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Chief People Officer David Almeida of Anheuser-Busch InBev explains how people are the company's greatest asset

Six months ago, I received a call from our CEO, Carlos Brito asking to meet him. As I sat down with Brito he got right to the point: our Chief People Officer was retiring and he was offering me the opportunity of a lifetime. 30 seconds. That’s all it took. No need to think about it – I was in! 

I had been 18 months in my role as Chief Integration Officer for our combination with SAB. With my team, we welcomed great people from SAB and captured intellectual synergies that are now reshaping our company’s strategy for years to come. Given the successes we had experienced, I came to realize my Integration role was coming to an end and I was ready for my next challenge.

In my 19 years at AB InBev, I’ve held many positions: M&A, finance, strategy, and sales. Being the Chief People Officer -- I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect role. A company is only as extraordinary as its people and we have the BEST people in the business. At AB InBev, we dream bigger than what we think is possible, we are owners who take results personally, and we continue to look for innovative ways of thinking. We believe that our culture, more than anything else, is what has enabled our impressive growth story. 

Our culture is what will drive the amazing future we have ahead of us and I’m looking forward to being a part of that future. In the spirit of “ownership”, I want to share my focus with you: 

  1. A simpler consumer-centric organization: for centuries, the experience of sharing a beer has brought people and cultures together. Even in our hyper-connected, always-on world, this simple act is as powerful today as it was generations ago. We need to always remember that the ‘beer lover is king’ and we need to continue to lead the way in terms of beer passion, elevating the category. A recent example is the launch of a new initiative in the US, aimed at “building a better future” for the beer industry. Called Elevate, the program is just one of our efforts to make our 11 U.S. craft beer and cider brands better stewards of the industry.
  2. Talent pipeline for the next 100+ years: I’ve always believed that it’s the people that make up a company. With so many great companies today, why work for us? We have terrific people and we invest in them. I consider myself fortunate that every day I come to work and get to solve difficult and important problems with my driven and creative colleagues who have a positive impact on the world. We have best-in class-programs geared towards driving sustainable growth such as our water consumption, smart barley, and smart drinking initiatives. We will expand those programs and make sure that our people have an opportunity to contribute and feel pride in what we are doing.   
  3. Deciding what to change and what not to change: there is a DNA to our culture that needs to remain the same (>80%), but there are aspects of it (<20%) that must evolve over time so that we remain relevant and drive business value. Over the past two decades, our company has gone through meaningful change – we became the world’s leading brewer, we’ve launched new brands, we grew meaningfully in terms of size and geographic distribution. So, what needs to change for example? Diversity. I recognize we have diversity gaps and I’m going to prioritize my plan on how to close them.  
  4. Embracing technology & analytics: from work on demand to predictive technologies and machine learning, there are fundamental ways in which our organization will be transformed over the next few years. We need to be on the leading edge of that wave embracing technologies that can make a positive impact on our business. Across the world, we have several initiatives and pilots that are promising – from predicting frontline sales supervisor outcomes in China to the introduction of machine learning into our recruitment process. We will continue to bet on and leverage these technologies as we build a best-in-class people function.

Bottom line? We dream big. For our colleagues, our brands, our company and for ourselves. It’s true that we speak often of our Dream of ‘bringing people together for a better world’. In a lot of ways, that could be my new job description, too. The times ahead are exciting. AB InBev is at a pivotal moment in our history and I am honored to have the responsibility to lead our people function. In my experience, when you bring together a diverse community of bold, ambitious and passionate creators the potential for growth is limitless. I look forward to the years ahead working with GREAT people, dreaming big, and doing amazing things. Cheers!