British Chinese in Profile: Dr Johnny Hon – International Investor and Philanthropist

Few can people can proudly boast to have achieved as many things in one lifetime as Dr Johnny Hon – international investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is passionate about uniting the East and the West in a myriad of ways and has been extremely successful in his endeavours.

Dr Hon was born in Hong Kong and completed most of his higher education in the UK. After graduating from Kings College London, he went on to Hughes Hall College, at the University of Cambridge where he obtained his PhD in Psychiatry. After achieving his PhD, Dr Johnny Hon became a private banker at ABN AMRO Bank in Hong Kong. In this role, he developed expertise in financial planning, lending, portfolio management, tax structuring and trust formation, which led him to form The Global Group, an international venture capital business and angel investor, in 1997. This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Global Group.

In nineteen years, Global Group has grown to become an international conglomerate with offices all over the world aiming to help innovative enterprises in a myriad of sectors, ranging from banking, property development, education to media, entertainment and leisure.

Focusing on Global Group’s work between its offices in Hong Kong and London, the firm is ideally placed to bring UK and Asian investors with promising business together to aid and facilitate expansion and development. The company is headquartered in Hong Kong as Dr Hon believes it is the ideal place for the firm to best focus on bridging the East and the West. Most recently, Global Group has invested in the West End revival of 42nd Street, a musical loved by many.

Whilst building and leading the Global Group, Dr Johnny Hon is also a dedicated and well-known philanthropist. He serves on various committees and numerous international charities. Dr Hon is an active donor to various scholarships, educational and charitable funds. He has donated a major scholarship to the University of Oxford, creating the Johnny Hon China Scholarship Fund. Dr Hon’s philanthropic exercises follow the principles that mirror his business philosophy, i.e. to improve local communities’ sustainability and empower young individuals.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

To be a great leader, you must be willing to constantly learn – there is no limit to knowledge and this is essential to teach others. You also need to be able to inspire people, in both the good times and bad. Most importantly though, I believe you must lead by example. People will always work hard and put in more effort when they know that you work harder than anyone else.

What has been the biggest change you have noticed over the years about the UK and its receptiveness to China?

One of the most interesting changes is that when I started, people in the UK were just getting interested in the possibilities of investing into the Chinese market, but were warier as it was more unknown to them at the time. Today, they see China as a key source of investment and future growth possibilities for links between the two are endless.

We know how dedicated you are to philanthropy, can you tell us a little more about your involvement?

I think it is very important to dedicate time to charitable work and to give back when possible. My philanthropic pursuits go hand in hand with my business pursuits. Through accumulating capital, I can donate as much as I can to charity, supporting many causes that are close to my heart.

What sparked your interest in the media sector? How do those investments help to nurture Hong Kong and the UK’s cultural environment?

I have always had an immense interest in the Arts – particularly film, television and theatre. As an international entrepreneur, I see more room for international cooperation on cross-border entertainment projects. By utilising the various strengths and talents of different regions, I believe the content created will have greater impact for both cultural environments. Additionally, high quality content could be repackaged to a new audience, this would allow us to tap into a new market and further facilitate cultural exchange.

Can you tell us a little more about your involvement in the latest West End production of 42nd Street?

I have always had a passion for the arts and was delighted to invest in the West End revival of 42nd Street, a musical loved by all. Investing in theatrical productions is proving to be both profitable and highly enjoyable for Global Group and we hope to continue bringing classic shows back to the West End. It is a pleasure to be working with so many of the key figures who helped bring 42nd Street to life originally and to share the wonderful show with the world.

What advice would you give to the younger generation who wish to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be, to have the resilience, faith and willpower even if you fail in some of your initial attempts to pick yourself up and come back stronger, wiser and more determined. As the old saying goes and one that I have always lived by “if at first you don’t success try, try and try again.” Also, as your company starts to grow and develop you need to assure that you instil the same spirit in your team.


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