution i.e. one support group.
With the growth of the organization, there is high need of empowerment of staffs and other stakeholders, hence we started training institute to create the efficiency of staffs. Later with the need and demand of the training institute, we formed CMDI i.e. CARD MRI Development institute Inc. With multiple partner organizations, we created uniformity in the staff i.e equivalent rank among organization. This enabled us to get staff with same caliber/qualification and we could transfer the staff in any organization with equivalent position as per the need.
Q2. What were the primary challenges at three different following stages of your journey in leading CARD MRI?
- Start of CARD MRI (Startup Stage)
- Scale of CARD MRI (Scaling Stage)
- At the moment (Leading Stage)
How do you tackle the challenges?
I realized a poor person is poor because of two reasons- they lack accessibility and are not empowered. I started CARD MRI with the concept of reaching out to the poor by starting the organization in rural area where I could empower the community by distributing shares among them so that they can be the owner of the organization. Back in that time, it was new concept and people did not believe in this idea. When starting an enterprise with poor people it brings you limited resources and finance. Also the people lack the required skills and knowledge. I had belief in the idea and to execute it, I had to sell my private property, borrow money from friends and relatives.
As the idea was very new, we had to develop our own regulation format for our sustainability. Developing the process to operate in the villages, developing the system to give loan without any collateral are some of the challenges we faced in the middle age of the organization.
Now, after we have created big impact we face two kinds of unique challenges. We directly work with 5 million people so we have larger level of influence. Due to this during election time, politicians come to me seeking the support. I am not a politician and I do not want to support any group. Hence during election time, I go out of country. Also I send my staff to out of country in order to avoid the encounter with politician. Today due to advancement in in technology, there is big shift in the lifestyle and regular practice. The way things are moving, millennials has developed different/new ways to do their things. I can not expect the loyalty of the son and daughter of our clients by following the similar process. Hence, we need to be as sharp as the need with the technology advancement. We are able to introduce ATM, M-banking, E-banking to sustain ourselves in future but this not enough. Realizing this, we constantly invest in the team to empower them so that we can compete with the requirement.
Q3. I realized, during my stay at CMDI, staff seems very invested in the organization. Even during my survey more than 80% of the respondents wants to continue to work for the organization for the next 10 years. Ones who said they are not sure if they can continue now for long run, are due to their old age. What do you think contributes the interest of staff long term plan with the organization.
We try to know the psychology of staff. Some of our staff want to go abroad but they have different motivation. Their motivation varies in learning the new organizational practices, understanding about different culture and lifestyle, learning about new concepts and practices. Certain times staff wants to study and work outside their regular network. We have started organizations in different countries beside Philippines. We have partnered with different academic institutions and organizations. We have contributed large amount of budget for the staff development. We have sponsored more than 30 staffs in Asian institute of management. We have sent staff to pursue master degree and short courses in Harvard University, North Hemisphere, South Hemisphere in US and other countries as well. CMDI itself invest in the empowerment of the staff by conducting various kinds of trainings. Also we give good salary to our staff, currently we pay our staff the salary of 18 months/year. We strengthen financial capacity of the organization, financial facility also increases each year for the staff.
We have very strong belief, our asset is our employee and hence we constantly develop our human resources. Some of our staff who started their career in CARD MRI as driver or utility staff, are currently working as director. If some works hard and proves there is growth in all the dimensions. Growth in CARD MRI is very fast.
Q4. Is there something you wish you had known, when you reflect back your life?
I never doubted my vision. I never turned back with my belief. My friend used to laugh at me. People used to think I am crazy. I am strong willed person. I always believed that I can do it, I can make a big difference. I persistently worked believing my vision. With the success of the work I learned new things. New ideas evolved and happy accident occurred. Initially I was thinking about Microfinance but then slowly I realized there is life after Microfinance and we came up with new other organization related to SME and Insurance. At initial stage I was thinking about ordinary training centre but now realizing the need and demand we formed CMDI. The academical organization has the vision of one family – one graduate and we operate both as training and academic organizations. I believe, in few years we will start a university.
Q5. With the challenges associated with CARD MRI, how did you manage your personal and professional expectation?
I am always a risk taker. I am not scared in a do or die situation. As I already mentioned, to follow my dream I had to sell my private property and had scarce finance in the early stage of my life. I was even not able to send my children to best private school in early days of my struggle. But my wife supported me with the journey. Low qualified human resource in the rural community and difficulty in getting qualified human resource from external source due to limited financial resources was extremely challenging for me for the sustainability of the organization.
Q6. What is your wisdom on how 21st century events can shape a new MDM program.
MDM is really good course for the development practitioner. But in today’s world sustainability is very important. If we are talking about the development and to make this sustainable we need finance. We need to push ourselves as other financial sustainable organizations. If we can blend some portion of MBA in MDM, we can help our students for sustainable impact.
Q7. Currently there are good credits on finance, operation management, economics and marketing in MDM course. But I am able to sense good number of current students are not happy with this courses and even can not connect in their real work.
I can guarantee the same students will appreciate these course when they move in the later part of their career. They are definitely going to need these courses. In today’s world we can not separate development and finance. Hence MDM course can prepare the graduates for larger purpose to bring the solution in the society.
Q8. What would you like to say to a youth, who has aspiration to make some change in the community but at the same time s/he is worried with the requirement of finance to give better life to the family.
I am risk taker but choosing between the financial needs of family and my aspiration was very challenging. During the initial days of CARD, whatever money I used to earn, I divided half of the money to my family and half to the CARD. Whatever I used to earn through consultancy, 80% of the income used to go in CARD account and 20% in to my family. The money was not enough for my family but we were able to meet our needs. I constantly worked on my idea and did not think enough about earning. With my persistency, I was able to build the reputation. Slowly unexpected things started to happen, many organization approached me seeking my support. They wanted me to be the part of their organization as a board member, board advisor, consultant and they used to pay for my time/expertise. At certain point of my career I was not able to accept all those requests. When big organization like World bank invited me, the payment for my contribution was too high in compare to my expectation. I realized if you prove yourself, opportunity will come and money will come.
I would recommend youth not to run after money. It will come to you. It may not come in the early stage but with the expertise, one creates multiple opportunity to earn the money. With your work you create demand. At first one’s motive needs to be clear. My motive is clear- helping people. One needs to protect self reputation and needs to understand that words are there trademark.