Thursday, December 5, 2013

Deal With China?

Not as easy as it appears

A year ago, the Whistler Film Festival launched its China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition with much fanfare. After a pitch session at the B.C. mountain resort festival, three Canadian producer-writer teams would be selected by three Chinese film companies and get their projects produced, potentially as Canada-China co-productions, and perhaps so quickly that they would be in production – or at least further along – by this year’s festival... >> MORE

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Worries of the Super Rich

The biggest concern of people who have more money than they can reasonably spend in their lifetime is how their children will handle the wealth they will leave behind.

This was one of the findings of the study conducted recently by the law office Withersworldwide on more than 4,500 persons and interviews with members of 16 very rich families in Europe, North America and Asia.

The respondents were divided into two groups: The super-rich or those who have wealth worth $10 million or more, and the moderately rich or those with less than $10 million.

Although both groups put “health” on top of their anxiety list, they differed on the second most significant concern. The super-rich are apprehensive their children “will lack the drive and ambition to get ahead.”

This unease overrides fears of failure of investments, inability to support the family or marital discord.

The moderately rich, however, do not share that pessimism. The prospect of their children losing ambition ranks fourth only in their worry list.

According to a tax and trust partner of the law firm, “It is easy to see why the moderately wealthy don’t worry about that as much. If they are worth around the $10 million mark, realistically they are not well off enough to put their children in the position that they never have to work.”


The survey also showed that affluent families are anxious that third generation family members would eventually lose their wealth.

This sentiment proceeds from the belief that “if the first generation are wealth creators then the second generation tend to be wealth preservers, but it is the third generation that families are worried about.

“If they have had everything put on a plate for them without seeing any of the hard graft that goes into creating that wealth, then they can lose track of how best to use that wealth and how difficult it was to build up in the first place.”

The thought of instant wealth adversely affecting their children’s drive to make something good of themselves has influenced some of the world’s business tycoons against leaving their fortunes to their children when they die.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the richest persons in the world, has publicly declared that he and his wife will bequeath their $58-billion fortune to charitable causes, rather than to their three children.

Warren Buffett, reputed to be the savviest investor in the United States, has committed to give away 99 percent of his wealth, either in his lifetime or upon his death, for philanthropic purposes. According to reports, 83 percent of his treasure has been reserved for the Gates Foundation.

The list of uber rich people who are averse to making their children wallow in inherited wealth include eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (who became a billionaire at age 31), business tycoon Michael Bloomberg, iron magnate Gina Rinehart (the richest woman in Australia) and Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus.


If a similar study were conducted on the Philippines' financial elite, there is a strong possibility that the same results would come out.

The pervasive effects of too much wealth being bestowed on a person without breaking a sweat do not recognize cultural or social boundaries. Any society that uses wealth as a measure of prestige or glory is susceptible to that problem.

It therefore does not come as a surprise that many of the country’s business tycoons who are in their late ’70s or early ’80s are discreetly taking measures to address that concern.

The “estate planning” involves the assumption by their children of key executive positions in their businesses as soon as possible or after they have learned proper management techniques.

To make the “apprenticeship” program more effective, related companies are placed under the umbrella of a holding company or consolidated.

Aside from simplifying the management process, these arrangements give the children a preview of the delineation of authority or corporate hierarchy that the head of the family wants them to observe and honor upon his demise.

The early delegation of responsibility carries with it the underlying hope [and expectation] that it would ingrain in the children the same ambition or vision that propelled their parents when they built and brought the company to the position it now enjoys.


No matter how well mapped out these succession plans may be, there is no assurance that they will be followed to the letter or work as envisioned when the Grim Reaper pays a visit to the family patriarch or matriarch.

As long as the head of the family is physically and mentally fit, peace and harmony among his children in running their respective business assignments can be expected.

Everyone will be in his best behavior and will avoid any act that may induce their “oldies” into revising the assignment of executive positions or, worse, disinheriting them in their last will and testament.

When the last parent passes away, there is no assurance that peace in the family will remain the way it was when either or both parents were still alive.

Deep seated hurts, envy or sibling rivalry may emerge and threaten the viability of the succession plans earlier put in place. The in-fighting often happens if the business units separately managed by the siblings are mismanaged or fail to post the expected profits.

Unless an equalisation or fair sharing of profits agreement is in place, the disparity in wealth distribution among the children could give rise to intra-corporate disputes or civil suits.

There have been instances of siblings filing criminal suits against each other or conspiring with third parties to change the composition of the board of directors even if it would eventually lead to the loss of family control.

When second generation members fight, the discord created often spreads to the third generation or, worse, to the succeeding generations.

Blood supposedly runs thicker than water. Unfortunately, money sometimes has a nasty way of diluting it.  
  -- 2014 July   ASIAN PACIFIC POST

PUBLISHED ON 2015 January 28

Singapore's family-owned firms least ready for succession in S-E Asia

FAMILY-owned businesses in Singapore are laggards in the region in two respects - in planning for leadership succession and in using formal structures and wealth-management solutions to manage succession issues and ensure wealth preservation.

FAMILY-owned businesses in Singapore are laggards in the region in two respects - in planning for leadership succession and in using formal structures and wealth-management solutions to manage succession issues and ensure wealth preservation.

A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit has found that fewer than six in 10 Singapore companies (58 per cent) have a succession plan in place.

And just 35 per cent have set up formal wealth-management structures such as private foundations; 41 per cent have trusts to manage inter-generational wealth transfer. 

The report, commissioned by Labuan International Business & Financial Centre (Labuan IBFC) and titled Building Legacies: Family Business Succession in South-east Asia, surveyed 250 majority family-owned businesses from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

Indonesian family-owned companies emerged the most prepared in succession planning, with 78 per cent of respondents indicating that they had formal plans in place.
A further 57 per cent had set up private foundations, and 53 per cent, trusts to manage wealth and succession.

Among South-east Asian businesses overall, 67 per cent said they had succession plans in place; 71 per cent said they have had their plans reviewed by their boards.

This being said, formal governance structures have not been widely adopted among family businesses, and the use of external advisors has largely been limited to areas such as estate planning (41 per cent) and tax liabilities (48 per cent).

Only 34 per cent of executives polled said they had sought external advice about family governance issues; 18 per cent said they had used advisors to resolve conflict between family members.

There is surprisingly little differentiation among the five countries surveyed in terms of succession-planning preferences; whether they undertake this depends on the amount of resources and years of experience they have at hand, said the report.

Even some of the region's most successful companies still hesitate to bring in external advisors to formalise succession plans through a contract or to erect lasting structures such as a trust or foundation.

This is surprising, given respondents' generally positive attitude towards succession planning: 71 per cent said it is easier to attract investment with a formal succession plan in place; 66 per cent said customers and investors have more trust and confidence when such a plan is in the picture.

For business families, unsurprisingly, retaining control is paramount.
Three-quarters of families surveyed (76 per cent) have family members as chairman or in C-level executive roles; only 2 per cent said their management would choose a successor from outside the family.

And while the survey found that attitudes towards women heading family businesses were, in theory, progressive, there was little evidence of this in reality - there remains a strong propensity to appoint the first-born son as successor.

Of the respondents, 97 per cent of companies no longer led by the founder are run by a family member, and of the children now heading the business, 92 per cent are sons.  --  SINGAPORE BUSINESS TIMES


Money thoughts for a lifetime

A year of articles on saving, spending, budgeting and life planning

1 Money is important as a means to an end, and that end is arguably financial freedom. This happy state of affairs is defined by not having to work for a living, so one is freed to do whatever one deems important in life. This can be spending more time with the kids, travelling around the world, or taking time off to pursue a cause. With growing income inequality, ordinary people slogging in middle-class jobs might think they can never retire in their lives, and have to keep working till they are over 70. We beg to differ. For a start, those earning the median salary of $3,000 upon starting work stand a good chance of being able to attain financial freedom before they turn 60, or even 40 or 50.
This is because of two reasons: the mathematical effect of compounding, and the good financial habits one can build up over time. But you have to plan ahead, and above all, start young.
2 One question: Is one million dollars enough to retire on? Singapore is well-known for having one of the highest proportion of millionaire households in the world. Based on recorded spending patterns and a conservative rate of return of 4 per cent a year, along with inflation of 2 per cent a year, we calculated that $1 million would last a typical HDB family spending $3,600 a month today for 30 years. This means that a million dollars should theoretically be enough for a 50-something breadwinner to retire comfortably with. Of course, families spend more than $3,600 a month on both necessities like healthcare and more extravagant things like overseas holidays and overseas education. And the statistics show that a typical family living in a private flat or landed property could spend anywhere from $7,000 to $9,000 a month. In these scenarios, $1 million would not be enough to retire on.
3 Needs are limited and wants are unlimited. Give a person $10 million, and he or she can find a way to live such that the money gets spent pretty fast. Thus frugality has been talked of as a virtue - the idea that one should cut back on expenses by living simply and spending very seletively.

The family-business factor in emerging markets

The industrial titans of the Gilded Age were largely family businesses. But today, in most developed nations—particularly the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan—the largest, industry-leading companies are typically held by a broad, dispersed mix of shareholders. Less than one-third of the companies in the S&P 500, for example, remain founder- and family-owned businesses, meaning that a family owns a significant share and can influence important decisions, particularly the election of the chairman and CEO.

So far, the picture is quite different in emerging economies. Approximately 60 percent of their private-sector companies with revenues of $1 billion or more were owned by founders or families in 2010. And there are good reasons to suspect that these companies will remain a more significant part of their national economies in emerging markets than their counterparts in the West did about a century ago. As brisk growth propels emerging regions and their family-owned businesses forward, our analysis suggests that an additional 4,000 of them could hit $1 billion in sales in the years from 2010 to 2025 (Exhibit 1). If that’s how things shake out, such companies will represent nearly 40 percent of the world’s large enterprises in 2025, up from roughly 15 percent in 2010. Developing an understanding of them, therefore, is fast becoming a crucial long-term priority—not only for global companies active in emerging markets, but also for would-be investors that must ultimately decide whether and how to support this fast-growing segment of the economy.

Exhibit 1

A growing number of family-owned businesses in emerging markets could hit $1 billion in sales in the years from 2010 to 2025.

Why past may not be prologue

The starting point for many family-controlled local companies is a demonstrable, even dominant, “home field” advantage; they have a deep understanding of their countries and industries, as well as considerable influence on regulators. They derive all this from years of personal relationships with stakeholders across the value chain. Many have proved resilient through times of economic crisis.1

The very fact that they are family businesses may be advantageous in an emerging market. Where the conventions of commercial law and corporate identity are less developed, doing business on behalf of a family can signal greater accountability—the family’s reputation is at stake, after all—and a stronger commitment. Indeed, we have observed circumstances where a personal commitment from the owner of a family business was as powerful as a signed contract.

Local philanthropic efforts reinforce this signaling. In the Philippines, the Ayala Foundation—a nonprofit branch of the Ayala Corporation, the country’s largest conglomerate and a family-owned business—states its mission as improving the quality of life for all Filipinos by eradicating poverty. Similarly, in India, the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, an arm of the market-leading GMR Group, strives to “develop social infrastructure and enhance the quality of life of communities” throughout the country. Companies such as these work within and for their communities.

They can also work fast. As one executive at such a company told us: “All the world is trying to make managers think like owners. If we put in one of the owners to manage, we don’t need to solve this problem.” An owner–manager can move much more rapidly than an executive hired from outside. There’s no need to pass decisions up a chain of command or to put them in front of an uncooperative board, and many of the principal–agent challenges that confront non-family-controlled companies are neutralized. Family-owned businesses can therefore place big bets quickly, though of course there’s no guarantee that they will pay off. Still, manager–owners are largely relieved of the quarter-to-quarter, short-term benchmarks that can define—and distort—performance in Western public companies, so they’re freer to make the hard choices necessary to create long-term value.

Indeed, the owners’ long time horizons and sense of mission often suffuse the whole organization. A McKinsey survey of businesses owned by families and founders showed that 90 percent of board members and top managers—family members or not—said that family values were present in the organization, and fully 70 percent said that they were part of its day-to-day operations. For the past ten years, McKinsey has measured and tracked organizational health in hundreds of companies, business units, and factories around the world. Nearly two million employees have answered questions that rate the health of their organizations. We then produce a single health score, or index, reflecting the extent to which employees agree that their companies meet empirically derived litmus tests in each of nine dimensions of organizational health. When we isolate businesses owned by families and founders in emerging markets—as we did for nearly 60 leading companies in Asia, Central America, and South America, with over 100,000 survey respondents—we see health outcomes that are better than or comparable to those of other companies in the same markets (Exhibit 2). 

Moreover, in Asia these companies are stronger than their non-family counterparts on several specific management practices, including shared vision, strategic clarity, employee involvement, and creativity and entrepreneurship.

Exhibit 2

Family-owned businesses in emerging markets have health outcomes better than or comparable to those of non-family-owned businesses in those same markets.

For all these reasons, there may be little need for companies to jettison family-oriented governance to attract investment. In a world where free-flowing capital seeks out success, the emerging markets’ strong-performing publicly traded family businesses will probably be rewarded. Market-leading ones can expect to be sought out by potential investors and venture partners alike, for success is a magnet.

Playing by family rules 

The resilience of family-owned businesses in emerging markets contains a paradox for global companies operating there. Many companies approach these markets in search of rapid growth, yet the family-owned businesses they’re considering partnering with are balancing the importance of liquidity against an extremely long view. Founders and families hold their shares for decades, even centuries. “For us,” the chairman of such a business explained, “short term is 5 years, and medium term is 20 years—that is, one generation.” Multinationals that afford their country managers just three to five years (and sometimes even less time) to make progress are creating a significant mismatch.
Indeed, mismatches between the time horizons of country managers and businesses owned by families and founders can create tensions that undermine strategic partnerships. Exacerbating matters is the volatility of many emerging markets. Many country managers don’t experience a full business cycle, so they struggle to understand and quantify risk, to form a “through cycle” view of the opportunities, and thus to partner meaningfully with their peers in family-owned businesses.

Moreover, many family-owned companies place a premium on building strong, well-diversified businesses—sometimes to an extent that conflicts with the developed world’s conventional core competence–based strategies for value creation. As our colleagues have noted, for example, the largest conglomerates in China, India, and South Korea are entering new businesses (often in unrelated industries) at a startling pace, adding an average of one new-business entry every 18 months.2 Almost 70 percent of these diversifying conglomerates are family or founder owned. In large part, they aspire to play the portfolio game, taking advantage of access to talent and capital, as well as allocating family assets across different industries. This is an appropriate strategy for preserving wealth over the long term—and one that, our research finds, is paying dividends for conglomerates in the BRIC3 countries. The implication for global companies and investors is that family-owned companies making moves into or out of seemingly unrelated industries can show up unexpectedly as competitors, partners, asset purchasers, or sellers, with varying degrees of success.4

The wild card, of course, is succession. Fewer than 30 percent of family- and founder-owned businesses around the world survive to the third generation as family-owned businesses,5 and it’s an open question whether those in emerging markets will fare any better. History suggests they won’t. While statistics are scarce, analyses comparing the top 10 or 20 family-owned businesses in a given emerging-market country 20 years ago with today’s leaders show great discrepancies. Nonetheless, there is some reason for optimism: the factors behind successful transitions are reasonably well known, and much can be learned from companies that failed the test. (Today’s family-owned businesses in emerging markets are more likely than ever to engage in careful succession planning.) Still, the basic challenges—such as family feuds, nepotism, and the gradual loss of entrepreneurship when leadership passes on to new generations—will surely bring down many family-owned companies in emerging markets, as they have elsewhere.

Similarly, such businesses may create ownership models that are inflexible and lack transparency, drawing the attention of activist investors who see value in better governance, more disciplined capital structuring, and getting out of so-called hobby businesses that support family members. This strikes at the heart of the question: Is the family the best owner or manager of a company, or is it in business to support the family? Potential partners, investors, and competitors should carefully look at such a company’s family tree, ownership models, and current succession processes before drawing conclusions about sustainability.
Finally, people who watch emerging markets should keep a weather eye on the role of regulation, as many governments in these countries are struggling to strike a balance between denying family-owned businesses excessive privileges and opportunities to make profits, on the one hand, and fostering entrepreneurism to promote their economies, on the other.6 Would-be investors ignore at their peril the potential of regulatory intervention to reshape the nature of competition in these markets quickly and dramatically.   -  McKinsey 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TaiTai 太太 Today

Always something...

Astronauts in Vancouver

Monday, November 25, 2013


Asian Literature

Asian lit festival gets graphic

Graphic novels and storytelling explored at inaugural literASIAN: A Festival of Pacific Rim Asian Canadian Writing

Graphic novels are linked to the past and the future say participants in Vancouver’s inaugural literASIAN: A Festival of Pacific Rim Asian Canadian Writing, which runs in Chinatown Nov. 21 to 24.
“In China, the comic book form became really popular in the Qing dynasty [in the] 1860s, 1870s,” said Colleen Leung, a documentary filmmaker who’s moderating a Nov. 23 evening session called Storytelling and the Graphic Novel.
She said stories that were passed on orally and morality tales were written and illustrated in comic books in the late 1800s for the largely uneducated population.
Leung, who was the first Chinese-Canadian on-air news reporter for BCTV Vancouver in 1987, first became interested in comics as a kid.
She read her father’s large-format Second World War comics about fighter pilots “and those nasty Germans” and her mother’s comic books from 1960s China that sometimes depicted gruesome morality tales akin to Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm.
“And then we just kind of pooh poohed [the form] because what do we get after that? Archie comics, very light, fluffy kind of stuff. And then it just became a niche market, if you wanted to collect superheroes you could do that.”
Now Leung reads “emotion-packed” graphic novels by Chris Ware and Canadians Chester Brown and Seth. She’s pleased Asian-Canadians are exploring the form.  
The free Storytelling and the Graphic Novel event includes:
• award-winning independent filmmaker and storyteller Ann Marie Fleming, who animated the story of her famous magician great-grandfather and then depicted the tale in an full-colour illustrated memoir called The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam;
• actor Laara Ong, who’s selling her graphic novel Shanghai Blues 1939 on iTunes to raise money for and interest in a pair of related plays she wants to produce;
• architect David Wong, who’s written a graphic novel called Escape to Gold Mountain about the history of Chinese people in North America based on historical documents and interviews with elders; and
• writer Terry Watada, who’s Nikkei Manga-gatari is a historical recollection of memories, with one of the stories following a Japanese soldier who fought for Canada in the First World War and then returns and struggles to feel validated.
“I want to know how all these people are going to interact,” Leung said. “They’re all using the graphic novel and yeah they’re Asian, or they have Chinese or Japanese in their background, but they have different approaches... they have different reasons for writing these.”
Leung says the form demands a strong story and carefully considered dialogue and images. She also notes graphic novels are accessible to children with learning disabilities, those disinterested in reading, new immigrants and elderly people.
She wants to hear “more voices from more diverse communities” in graphic novels.
Jim Wong-Chu, a founding member of the decades-old Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, which publishes Ricepaper magazine, said its members recognized the society’s need to nurture a new generation of more diverse Asian-Canadian writers, including refugees, mixed-race scribes and fantasy and science fiction authors. The hope is that sessions on graphic novels will  attract younger writers.
The festival includes readings, workshops, panels and the book launch for Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate and Circumstance by Denise Chong, author of The Concubine’s Children.
There’s also a book fair of Asian-themed writing.
“Some of [the books] are quite rare,” Wong-Chu said. “When I was younger, 30-odd years ago, every time I’d come across an Asian book of any kind I’d buy it, so my library is very cluttered and a lot of people are now de-cluttering so they’re donating the books to us.”
The fair will include first editions and rare books, DVDs and memorabilia of Asian-North American hockey players.
The festival closes with a 10-course banquet at the Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant, where a Community Builder Award will be presented to publisher Brian Lam of Arsenal Pulp Press.
Most of the festivities happen in Chinatown at the UBC Learning Exchange and the festival includes a literary walking tour of the area.
Leung is particularly passionate about the festival’s focus on graphic novels.
“It’s great the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop [which is mounting the literASIAN festival] is promoting [the graphic novel],” she said. “They recognize it’s growing in popularity and it’s a heck of a good way to tell a story.”
For more information, see
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Sunday, November 24, 2013


Started Meditation at an early age ;-)

Deepak Chopra
—Deepak Chopra - 02 - Heart Meditation
but not till I discovered this joyful teacher,  Clara Oss-Roberts

Then I discovered together Dana Flynn at Laughing Lotus who sent me back to Level 2.   I became intrigued...

Photo Credit Nadine Somjen

And thru Dana Flynn, i was blessed to be taught by Keith Borden who is an amazing being.

I have been blessed to have some amazing teachers.  I like to start the week on Monday morning's with the inspiring Tina James:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013