What Matters To Me: Dee Dee Chan
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
A pastry chef or a French professor— these were the careers a young Dee Dee Chan envisioned for herself, without considering that she might one day be expected to be the steward of her family’s wealth. That was until she turned 18 and her father sat her down and laid out his plan. Nevertheless, it was some time before Dee Dee went down the finance route.
After graduating she spent a year working on a research project on Reunion Island and teaching English before returning to big-city life and taking up a position with JP Morgan in New York. She moved back to Hong Kong shortly before the global financial crisis, after which she decided she needed a break, taking time out to complete a master’s degree in education before finally fulfilling her father’s wishes. Here, Dee Dee describes her work in her own words.
I needed to do something meaningful. I had really low morale after the financial crisis. I was working with clients who I saw lose everything. I was depressed being in a business where I was helping people make money for the sake of making money. When I joined the family business I said, “It doesn’t fulfil me to be growing our portfolio for the sake of it.” I wanted to do something that future generations could be proud of.
Education is the great equaliser of society. That was what the older generation in my family had instilled in me. I took time out to pursue teaching and education with the goal of knowing what the real needs of education were from the front line. We had set up our Seal of Love Charitable Foundation and I knew I wanted to have a key role in it. Our mission statement is to alleviate suffering and poverty by using education to break the poverty cycle.
Giving away money can be harder than traditional investment. On the portfolio side, everyone speaks your language; but in philanthropy, no one speaks the language of finance. When you make a decision to give a large sum of money away, you realise that there are actually not that many organisations that can absorb it in an effective way. I sit with a group called the Social Finance Initiative and we want to show other asset owners how to mobilise private capital for positive impact. Sustainable investing is still new for Asia, but I think that if we, as a group, can take a leap and show how to do it, that’s when other institutions will pay attention and be willing to do it.
It doesn’t fulfil me to be growing our portfolio for the sake of it. I wanted to do something that future generations could be proud of
— Dee Dee Chan
I really want women to help each other. In the family office space, very few decision makers are women. I am often the only woman at the table and sometimes I find that challenging. I try to partake in as many gatherings as I can where I can learn from other women in finance and in philanthropy. I’ve learnt that as women, we can make a conscious choice to pay it forward and lift each other up.
See more honourees from the Philanthropy & Charity section of the Gen.T List 2019.