Sweet Faith A. Secio
In the complex business landscape where complying with laws and regulations is critical, the role of a CCO stands as a beacon of ensuring organizational alignment with legal and ethical standards. They establish and execute effective compliance programs to prevent potential violations and foster transparency and integrity within the company. Sweet Faith A. Secio heads compliance at Atlas Fertilizer Corporation – pioneer in crop-specific soil-specific fertilizer compounds, boasting over 66 years of history in Philippines. With a profound dedication to upholding legal and ethical benchmarks, she meticulously crafts and executes compliance programs. With her expertise, she excels in interpreting and implementing regulatory compliance measures in both traditional and digital settings. Featuring her as one of the most inspiring compliance officers, CEO Insights had an exclusive conversation with Sweet Faith A. Secio.
Take us through your educational and professional journey.
I have finished m y economics bachelor at the University of the Philippines with research work experience in anthropology, this laid the groundwork for my commitment to research, understanding humanity, poverty, progress and social causes. M y university journey exposed me to various non-profit work benefiting important social issues affecting women and children. After my university days, I transitioned into law, becoming an attorney at the Supreme Court of the Philippines, where I was exposed in balancing the wheels of justice through insightful reading. I was immersed in truth-finding strategies alongside those in charge in the administration of justice. After that, I moved to a smaller firm to help indigent people, especially women and children, who are victims of abuses but cannot afford lawyers to protect their legal rights.
Thereafter, I got an unexpected chance to work for a n agriculture company named, Atlas Fertilizer Corporation. Joining AFC, gave me an opportunity to understand farming as a science, and as a livelihood, where I discovered that a significant portion of farmworkers were women and minors. This transition was more than a career move; it felt like a calling, a deeper purpose centered on enhancing the livelihoods of these communities. During my first year in the company, I was in charge of making sure that there is a compliance system rolled out were company rules are followed. But over the last 12 years, my role grew. My tasks expanded into various administration function, to help and support all key groups in the company. Looking back on these different roles, I've always been involved in support functions to help other teams accomplish their tasks and reach their full potential. Even though my job function have evolved through time, but the core nature of those functions is always focused in ensuring the company runs smoothly by keeping everything legally compliant and adoptive to changing rules that helps everyone achieve what they need to do for the company.
What were the major challenges you faced establishing yourself as a leader?
The business realm, especially in the Philippines, remains heavily male-dominated. A working woman have to exert effort to break some ceilings but must do so, with the willingness to take challenges without fear. As a woman in a hardcore business environment, my hurdle wasn't merely gender-based but centered on disproving assumptions. Many believed legal roles lacked business understanding and entrepreneurial skills. To combat this, I pursued an Applied MBA program, studied leadership and business management methods to bridge that gap, showcasing how compliance function is vital to business growth. Overcoming this, demanded immense dedication and hard work—studying rigorously while evolving into a business executive without compromising on my original role.
Understanding the organization's essence was pivotal—knowing its strengths, weaknesses, and expansion goals. Compliance officers must deeply grasp their organization's nature to effectively contribute to its goals and gain the respect needed to drive compliance alongside business success.
As the CCO, how do you recommend changes to the company’s policies?
Reshaping a company’s policies requires a deep grasp of the business's essence. The core lies in propelling the company forward while sidestepping potential legal hurdles. Predictive analysis forms the backbone—forecasting and mitigating possible setbacks through data scrutiny. Compliance’s true value rests in its preventive nature, safeguarding the company's sustained existence by adapting to evolving landscapes. The goal is to stop things from going wrong before they happen. This is highly important because it helps the company stay strong and achieve stability for a long time. It is important also for the company to make rules that make it easier for everyone to understand and to follow. Advising and guiding management and key teams in the company necessitates a methodical, lawful approach, essential for navigating market competition while upholding ethical standards.
Tell us about your leadership approach.
Leadership, to me, is all about valuing people and fostering teamwork. It's about guiding a team toward company goals while nurturing individuals' growth. Teaching and mentoring are key duties—sharing knowledge and investing time to help the team learn and excel. Upholding integrity, doing what's right for the company and team, builds trust and respect. Clear vision is vital as well; as a CCO, it's crucial to outline goals and rally the team toward them. Consistently working alongside the team, day in and day out is an ongoing intentional journey to achieve growth and shared goals. Leaders have the duty to produce leaders to continue what they have started even after they have left.
What is the future destination you are headed towards?
Over the next five years, I envision a company expansion, broadening our market reach and technological offerings for increased customer benefit. Simultaneously, the compliance and legal function will expand in alignment with our business objectives. Developing a successor is pivotal for company stability, ensuring continuity beyond my role. Strengthening my team, particularly grooming younger members in our company for leadership, is a priority as well.
Sweet Faith A. Secio, CCO, Atlas Fertilizer Corporation
Sweet Faith is a seasoned professional dedicated to guiding organizations through the complexities of compliance and legal domains. For young leaders aiming to grow, Faith says that it is vital to embrace humility and persistence even when times become so difficult. She emphasizes the idea that learning never stops since knowledge is not fixed—it is forever expanding.