Asia has felt so far away but is less new to me now. With the help of family, friends, and gracious hosts, I learned tremendously. I breathed in secondhand smoking, met my mentors at the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), ate Ya Kun Kaya Toast with Temasek, a $235 billion dollar sustainability fund, chatted with investment banks, and went surfing with family friends. Here is what I learned:
Asia is complex. The impact investing ecosystem is still at its early stage. The government is allocating capital through green bonds or lending mechanisms, but there are only a handful of investors or family offices devoted to the field. Korea has an advantage of its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and growing corporate and government initiatives, but from what I learned, Hong Kong and Singapore may need more pioneers to build upon the existing ecosystem and contribute to a cultural shift.
I thought I could be helpful with my experiences in the U.S., but I ultimately felt like taking language from the States perhaps is not the most effective, as they reflect a more Western mainstream attitudinal approach. Network or platform based country-specific initiatives were more effective in attracting private investors, banks, and policymakers for long-term sectoral engagement.
With the protest happening, I kept thinking these populist trends in ethnic, political, or religious divides draw parallel to other countries and trickle down to the Southeast Asian market. Impact investing began after the financial crises that it did not ride with the plunge. Institutionalizing impact investing across asset classes also translate to asset diversification effectively hedging geopolitical and environmental risk for long-term value creation. I’m so grateful for the insight and advice and for new friends who fiercely pioneered through the Asian market.