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Dr Johnny Hon – The Philanthropist Changing the World for Good

Dr Johnny Hon – The Philanthropist Changing the World for Good

Founder of Global Group International Holdings, Dr Johnny Hon has managed to successfully balance a career in high finance with his high-profile commitments to the worlds of politics and charitable giving.

Your background is famously diverse…
Well, my father was a businessman and my mother was an actress, so that is certainly a diverse combination. In addition, I was born in Hong Kong and moved to the UK when I was 13, where I went to boarding school and then studied Medical Science at the University of London.

After that, I opted to take a Ph.D. in Psychiatry at Cambridge, where my primary focus was on how people with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Down’s syndrome and so on, deal with their everyday lives. I was really interested in how to improve the lives of these people beyond what one doctor could do alone. I think it really is important that we think of these people because they have to deal and live with these illnesses, in addition to the everyday life struggles and problems. This also got me thinking how privileged we all are to be living a “normal life”.

Then I entered the world of banking, working in a number of different countries – including Singapore, Dubai and throughout Europe – as a private banker. Along the way, I built up my contacts and networked with investors, which ultimately led to the launch of the Global Group of companies. That was really the driving force for everything that had gone before and allowed me to make good use of my prior experience as I looked to do something genuinely new.

While playing so many different roles, how did you define what suited you best? My motto in life is to never stop learning. I’ve done a lot of business in many different sectors. And sometimes, I have found myself asking: “Who exactly am I?” as even I cannot decide just what my ideal role would be. There is, however, always a common element in everything I do – a genuine intent to help other people. As long as any project involves helping other people along the way, then I will definitely pursue it.

More lately, as I’ve just turned 51, I’ve also found myself focusing more on the spiritual meaning of life, rather than looking at things at a more superficial level.

Do you consider yourself a smart worker or more of a hard worker?
I’d like to think I’m a little bit of both, maybe even both at the same time. That, at least, has always been my goal.

As a graduate of several prestigious schools, do you think such prior associations opened doors for you?

I don’t think the opportunities that open up to you have much to do with the name of the school you went to. While it definitely feels good to be a graduate of a well-known university, what’s more important is just what you learnt during your time at any such institution. It is also about more than just the syllabus; it’s about the quality of teaching and the real-life lessons you have subsequently learnt. This is especially true in the digital era, a time when there is so much information available online. The internet aside, though, I will forever be grateful to all the professors who taught me how to be both book-smart and street-smart.

Global Group International Holdings, Dr Johnny Hon

Among all of your various interests and projects, which has been closest to your heart?
There is a very long list for me to choose from. I have, for instance, donated to some 160 charities across the world, which underlines the fact that the good causes we choose to support are not necessarily limited to just Hong Kong or even just China.

In terms of the political and diplomatic projects I’ve been involved in, the moment when China resumed diplomatic ties with the Caribbean nation of Grenada was very special to me.

On the charity front, I personally enjoyed my role with Lok Sing Tong when I served as Chairman back in 2013. It’s an organisation dedicated to providing financial assistance to families, especially those with children who are very seriously ill. We also partnered with the Welfare Department, which ensured things were still being coordinated with the government while reducing the level of required bureaucracy. I then took that model and applied it to many of the other charities we were involved with.

I am also a supporter of protecting the rights of people from the LGBTQ+ community. This is all about ensuring everyone is free to make their own life choices without any fear. It really is as simple as that.

What’s your view on the impact of social media and digital content in general?
I think one of the problems in our society right now is how to differentiate between fake news amid the information overload we now face on a daily basis. It has come to the point where it’s difficult to be sure what to believe. Within this, while freedom of speech is important, there needs to be rules and regulations as means of putting a check on defamation and bullying. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, in life, it’s often better to be kind than to be always correct.

To give you your full title, you are “Dr Johnny Hon Baron of Houston, MH, SHOSJ, BSc (Hons), MA, M BuddhStud, Ph.D. (Cantab), ACSI, MIoD, MBPsS, FHKIoD and SF.SERA”. Do you feel the need to add any more letters after your name? 

I’d say, why not? Right now, I am focused on studying Buddhism. In particular, I’m considering how to use Buddhist philosophy to enhance psychotherapy and how to deal with mental health issues in general, a subject that gets way less attention than it deserves. In the future, it’s an approach I’m hoping to put to good use in many of the charities and projects I am involved in.

Over the next couple of years, I see myself studying far more, something that will also allow me to meet more young people. So, in addition to my classroom lesson, I am also hoping to gain a new perspective from the younger generation. So yes, there will be an addition to all of these letters.

Finally, what should be the priority – happiness or financial well-being?
I think people have different needs at different stages of their lives. While in their twenties and thirties, people largely focus on earning money while building their careers and making investments. Many are basically looking to secure their place in society. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that right? I think it is the ideal thing to do.

However, when you turn 40, suddenly everything changes, while also becoming a lot harder, at least from my personal experience. For me, this was when I began to search for the fire and desire I needed to keep me passionate about everything I do. And that’s what I always advise young people – be passionate about everything you do.

Thank you.

(Interview by: Joseff Musa; Photographer: Jack Law; Art Direction and Styling: Jhoshwa Ledesma; Videographer: Jack Fontanilla)

2023-02-09T12:05:16+00:00 February 03, 2023|Interview, People|