HONG KONG, Dec. 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — On December 22, 2020, Kenneth Kwok, Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Capital, discussed his ambitions in the areas of innovation, education and sustainability in an interview, hosted by Adam Kwok, Hong Kong Entrepreneur.
Kenneth started his career in investment banking, working on pitch books and financial models for IPOs. Then, he moved on to oversee a Beijing-based multi-sector listed family office which launched global projects and events. Now, he is leading with impact at Global Citizen Capital as well as through his Co-Founder roles at the MXA Group, Family Mask, KIDsforSDGs and other impact ventures. Kenneth humbly admits he is still a student at heart. “This mentality keeps me young in body, mind and soul,” he laughs.
Like any other student this year who has had to up-skill, physically and mentally, to adjust to COVID-19, Kenneth took advantage of the time to reorient and refocus. One of the outcomes of this exercise is his multiple engagements with World Economic Forum community and its multi-stakeholder approach to collective action. For Kenneth, the main purpose of this interview is to inspire and empower youth in Hong Kong and beyond to become young global citizens of the world.
The following is the excerpt of the interview:
Q: Hello, Kenneth. It is wonderful to have witnessed your personal growth over the years. Sitting here at the UBS office, I still vividly remember the story of when you stepped into the office of Rory Tapner, then the Chairman and CEO of UBS Asia, as a first-year analyst in IBD and essentially demanding for an Employee Diversity and Inclusion ERG to be set up!
Kenneth: The audacity, right? I recall I researched within the UBS employee portal and Rory was listed as a sponsor of the latest diversity charter, and I was shocked that he actually accepted my meeting request.
Q: The result, I believe, was UBS became one of the first investment banks in Asia to have an expansive employee diversity and inclusion policy. Looking back, what are some of your fondest moments in your years working for investment banks?
Kenneth: Sell-side experience is definitely a great skill set to have, and it has proved to scalable in my future initiatives in buy-side and entrepreneurship. I have had the privilege of working on transactions for Hong Kong’s top companies, such as Cheung Kong, Henderson Land and SHK Properties, of course, in those days. I was able to rotate among various divisions between IBD and PWM so I was fortunate enough to gain a wide spectrum of experience and know-how. I also made some amazing friends which have all gone on to achieve some amazing feats around sustainability and social good, something to which I firmly ascribe.
Q: You have demonstrated, even back then, a strong willingness to advance what you believe in, so I am not surprised with what you have accomplished this year amidst COVID-19. I see you have taken on a few new initiatives in 2020, including some linked to World Economic Forum (“the Forum”). Congratulations on being recognized as a member of the Global Innovators community! How did that come about.
Kenneth: It is definitely a team effort. As you know, I have adopted a hybrid for-profit and non-profit model between Global Citizen Capital and Better Together Foundation to evaluate, act and follow-up on all potential opportunities. When the pandemic first reared its less-than-attractive head, it was very evident to us that the digital transformation for companies, both MNCs and SMEs, will need to be expedited. Ntuple, and its flagship technology SyncTree, represented a breakthrough for seamlessly integrating legacy systems with mobile ones, and we have achieved some success in leveraging this innovation to help companies pivot during COVID-19.
Q: They say innovation, driven by various impact and sustainability-oriented sources of capital, has been one of the key factors in helping Asia stay relatively afloat as a whole during the pandemic. Do you believe that is the case?
Kenneth: The Forum hosted the Sustainable Development Impact Summit in September, the same week as United Nations General Assembly Week 2020, and this topic was one extensively discussed and debated by many global experts. While research does show the overall sustainable finance community is more open towards digital innovation, it remains less clear whether that mindset and the capital deployed as a result has sufficiently created impact on a large scale. Let us take the example of some analysis done on the Forum’s “Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Sports” platform. A super majority of companies have openly championed for restructuring or transformation so they can further the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”), but this necessary work has been held back due to high and often insurmountable costs, whether they are capital, time or manpower related. SyncTree can offer a solution for this and drive the circular economy forward.
Q: I personally know that, apart from impact and innovation, you also embrace a third “I” in inclusion. Congratulations as well for being elected as a Social Justice Innovator by UpLink, the Forum’s platform seeking to advance the UN SDGs through innovation. Can you share a bit on the story behind it?
Kenneth: Sure, Adam. Along with Jessie Chung, a serial entrepreneur in her own right at the age of 26, we aimed to address the critical shortage of surgical-grade PPE in the first few months in 2020. Jessie shares the same vision as me to make PPE accessible, affordable and available to all, and we came up with the #PPEforALL initiative. We are fortunate to have the support of various Global Shapers Communities as well as members of the Forum of Young Global Leaders to scale #PPEforALL. When UNGA 2020 week came along in September, we have crossed the milestone of 1,000,000 surgical masks donated to at-risk communities around the world, and we were recognized by UN SDG Action Campaign as a featured COVID-19 solution. Our friends at UN Global Compact recommended us to submit #PPEforALL to UpLink, and we are grateful to have been elected. As of December 2020, we have donated 2,000,000 surgical masks! We are humbled to have made a small difference in our collective action to support communities facing systemic inequalities and oppression, in Hong Kong and globally.
Q: Indeed, almost all major Hong Kong companies were active in their CSR activities during COVID-19, like SHK Properties’ donation to Hospital Authority, MTR’s program for employee safety and Henderson Land’s partnership with UNICEF.
Kenneth: As a Hong Kong company, it is our duty and responsibility to look after Hong Kong and its well-being. When it comes to PPE manufacturing, we have also established the Tech Access Alliance, which will open-source our know-how to less and least developed countries to help them repurpose existing factory facilities. This was one of topics addressed at the Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network Annual Meeting in September 2020 as well.
Q: Remember when we started this conversation, we discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion. How do you think innovation can take this to the next level?
Kenneth: Putting on my advocacy hat, it has been proven that a diverse workforce promotes and drives innovation, and vice versa, innovation is required to give members of marginalized communities a voice and a seat at the decision-making table. At the Forum’s Job Reset Summit in October 2020, there is a lively discussion on disabilities inclusion, and how impact start-ups have focused in on technical tools which can leapfrog infrastructural limitations and allow this community to “plug-in” anywhere. Another meaningful conversation was on LGBTQI inclusion, where leaders at Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Outright International, ILGA and more organizations lay out the vision for a technologically inclusive world during the Decade of Action. Specifically, leveraging on the fast-growing API economy which can seamlessly integrate legacy systems with modern IoT protocols, many NGOs can now digitally transform at a fraction of the original cost and scale their services to all mobile users. As a board member of InterPride, it gives me faith and hope that the wide-ranging “redesign” accelerated by the pandemic will guide us, as a global community, to think of inclusion not as an afterthought or nice-to-have, but as a necessity.
Q: It was great to catch up, Kenneth. I know for a fact that in your heart, you truly do hope to support Hong Kong and its youth to seek self-empowerment on a global scale. You are leading by example! I also note that you have been confirmed as a speaker at the “Davos Agenda 2021” on innovation and impact. Congratulations and I look forward to your session.
Kenneth: Thank you. We are Team Hong Kong!