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Charting new paths for Asian families


GRACE Forrest, daughter of Australian iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest, 24, became painfully aware of the responsibility that privilege brings when she was a teen.

At 17, she felt heartbreak and anger when she learnt that an orphanage that she had visited three years back turned out to be corrupt, and had resold the children into slavery.

Today, her father's immense wealth and the family commitment to philanthropy have afforded her a platform to address what she sees as one of the biggest issues that has dogged developing - and even advanced - economies. This is the issue of modern slavery, which is manifested in a myriad of forms including human trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage.

Ms Forrest set up Walk Free Foundation, which is supported by her family's Minderoo Foundation. To maximise impact, Walk Free Foundation works on a collaboration model, working with grassroots and faith organisations, businesses and governments, to mobilise support.

Ms Forrest, and two other profiles in this edition - Helen Hai, UNIDO goodwill ambassador and Alvin Li of The Kommon Goods - exemplify qualities of a young generation: energy, clear thinking, entrepreneurial flair, and a willingness to defy convention to effect meaningful change. And, of course, the drive to imbue business with social purpose.

UNIDO goodwill ambassaror Helen Hai, for example, left a successful career in financial services to help Africa's economic transformation. The shoe factory that she set up for Huajian, one of China's largest shoe factories, in Ethiopia has become a model of success in job creation. Through her organisation, the Made in Africa Initiative, she hopes to be a bridge to help African states become a manufacturing workshop for China, where high costs are forcing companies to relocate jobs.

Banks are keenly aware of the opportunities and challenges that a younger generation of wealth owners herald. It is widely estimated that Asia is at the cusp of the world's largest wealth transfer over the next five to 15 years. In our Spotlight piece, we look into banks' various Next Generation engagement activities, which typically take the form of a series of week-long sessions held annually.

Entrepreneurship is a common thread running through the sessions, which seek to help families hone their scions into business leaders. Talks on financial markets and portfolios are virtually standard fare. But increasingly, the sessions, which may engage third party experts, will feature talks on responsible or sustainable investments which run the gamut of investments with an ESG (environmental, social, governance) orientation, to impact investing and venture philanthropy. Numerous studies find a keen interest in socially responsible investments among younger investors who are keen to do well by doing good.

This edition brings you some perspectives in this respect. Chua Yee Hoong of Withers KhattarWong highlights some of the commonalities and differences between venture philanthropy and impact investing. Whichever model one picks in the shift away from traditional philanthropy, one would need to take into account structures, tax efficiency and a model to ensure that the social impact efforts are sustainable.

In this edition's Roundtable, we gather experts to delve more deeply into the challenges that surround the potentially complex and fraught issues of wealth transfer and succession for Asian business families. HSBC's Cameron Senior says good communication should underpin the dynamics behind succession planning; it is, in fact, key to the process' success. Professor Annie Koh of the SMU's Business Families Institute puts it in simple terms: Just as countries seek unity in a common history, families need to remind younger generations of the family values, the family name and the ties that bind. This will help reinforce family ties and ensure the sustainability of the family business.

But how do families deal with disruption particularly when it threatens the family business? PwC's Ng Siew Quan and Peter Englisch write that it is important to evolve and embrace the new order, or risk being left behind. ''Intrapreneurs'', defined as those with an entrepreneurial mindset inside a family business, will need a lot of support in their effort to re-think and remake their traditional business.

Meanwhile Tara Loader Wilkinson profiles Craig Leeson, director of award-winning documentary A Plastic Ocean, who is seeking funding to produce a sequel which shows the effect of plastic on the human system. The first film has been screened in more than 70 countries, and has been instrumental in getting industry to move away from single-use plastic.

We wish you a rewarding and meaningful investment journey.

Genevieve Cua
Wealth, Editor

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