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Force for good
PRIVATE banks and wealth managers are taking the younger generation of wealth owners seriously. Over the next decade, it is estimated that as much as US$2.4 trillion in wealth will be handed to the next generation.
In Asia-Pacific, where billionaires are minted at a pace far faster than in the developed world, the challenge of wealth transfer is shaping up to be the largest globally and is expected to take place over the next five to 15 years.
In the following profiles, all participants in UBS' philanthropy conference in Singapore earlier this year, a number of characteristics stood out. The individuals are achievers in their own rights; they eschew conventional ways of doing things; and they are imbued with a social purpose - or, as Helen Hai, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) puts it - fired by ''a goal higher than yourself''.
Founding Director, Walk Free Foundation
At the age of 14, Grace Forrest, daughter of Australian iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest, went on a school trip to Nepal to work with children in an orphanage who were rescued from sex trafficking. Some were as young as three years old.
But when she returned to the orphanage at 17, she found to her horror that the children she had first encountered had been resold and the orphanage was part of a corrupt ring. ''My parents were worried this would break my heart and I'd be very, very sad. And I was sad but more than sadness, I was really angry.
''I thought how was it possible that some dumb Australian kid would come back and they'd be gone. Who is responsible for these children? I felt responsible. All I wanted to do then was to start an orphanage, especially for girls to empower them to become future leaders. But I realised that for every girl we rescued from slavery, another girl would go in. Slavery is the most profitable crime in the world, generating US$150 billion in profits ... This required an industry shift; it's a very ambitious goal and one we can't complete alone.''
The Walk Free Foundation, of which she is founding director, is a global initiative funded and supported by Ms Forrest's parents Andrew and Nicola Forrest through their Minderoo Foundation. The Forrests are funding Minderoo to the tune of a total of A$645 million (S$408 million) - including a recent fresh injection of A$400 million - for a slew of initiatives including support for arts and community globally and more recently, the Eliminate Cancer Initiative. Ms Forrest is also a director of Minderoo.
Mr Forrest is a signatory of The Giving Pledge, spearheaded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, in which billionaires pledge to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Forbes estimates Mr Forrest's wealth at roughly US$3.8 billion this year.
Walk Free Foundation has made waves in its efforts. It has, for instance, established the Modern Slavery Index, which attempts a measurement of the issue. Modern slavery encompasses the crimes of human trafficking and practices including servitude, forced labour, forced or servile marriage, the sale of children and debt bondage. The foundation estimates there are over 40 million people today in some form of modern slavery of whom just under two-thirds are in the Asia-Pacific. This is a ''stock''number, as Ms Forrest explains. There is also a ''flow'' number of as many as 89 million people who experienced slavery at some point in their lives for a period of five days to five years. An estimated 16 million of the 40.3 are in the private economy. Of the overall number more than two-thirds or 70 per cent are women and girls.
The foundation works on a model of collaboration and research, tapping grassroots organisations, faith organisations, businesses and government to mobilise support. Its major efforts include the establishment of the Freedom Fund, and advocacy for the Australian Modern Slavery Act and for global economies to legislate against slavery particularly in supply chains.
Ms Forrest, who has a master's degree in strategic communications, speaks with an assurance and passion beyond her years. While her father's wealth has surely opened doors - Bill Gates, for example, gave advice on the need for a concrete measurement of the issues - she has a keen sense of her position of privilege and that challenge it brings.
''I understood at an early age that privilege came with responsibility. My parents didn't become wealthy until I was a little older so I had a normal upbringing. We travelled when I was younger to countries very different from Australia. I learnt a lot, that in some parts of the world girls don't get to school, or children can't drink tap water without becoming sick or bombs can be dropped on your home and you have to flee. It made me grateful that with this privilege comes a responsibility to serve others.''
She is acutely aware that global conflicts and distress migration magnify the issues surrounding slavery; there is no pat answer. ''The current system is broken, there are tens of millions of people who are stateless and this is only going to get worse as extreme climate change affects living areas and conflicts continue, say, in Syria where infrastructure has been destroyed.
''In the camps where I worked I wanted to address why more children were forced to work and many young girls forced to marry. Children work because parents can't... We have to look at issues in a non-traditional way. Traditionally, we say give people food, a tent and aid. I say we need business and innovation, smart ideas to deal with gray areas that are uncomfortable.''
She has comforted mothers in refugee camps who married their young daughters off to older men soon after coming to the camp in an effort to ward off predators.
''They sat with their hands in mine and cried. It's the best worst decision with the options they have... We need to lead and be part of a conversation - to be in communities, learn from them, understand their barriers and work to fix them.''
Young people, she says, have a power that they typically barely realise but can be wielded for social good. ''The power of your voice to ask for change is infinite, and the path you choose can be one that empowers and doesn't hurt others. On a more simple level, I'd say to all that you can choose everyday to buy things that empower others like fair trade coffee and chocolate. We need to empower our voices, learn about the world beyond our own upbringing, and connect.''
UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador
HELEN Hai was a high-flier in the corporate world. Trained as an actuary in London, she became vice-president and chief actuary at Zurich Insurance Group in China before she turned 30.
But when she was pursuing a Masters in Business Administration, a tutor sparked a defining insight. ''The way I was brought up, my lifetime goal was to be a good daughter, study well, climb the corporate ladder. I did that before I was 30. My tutor (at MBA) asked me - what do you want out of this course?
''I said I wanted true happiness. My tutor said - you need four dimensions for that - your past, your future, achievement and purpose. It took me a year to figure out what was missing in my generation and myself. It's the purpose part. In life, it's not just your personal goals that matter, you need a goal higher than yourself.''
She stumbled upon her life's work - helping the transformation and industrialisation of Africa - almost by accident. She had left Zurich to set up her own shoe factory, and was engaged instead by Huajian, one of China's largest shoe exporters in 2011 to set up a factory in Ethiopia. Her success there has become a model of development work through on-the-ground job creation, upstaging the traditional approach of pulling Africa out of poverty through prodigious amounts of aid and the altruistic lens of education and healthcare.
The opportunity for Africa - and it is a compelling one - is that the continent could position itself as a manufacturing workshop for China where higher costs are forcing companies to relocate an estimated 85 million jobs.
Former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin helped to plant the seed among African leaders. He was convinced that industrial success stories in Africa could jump start a fresh impetus and a scalable model for success. That first showcase was Huajian's investment in Ethiopia, spearheaded by Ms Hai.
Says Ms Hai of Mr Lin's conviction: ''The fundamental secret of the transformation of China and Asia is that we captured the golden opportunity of industrial relocation between the 1960s and 1980s, which jump started (Asia's) economic transformation. Now we're talking about Africa's economic transformation.''
Ms Hai founded the Made In Africa Initiative to promote Africa's industrialisation.
The Huajian factory in Ethiopia employed 2,000 in its first year; this grew to 4,000 by the second year. She was roped in by the Ethiopian government to become an adviser in 2013. Her first task was to promote an industrial park which had struggled to find investors for five years. In less than three months, she secured investors for 22 units, 14 of those units were yet to be completed.
''It's simple, success brings success. I show them the 4,000 workers Huajian had, showed them the profit and loss accounts and the business reasons, and they signed the lease immediately.''
In 2015, she set up a garments factory in Rwanda, C&H, which employs more than 1,000 people. ''My passion is to empower women in the business. I made a commitment not to take profits from the company for 10 years. What we earn from the company, we use to recruit and create more jobs.''
Ms Hai says: ''In the traditional development model you improve the investment climate through infrastructure, health and education. But it takes 100 years and doesn't get anywhere. But the Asian model is different. We take a small designated area to try a model. If that model works we can scale it. That's what happened in China with the industrial parks in Shenzhen. The most important is to bring (Africa) into the global value chain. Ethiopia said they will target one million jobs out of the 85 million that China is relocating. If we can bring in 10 million jobs in the next five years, that will snowball.''
Foreign aid has funded technical schools, but the effectiveness is questionable, she maintains. ''Training programmes measure the number of people trained. I don't believe in that. The reason you train them is to give them jobs. You should measure the number of jobs created.
''The Western model of development, they give money to the poor country and send expats. I lived in Africa. One day I was so surprised - I met Europeans and Americans doing development work. They live in big houses, with a maid and driver and a swimming pool. I don't believe in that. If you really want to empower people, you give them jobs.''
She believes the Asian model of development will drive global development. ''The new generation of Asians should start thinking about how to bring success to the rest of the world.'' She says she has found her ''higher purpose''.
''There are many girls like me 30 years back. If their country can't find the right path of development they will suffer in hunger. I want to see them 30 years from now becoming confident. I find it very rewarding to move from beneficiary to a contributor to global development.
''Previously in the financial sector I worked at the top of the pyramid. But the real rewarding experience is going to Ethiopia to set up a factory, where I have to work at the bottom of the pyramid. You leave your degrees and achievement and go back to the basic level of being human and understanding people. Because if you don't understand and respect them, they will never respect you and work with you to create success.''
Chief Executive, The Kommon Goods
Alvin Li was more than two years into his medical studies when the pull of social entrepreneurship became compelling. He began to think about issues surrounding global health. ''Global health asks - how do we solve issues like global access to clean water and medicines which are now unaffordable because of the pharmaceuticals industry. I decided I could make a bigger impact than being a doctor helping one person at a time. That's still an amazing and deep impact, but I wanted to do something bigger, on a global scale.
''I wanted to use technology and sustainable investments to scale up initiatives and innovation, to make sure basic needs are met through business, on a scale that you see with technology.'' Mr Li left medical school and pursued a degree in business. He also has a masters in management from Cambridge.
In 2014, he started Givo, an online giving platform linking donors to charities and foundations, using social media and technology to revolutionise and amplify the culture of giving.
''We've had successes but also setbacks and cases where we haven't had as much traction as we wanted. We pivot to test the best ways to do things. It's a great learning, to say that we acted and didn't wait for things to happen. This is probably a very millennial way of thinking, but it's us.''
His team is creating the next iteration of Givo, a white label solution for charities. ''We will be able to license out our solutions for charities on their websites, so they have a way to receive donations, completely streamlined and digitised, and have crowdfunding capabilities on their websites so they don't need to go to a third party platform.''
Mr Li is president of UBS' 20/20 Social Impact Leaders Group, which brings together next-generation wealth owners who are passionate about philanthropy to meet and collaborate.
He has founded a number of other ventures. Mindfultechnologies.com, for instance, is an online counselling app, an anonymous chat platform for secondary school students in Hong Kong. The app is being piloted in a number of schools in Hong Kong.
There is also Superkids.education which produces digital books for children to promote positive values and character education. On a more commercial note, he also started The Kommon Goods with the team behind Givo, to creat eeco-friendly products to supply to hotels or as corporate gifts.
''I want to make every business viable. Everything is still experimentation. 2018 is a good year and we're starting to generate revenues. It's important to us; I don't want to create an NGO that relies on donations or grants. I think it's possible to have a business with a social and financial return. People need to see the potential impact.
''Many social entrepreneurs do not get enough traction and investors start to blame the social enterprises, saying they're not investor ready. I would say - maybe you're not risk-ready. Every single major company was once a startup.'' W