It depends where you sit – a view from Asia

David Hayward Evans

The Alliance special feature on next generation philanthropy was comprehensive and insightful. The observations of the contributors largely tallied with our own experience advising clients in Asia, but also provided genuinely novel ways to think about and engage with this important cohort.

Your guest editor Jason Franklin made the important point that next generation philanthropists may find they are not so different from their parents after all, and indeed a number of contributors cited parents and grandparents as key influencers. In reading the report, I thought advisers would do well to remember the old adage ‘where you stand depends upon where you sit’.

Put very simply, it is likely that you will take a very different view regarding supporting solutions to social problems if you are just starting your career and family, whereas your parents and grandparents perforce have shorter time horizons in which to achieve impact. Different time horizons, rather than any great philosophical divide, may be the main cause of the divergence we see between tackling root causes (the young) and addressing symptoms (their parents).

The massive inter-generational transfer of wealth alluded to in the special feature is very real, and something we are beginning to experience across Asia. Certainly it is concentrating the minds of all responsible wealth managers including UBS. I would urge all those who see themselves as part of the next generation cohort to use the traction they undoubtedly possess to call for and help build more socially conscious inclusive forms of capitalism. In Asia, the only word of caution would be that there is still a lot of ‘power-distance’ within families with multi-generational wealth. Next generation philanthropists in Asia often face internal constraints, which may mean they need to start small but think big.

Indeed, it is important to understand that philanthropy within a wealthy family takes place in a wider context of issues relating to wealth management, business control and succession, and inter- and intra-generational rivalries. Being a next generation member of such a family is an enviable position, but also brings its own pressures and conflicting demands, which external advisers can understand only to a limited extent. If you have never been there, you will never know. It is for this reason that the peer-to-peer networks highlighted in your special feature are so critical to the development of next generation philanthropy.

David Hayward Evans
Head of philanthropy, Asia-Pacific, UBS


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