Collaborative Philanthropic Action: The Time Has Come

Every day we are reminded of just how vulnerable individuals and whole societies have become within our damaged environment. Whether via social media or rolling broadcast news, our awareness of the global challenge represented by extreme weather events and social inaccessibility grows by the day. Our world has never seemed so fragile as it struggles to contend with mounting climate change and heightened social inequality.

Amid all this, Covid-19 has manifested a yet more visible and tangible understanding of these social and environmental issues. Most notably, the pandemic has amplified the importance of delivering relief to those parts of the world where the need is greatest but where vital resources are the hardest to come by.

It is all too easy to be daunted by the sheer scale of challenges many people are facing in disparate parts of the world. Increasingly, though, collaborative global action is coming to be seen as an effective partnership to address the needs of those who are marginalized.

Philanthropy as a Responsibility

In an era where social inequality is at its height, philanthropy has become a global and collective responsibility.

At the international level, businesses, families and individuals are showing their commitment to helping transform lives and communities. This, though, is not achieved through random acts of charity, but through intention and focus, as well as via expertly implemented strategic programs that dig deep into the root cause of many of these issues, ensuring purposeful outcomes and trackable improvements.

Acknowledging the significance of the growing donor capacity, Jean Sung, Executive Director and Head of The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank for Asia Pacific, says, “As societies across the world have had to contend with an ever-escalating number of health and education issues, corporate, family and individual giving is playing an ever more important role in tackling these problems. We truly are in a golden era of philanthropy.”

The Importance of Collaboration, Evaluation and Precision

This golden era has been characterized by a new emphasis on collaboration, evaluation and precision targeting, as well as by a considerable increase in the level of available philanthropic capital. It has also seen an increase in the desire to give back and to make a positive and lasting impact, something that has become a core component of corporate strategies and a priority for many ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals.

In the U.S., philanthropists are no stranger to the headlines, with the likes of Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates and Jeff Bezos regularly feted by the media for the scope and scale of their commitment to good causes.

“As societies across the world have had to contend with an ever-escalating number of health and education issues, corporate, family and individual giving is playing an ever more important role in tackling these problems. We truly are in a golden era of philanthropy.”

– Jean Sung, Executive Director and Head of The Philanthropy Centre, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Asia Pacific

These high-profile donors have succeeded in establishing philanthropy as a primary responsibility, rather than as a secondary option for many of the world’s wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations. One initiative that clearly encapsulates this is the Giving Pledge, a program jointly launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in 2010. 

Seen as revolutionary at the time, the scheme set out to inspire the wealthiest to donate at least half of their net worth to philanthropic causes. Within months of its launch, some 40 billionaires had taken the pledge. As of August 2021, there were 223 pledges from 27 countries.

Another key benefit of this highly public and largely transparent take on philanthropy has been the move towards greater collaboration. While, historically, many donors gave individually, contributing without any prior understanding of their peers’ initiatives, there is now an acceptance of the importance of collective and coordinated action.

The Asian Charitable Culture

In Asia, such giving tends to be more discreet, with many of the region’s wealthiest individuals favoring a lower profile.

Sharing Resources, Unifying Goals

The region also has its own charitable culture and unique structural characteristics. Most notably, Asian benefactors tend to have, traditionally, a distinct preference for contributing to their local communities and to addressing the specific needs of their home countries. Collaboration, though, is still very much at the heart of giving in Asia. This has seen a growing understanding that working in partnership with like-minded individuals and corporations will hugely enhance the effectiveness of philanthropic capital. Not only does such an approach minimize duplicate targeting, it also allows for shared resources, aligned goals and a more comprehensive evaluation of short- and long-term measures of success.

Such collaboration, especially among low-profile donors, requires coordination and this is where philanthropic advisory support can often be essential. Highlighting the need for such a service, Sung says, “Among the questions I’m most frequently asked by philanthropists are ‘How do I know what everybody else is doing?’ and ‘How do I know I’m not just replicating what someone else is already doing?’

“Fortunately, through our connectivity; knowledge and experience; industry contacts; and understanding of global and regional priorities, we can help our clients maximize their philanthropic impact. We can also help bridge the gap to align their passions and pursuits with other philanthropic entities and individuals that share their values and have compatible philanthropic priorities.”

Nurturing Social Commitment

With many Asian businesses now in their second or third generation of family ownership, philanthropy also tends to be a more personalized family matter than in corporations with a more varied stakeholder hierarchy. This makes the creation of an enduring and positive legacy an imperative for such families and their companies, as well as a matter of shared concern among its family members.

With nurturing social commitment now seen as key to instilling legacy values into emerging generations, education remains the number one priority for Asia’s philanthropists and accounts for a considerable proportion of all such spend. Historically, it has been well above the allocation for alleviating poverty, inaccessibility to healthcare and addressing climate change.

Addressing Immediate Needs

Evaluating the particular challenges of the region and highlighting the need for coordination, Sung says, “While we all agree that education is essential and is the key to financial and social independence for many of those currently living below the poverty line, there is also the problem of immediate need. For someone living below the poverty line, their next meal is more of a priority than their education.

“This is where The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank can really help. We facilitate, introduce and ensure that donors can work in partnership with one another, coordinating contributions that can be complementary and help deliver programs and services that can respond with immediate and longer term solutions to the pressing social issues. This ensures no one falls through the net and outcomes are not undermined by factors outside the remit of any individual initiative.”

Philanthropic Veteran Jean Sung Talks About How To Make Philanthropy Truly Impactful

In many ways it is easy to understand why there is now such a widespread need for the portfolio of services offered by The Philanthropy Centre. Amid all the challenges facing the world—from climate change to social inequality of opportunity and emerging public health threats—we are also on the verge of the greatest transfer of wealth of all time. By 2030, some US$15 trillion will be inherited by the next generation—a generation of young entrepreneurs and businesspeople committed to both honoring the philanthropic legacy of their forebears and to championing their own causes.2

Explaining why there is now such a widespread need for a holistic and sophisticated understanding of how to effectively do good, Jean Sung, Executive Director and Head of The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank for Asia Pacific, addresses the importance of tailored and holistic philanthropic planning.

Q: What differentiates The Philanthropy Centre at J.P. Morgan Private Bank?

Sung: We emphasize the importance of tailoring our advisory service to clients at different stages of their donor journey. For example, when working with first-time philanthropists, we focus on helping them to identify and articulate their passion, with a focus on understanding their primary giving interest and the social issues closest to their hearts. Often, we find ourselves helping build upon a framework passed onto them by their predecessors and coming up with a refined plan for outlining specific and measurable goals—whether geographic or time-specific—that address issues they are most passionate about. In addition, we also assist with deciding which vehicle should be adopted.

Q: How about those in the later stage of their philanthropic journey?

Sung: In the case of those who are more matured in their philanthropic journey, we may be more involved with succession planning or with conducting a mission audit, assessing the achievements to date and allowing for strategic readjustments to be implemented should they be required. At every level, we are there to ensure there is a defined and deliberate approach to each client’s philanthropic journey. We are also there to help and to assist families and/or individuals in formalizing and implementing their philanthropic goals.

Q: What is the one thing that is shared at all stages of a philanthropic journey?

Sung: Regardless of which philanthropic stage the donor client has reached, The Philanthropy Centre is also a firm advocate of the importance of networking. Given J.P. Morgan’s reach, depth and the breadth of its global, regional and local networks, access to the most influential and innovative private foundations is assured, as is social sector engagement with the most effective non-profit organizations active within a diverse range of communities and social issues.

Our philanthropy advisors can be the bridge that connects like-minded individuals and their families with each other so that when they collaborate, they can hear from each other; they can also stand by to offer each other’s global contacts and networks that can assist with [like] objectives; that can deepen impact. Collaboration can be meshed to deliver measurable solutions to social problems.

Q: Why are such networking opportunities important for philanthropy?

Sung: They are hugely beneficial as they are the key means for our clients to interact on an exclusive platform with other like-minded philanthropists. Often, they want to hear what others are doing and discover what has previously worked well, allowing them to hear and to learn from the success (and even failures) of others. These events also reflect the importance The Philanthropy Centre places on understanding the differing priorities and charitable cultures that coexist across Asia. This allows for tailored, informed and up-to-date advice to be provided with regards to optimized giving parameter across the region’s constituent jurisdictions.

Q: What is the essence of successful philanthropy?

Sung: I’m a firm believer that giving back is most effective when professionally managed. Philanthropy is multi-billion-dollar concern. It changes lives and shapes destinies at an
individual, regional, and global level. Given its scale and potential impact, families and corporations have also recognized the need for their philanthropic giving to be effectively managed; properly implemented and be fully evaluated and accounted for.

Philanthropy is not a new phenomenon—it has the power to nurture, to stir collaboration between the private, social and public sectors—developing successful models that can stimulate and advocate positive change.

When we can step up with philanthropy and help solve pressing challenges in our own backyards, in our communities, and in our common home—we can build vibrant and healthy societies that are fair and works for everyone—this is good business!

Philanthropy can truly be transformative. We pride ourselves on being the advisory partner for those looking to leave a legacy of caring values, those who genuinely want to make a difference and build back better. We realize and understand that every philanthropic journey needs to start somewhere and we are here to help and support donors through their own individual journey of transforming charitable giving into effective philanthropy. We, at J.P. Morgan, are so proud to work with our clients and their families to help explore options and develop strategies that would work well for them and ultimately deliver their philanthropic goals.

1. Source: Data as of August 2021.
2. Source: Data as of June 26, 2019.

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J.P. Morgan: Asia At The Forefront Of Accelerated Digital Transformation

Kam Shing Kwang, CEO of J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Asia, aptly captures the pace and scale of the accelerated digital transformation during her welcome speech at the sixth annual J.P. Morgan Tech Exchange that was concluded in early June 2021. Global spending on digital transformation will reach US$6.8 trillion between 2020 to 2023, with 65% of global GDP expected to be digitalized by 2022, Kwang said.1

The three key areas of technological transformation are artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and cloud computing. Emerging digital trends, such as e-commerce, IoT and smart cities are converging, thought leaders, chief executives, entrepreneurs and investors said at this year’s Morgan Tech Exchange conference that was attended by more than 650 J.P. Morgan Private Bank clients.

Whilst convergence of different areas of digital transformation is underway, facilitating resilience and enabling efficiencies, there’s also a shift of value creation around the world. The Morgan Tech Exchange also reflected on the increase in innovation and the tilt to value creation in Asia, underscored by the value raised in Asia capital markets.

Unlocking the Full Potential of AI, Big Data and Cloud Computing

AI, big data and cloud computing are already heavily used but each will see continued convergence, unlocking further impact and efficiencies. Kwang expects AI to contribute US$15.7 trillion to the economy by 2030,2 driven by the numerous innovative applications from self-driving cars, virtual travel booking agents, autonomous customer service chatbots and robots as well as AI-driven social analytics. The potential is huge in Asia as digital transformation is being widely embraced in this region. The market for AI in the region is forecasted to rise at a CAGR of 41.6% from 2019 to 2027.3 Asia is leading the way on how these technologies will be ingrained in many facets of people’s lives around the world.

Earlier this year, a Tokyo-headquartered multinational automotive maker started to build a prototype “city of the future” at the foothills of Mount Fuji. This will be a testing ground—transformed with AI, autonomous cars and IoT homes—for building a smart city that can then be replicated around the world.

For big data, the global market is forecasted to more than double to US$103 billion by 2027 from 2018 levels.4 A more recent example of big data being leveraged successfully in the region is the “Big Data Migration Map,” which Kwang described as a popular cutting-edge app that utilizes mass data aggregation. The app’s popularity is due to its ability to predict changes in the epidemic situation in China.5

Cloud computing is no doubt an area that saw an exponential increase in adoption due to the pandemic as businesses were forced to embrace remote working capabilities. During a time that the world needs to operate remotely, it has propelled cloud infrastructure and cybersecurity to become the foundation of running businesses with minimal disruption even during the pandemic.

“Global spending on digital transformation will reach US$6.8 trillion between 2020 to 2023, with 65% of global GDP expected to be digitalized by 2022.”

– Kam Shin Kwang, CEO of J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Asia

Asia Drives Digital-First Economy

Asia is leading the world’s digital transformation journey and a prime mover in the worldwide e-commerce boom. Asia Pacific will account for 42.3% of retail and e-commerce sales worldwide.6 China’s dominance in e-commerce means that 62.6% of all digital sales will take place in Asia Pacific.6 The growth is driven by the region’s growing middle class, young population and increasing Internet penetration. Asia’s e-commerce revenues will continue to grow, reaching US$1.9 trillion by 2024.7

The Morgan Tech Exchange this year revealed many insightful takeaways in the world’s digital transformation, particularly the emergence of new tech titans from Asia. In recent years, many of the world’s biggest companies are from the region, with a number of Chinese e-commerce firms competing head on with U.S. tech giants.

In Southeast Asia, homegrown e-commerce firms are beating U.S. and international rivals, Patrick Grove, founder and CEO of Malaysian Internet group Catcha Group, said at the conference. A similar trend is happening in ride-hailing and food delivery, he added.

This trend suggests that the global technology landscape has evolved and will continue to evolve, with more Asian tech giants spreading their wings around the world. “If you look at the valuations of the top 15 or 20 tech companies, the top ones are probably two-thirds in the United States, and the other one-third in China,” Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and former chairman and CEO of Google, said at the Global China Summit hosted by J.P. Morgan this year.

These technology companies in Asia have also helped lead stock exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai to become two of the three largest stock exchanges globally in 2020, respectively raising US$51.28 billion and US$49.42 billion.8

Technology Builds Resilience and Enables Efficiencies

What do these trends mean for companies, investors and consumers?

One of the greatest impacts of technology is it has allowed companies to be resilient even as the pandemic disrupted industries and societies. The robust Internet infrastructure in many countries allowed companies to shift to remote work during lockdowns, helping curb the spread of Covid-19.

E-commerce is one of the technology trends that has directly affected most consumers, including the older generation who used to be typically averse to technology. Around the world, consumers stuck at home due to government-enforced lockdowns and travel restrictions turned to online shopping and food deliveries, boosting the usage of digital payments such as e-wallets.

With the growth of e-commerce, AI-driven innovations followed. For instance, businesses developed new applications such as AI-empowered customer relationship management solutions that enable online stores to tailor their sales recommendations to customer preferences based on their purchase history. Such innovations helped e-tailers boost their online sales even more.

For investors, AI is one of the key technologies that has been transforming the investment process. In finance, AI can be used to identify trends by leveraging high volumes of data (big data) in order to discover repeatable patterns and predict the direction and trajectory of asset prices. The use of AI and big data has also fueled the growth of fintech, with the global AI fintech market predicted to increase at a CAGR of 23.4% in the next five years to reach US$22.6 billion by 2025.9

For veteran investors, technology trends combined with other global trends has transformed the investment landscape. The trends that come with globalization and economic growth woven together also make for a complex world of investing. Thankfully, AI, big data, and cloud computing infrastructure is something technology can help decode and simplify.

The pandemic has certainly accelerated the move toward a digital-first economy and this momentum isn’t slowing anytime soon. Investing with experienced managers who have expertise in digital disruption and innovation offers potential returns.

1. Source: Data as of Oct 29, 2020.

2. Source: Data as of 2017.

3. Source:

4. Source: Data as of March 2018.

5. Source: Data as of April 8, 2020.

6. Source: Data as of June 22, 2020.

7. Source: Data as of July 7, 2021.

8. Source: Data as of January 2021.

9. Source: Data as of October 31, 2020.

How J.P. Morgan Digitalized Financial Services In A Transformative Way

One of the companies that has been using innovative technology to digitalize its services is J.P. Morgan. To stay at the forefront of the digital revolution, the bank has made substantial investments in technology to benefit its customers, including entrepreneurs and other clients.

JPMorgan Chase is the first major U.S. bank to roll out an AI-powered virtual assistant that makes it easier for corporate clients to seamlessly move money around the world, whether it’s for routine payroll or multi-million-dollar mergers and acquisitions. This technological innovation enables the bank to offer a multi-channel, and consistent customer service. The virtual assistant provides clients instant information, such as balances, on demand. Machine learning also enables the app to adapt to the clients’ behavior over time to make useful recommendations.

The bank also serves entrepreneurs, whether they’re running a trendsetting consumer goods startup or a tech disruptor. The bank focuses on solutions for high-growth, disruptive companies at every stage of their life cycle, from day one to IPO and beyond. One of the innovative technology tools that J.P. Morgan offers clients is Chase Cashflow360, which enables entrepreneurs to connect digitally with suppliers and customers to automate invoicing, payments, approvals and reconciliation.

While J.P. Morgan Private Bank aspired to continue to connect and engage with its clients via their existing channels of choice at the height of the pandemic last year, the disruption brought about by Covid-19 called for new modes of communication, and rapidly accelerated the Private Bank’s digital transformation agenda.

In February 2021, J.P. Morgan Private Bank launched the WhatsApp Business Account in Asia, in order to communicate their latest insights via the popular instant messaging platform. They were the first private bank to leverage a Business Account to broadcast insights to clients. They also deployed a chatbot on their official WeChat account, which further engaged a subset of clients and followers on this platform preferred by clients in China. In doing so, J.P. Morgan has been leveraging the best communications technology that suits their clients’ needs.

Since the onset of Covid-19, J.P. Morgan Private Bank has also launched a Virtual Events Hub, allowing clients to access live events and replays with the most influential thought leaders from across J.P. Morgan and renowned guest speakers from various sectors. The bank has hosted over 160 virtual events, in webcast, Zoom meetings and conference call formats, covering ideas and insights across macro economy, investment, wealth planning, cybersecurity and philanthropy.

People’s needs and behaviors are changing and J.P. Morgan is changing with them.


J.P. Morgan is one of the world’s oldest, largest and best-known financial institutions. With a history dating back over 200 years, the bank has US$2.6 trillion in client assets under management, a net worth of US$476 billion and 250,000 employees to date.

J.P. Morgan is no stranger to technological innovation, having been the banker to Thomas Edison’s Edison Electric Company in 1878. The group continues to innovate. The company recently invested in partnerships with high-profile startups, including OnDeck and Roostify to the tune of $600 million. In June 2021, it acquired OpenInvest, a San Francisco-based startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz. Through the platform, clients globally can create highly personalized, dynamic and value-based portfolios.

J.P. Morgan also has a rich history in Asia. This year, it is celebrating its centennial in China, where the bank’s roots began in 1921 when predecessor Equitable Eastern Banking Corporation opened its China branch. Equitable Eastern Banking later merged with Chase National Bank in 1930. In 2007, J.P. Morgan received approval to establish JPMorgan Chase Bank (China) Co. Ltd., becoming the country’s first locally-incorporated foreign bank, with its head office set up in Beijing.

The bank also has a strong private banking arm in Asia. The bank has been named Best Private Bank—UHNWIs by the Asset Triple A Private Capital Awards for Private Bank for the sixth year running. Globally, full-year revenues at its wealth management arm rose 4% to a record of US$6.6 billion in 2020 from the previous year. The number of wealth management client advisers rose 2% to 2,462, giving the bank a 12:1 ratio of clients per adviser.

J.P. Morgan continues to raise the standard in private banking, delivering a uniquely elevated experience shaped around its clients.

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Philippine Economy Comes Back Stronger

The Philippines has always prevailed through major challenges, from natural disasters to political uncertainties. However, the lingering socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could strain the country’s much vaunted resilience now more than ever. Though still rocky, a path to recovery does lie ahead.

GDP growth significantly rebounded in the second quarter of 2021, surging 11.8% compared to the previous year, the highest growth in more than three decades. Among major sectors, manufacturing expanded by 22.3%, construction by 25.7%, and services by 9.6%. These figures have already brightened the economy’s full-year growth outlook despite some expected bumps due to the continuing spread of coronavirus variants. The government’s goal of vaccinating all adults—70% of the population—by the end of the year is crucial for the economy to sustain its growth trajectory. More than 42 million total vaccine doses have been administered so far.

Vaccine distribution may be uneven across the country, but in Metro Manila at least, the rollout seems to be proceeding briskly. The National Capital Region—which accounts for around 36% of the national economy—seems to be moving towards herd immunity. As of late September, almost 70% of the region’s target residents have been fully vaccinated, while almost 90% have already received their first dose.

The efforts of the private sector, such as global port management company International Container Terminal Services, Inc., have been instrumental in procuring and distributing the vaccines. SM Investments, the country’s largest conglomerate, provided free vaccines not only to its workforce, but also stakeholders and business partners, offering its properties as vaccination and testing hubs.

Prudent financial policies and vital reforms are expected to clear the way for further recovery, with growth expected to pick up by the last quarter of 2021 and into next year. With several high-impact infrastructure projects slated for completion in 2022, job opportunities are bound to expand and the country’s competitiveness will improve. These are also supporting the appreciation of real estate values in major cities, providing investors with unprecedented opportunities. Rebounding exports and remittances, and increased spending ahead of next year’s general elections, are also expected to boost domestic consumer demand.

The increasing adoption of digital technology and online transactions has greatly accelerated over the past year, boosting efficiency and the ease of doing business. Growth has now been more decentralized, with the government focusing on decongesting the capital and stepping up digitalization initiatives to sustain economic activity. Indicators point to a Philippines that will bounce back better, with more inclusive and sustainable growth, supported by robust infrastructure, and a resilient population that’s more digitally savvy.

Sparrow: A Trusted Digital Asset Wealth Management Specialist

Sparrow has emerged as a trusted digital asset partner of financial institutions and wealth managers in Singapore. Wealth management including digital assets requires prudence to thrive.

“Technological reliability and security are paramount,” says Kenneth Yeo, CEO of Sparrow. “The Sparrow platform is built with multi-layered security measures to industry-leading standards by adopting a pro-active approach to dealing with vulnerabilities and cyber-attacks. In addition, the proprietary platform, products, and solutions are designed to make it easy for our customers to trade with confidence”.

With cryptocurrencies evolving rapidly, Yeo says “The digital currency market is moving at high speed, so we must constantly evolve and create products and solutions that are compelling for our customers.”

He adds: “We believe that cryptocurrencies are here to stay for a long time and the growing penetration is a sign of continued growth for the industry. We are confident that more comprehensive regulations and requirements will kick in as regulators and institutions gain a better understanding of the ecosystem.”

Investors typically fall into two distinct types, says Alvaro Patron, Sparrow’s Head of Institutional Sales. “They are the crypto believers and the traditional finance.” Patron believes in reassuring the traditional customers. “There are some critical aspects or essentials when it comes to digital asset wealth management among institutional investors,” he says. “This include a need for more transparency, less counterparty risk, and a deeper market.”

Investment Misconception

Patron says one myth is that cryptocurrency is a one-size-fits-all plan for every financial institution and wealth manager. “That’s not true,” he says. “There is a misconception among many that bitcoin is an asset class that requires a large investment and to take unlimited risks.”

“Yes, it can be volatile and contains risks, but investors have the ability to own a fraction and use derivatives to manage their risk to their own risk capacity. This way, they can diversify their wealth management by right-sizing the asset allocation, according to their comfort and needs,” says Patron.

Patron notes that uncertainties are best mitigated with the use of advanced tools, trading strategies and risk management frameworks. “We are seeing the rise and stabilization of a new asset class,” he says. “Like emerging market bonds in the 1990s, there are progressive changes in the marketplace.”

Kenneth Yeo, Chief Executive Officer

“Sparrow is the bridge between traditional finance and digital asset wealth management.”

– Kenneth Yeo, CEO, Sparrow

Another important factor is that regulators are focusing on digital assets’ growth and development. “There is and we foresee more oversight and regulation coming into market which we see as a positive development as it allows for more solid compliance, transparency and helps to level the playing field,” says Patron.

“Better standards are something we welcome in the cryptocurrency space,” he adds. “While most are concerned with short-term negativities and volatility, these interventions are beneficial in the long-term as it serves as a catalyst to the market’s growth.”



Increasing Recognition

Globally, cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance, and blockchain technologies are increasingly included in financial ecosystems. We believe the used cases are growing exponentially,” says Patron.

Nevertheless, Patron accepts that potential investors may be hesitant to allocate funds to the digital asset class. “When compared with traditional finance, the cryptocurrency space still lacks clarity on legal and regulatory compliance, technological safeguards, and Sparrow is actively working on bridging those needs.”

He said Singapore for example took “much-needed steps” to engage with industry players. “A robust and sensible regulatory framework is the foundation of a vibrant financial system,” says Patron. “We in the industry need to do our part too—providing customer education, compliance frameworks, and forging strong partnerships to ease these institutions’ concerns.”

Alvaro Patron, Head of Institutional Sales

“Sparrow’s wealth management solution is designed to address financial institutions’ common pain-points.”

– Alvaro Patron, Head of Institutional Sales

Institutional Focus

“While there is an active penetration within the retail market space, Sparrow is committed to meeting the needs of institutions and wealth managers by bridging the gaps” says Patron.

He says Sparrow has invested significant resources to serve institutions by providing quality institutional products, financial and performance reporting, as well as trading application programming interfaces, or APIs—the lines of code that connect different software. “We also believe in robust compliance, and technology risk management—these are critical to institutions having the confidence to trust the space.”

Sparrow was established in 2018 in Singapore to offer innovative financial products and solutions for digital wealth management. Backed by renowned investors, its digital asset trading platform complies with optimal regulatory and cybersecurity standards. The team of experts at Sparrow provides compelling structured products, white labeled products, and treasury management solutions.


Risk warning on digital payment token services

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) requires Sparrow Tech Private Limited (Sparrow) to provide this risk warning to you as a customer of a digital payment token (DPT) service provider.

Before you pay Sparrow any money or DPT, you should be aware of the following.

1. Sparrow is exempted by MAS from holding a licence to provide DPT services. Please note that you may not be able to recover all the money or DPTs you paid to Sparrow if Sparrow’s business fails.

2. You should not transact in the DPT if you are not familiar with this DPT. Transacting in DPTs may not be suitable for you if you are not familiar with the technology that DPT services provide.     

3. You should be aware that the value of DPTs may fluctuate greatly. You should buy DPTs only if you are prepared to accept the risk of losing all of the money you put into such tokens.


The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as a recommendation or advice to any prospective investor in relation to any legal, tax, financial investment or any other matters. You should consult with an attorney or other professional advisors to determine what may be best for your individual needs.

Content contained on or made available through any of our communication channels is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or investment advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Your use of the information on any of our communication channels is at your own risk.

Indonesia: Positioned For Recovery

In the face of a once-in-a-generation crisis, Indonesia is proactively taking steps to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on its people and economy.

Among other steps, the government has rolled out a series of measures to support hard-hit businesses and industries. These include 35.3 trillion rupiah (US$2.26 billion) in new tax incentives for 18 sectors such as tourism, food and beverage, and healthcare. The authorities have also expanded social assistance programs for low-income citizens across the country to help them meet their basic needs and maintain their purchasing power.

Meanwhile, the recently approved Omnibus Law on Job Creation is expected to make it easier to do business in Indonesia by cutting red tape, easing restrictions on foreign investment and providing more incentives to free-trade zones. According to Fitch Ratings, the new law should significantly enhance the business climate and improve the country’s international competitiveness over time if the changes are fully realized.

In particular, the reforms will help Indonesia capitalize on shifts in global manufacturing supply chains. Many multinationals are looking to diversify their supply chains in response to uncertainties created by ongoing U.S.-China trade tensions. Some have relocated operations to Indonesia in recent years, and the new measures introduced by the government are aimed at accelerating this trend.

“We believe that the law will bolster Indonesia’s long-term economic growth prospects. All else being equal, faster growth would have a positive effect on the sovereign’s public debt metrics, boosting fiscal inflows and reducing debt-to-GDP ratios,” said Fitch in its October report.

“Perhaps more importantly, the potential boost in Indonesia’s manufacturing exports and FDI inflows could make the country less dependent on commodity exports and on portfolio flows to finance its current-account deficit.”

State-owned enterprises such as Pertamina continue to play their part in supporting economic growth. The energy giant has a key role in developing Indonesia’s energy security and self-sufficiency. According to Nicke Widyawati, President Director and CEO of Pertamina, the company not only seeks profit, but also to serve as an engine of economic expansion and a driving force for the growth of the country’s small and midsized businesses. 

On the manufacturing front, Indonesian corporates such as apparel maker Pan Brothers continue to keep their production lines running to meet global demand. The company’s targeted production capacity in 2021 is 130 million garment pieces annually.

Over the longer term, Indonesia’s plans to focus on infrastructure—including new airports, power plants and transportation projects—and the booming digital economy will help fuel the country’s growth in the post-crisis period and lead to new opportunities for businesses and investors.

Malaysia: Pushing Ahead

In its latest report on Malaysia’s economy, the central bank noted GDP improved significantly, marking a smaller contraction of 2.7% in the third quarter compared with the 17.1% dip the previous quarter. The government expects the rebound will continue, projecting the economy will grow up to 7.5% next year.

According to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), production and trade picked up over July to September, combined with a rise in private consumption, while unemployment fell over the same period. Meanwhile, stimulus packages unveiled by the government to ease the economic fallout from Covid-19 are expected to contribute over four percentage points to the nation’s GDP growth.

Malaysia has moved quickly to accelerate digital adoption by businesses, education and society. This will help the nation’s industries, from manufacturing, healthcare, electrical and electronics to e-commerce, support the country’s recovery.

Amid a global call for more medical protective gear, which increases competition in the market, Top Glove, the world’s largest rubber glove maker, believes it can stay ahead of the game. Not content to rest on its laurels, Top Glove’s goal is to continue to dominate global market share—solidifying its No. 1 status in the rubber glove industry—and become one of the world’s top 500 companies by 2035.

Silverlake Group is another homegrown company that intends to push ahead with expansion plans. Its revenue rose to US$161 million in the year ended in June, with a compound annual growth rate of 8% since 2011.

Math is the basis for its latest cloud computing solutions as the company helps its customers detect, manage and combat fraud in the banking, finance and insurance industries. Silverlake Group is poised for further growth in 2021 on the back of its partnership with an institutional investor.

Going regional is also on the cards for BookDoc. The five-year-old medtech startup is ramping up its business to expand its footprint by complementing its patient-doctor booking system and healthmetrics monitoring system with chat-based medical teleconsultations.

The company has tied up with China’s WeDoctor, a global healthcare platform that boasts 700 million users. BookDoc uses WeDoctor’s AI technology to screen calls and offer teleconsultation services to patients in its ecosystem seeking advice for a range of medical concerns, including Covid-19.

Moving forward, the central bank believes the economy will improve in tandem with stronger global demand and domestic policy support that includes government-targeted wage subsidies, public projects and low interest rates. It also anticipates the economic impact of Covid-19 containment measures reintroduced in October will be less severe compared with earlier restrictions as businesses have been allowed to continue to operate.

Noting that Malaysia’s economic fundamentals are still strong and its economic base is sufficiently diversified to weather the storm, the MoF says it will continue to closely work with the private sector and the public to foster sustainable growth in 2021.

Hilton: A Luxurious Escape From Reality

Terra at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Have you been imagining what your next travel destination will be? When you are ready to explore again, Hilton is ready to help you create exciting new memories at their luxury resorts located in some of the world’s dreamiest destinations.

Whether it is in the Maldives or Bora Bora, these all-villa resorts will not only live up to your dreams of a perfect getaway, but also offer an enhanced level of cleanliness to give you peace of mind during your stay.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

Located in one of the world’s most desirable island locales, the award-winning Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi offers memorable experiences in a highly exclusive setting.

Guests can choose from one of the resort’s 119 overwater, beach or reef villas. For an even more extraordinary experience, a stay on your very own private island awaits. The Ithaafushi Private Island Estate can accommodate up to 24 persons in two villas, and features five swimming pools, a dedicated team of chefs, a spa, a yacht mooring and its own entertainment clubhouse.

There is an extensive range of activities at the resort to keep you entertained throughout your holiday; whether it is snorkelling in the island’s pristine waters, indulging at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Spa, or enjoying a private curated dinner on the sandbank while watching the sun set.

To satisfy discerning tastes, you can choose from no fewer than 10 destination dining venues—the largest variety of dining options available in the Maldives. Notable among them is The Ledge by celebrity chef Dave Pynt—the award-winning chef behind Michelin-starred Singapore restaurant Burnt Ends—which features an elevated barbecue set against the stunning backdrop of the Indian Ocean. Diners can also soak in spectacular views among the treetops at Terra or enjoy the magnificent sunset at Amber, the resort’s signature bar.

For more details:

Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Royal Villa at Conrad Bora Bora Nui

For those who desire a luxurious getaway, Conrad Bora Bora Nui is an ideal choice. Guests can leave their worries behind while strolling along the longest private stretch of soft, white sand beaches on the island of Motu Toopua, with the soaring Mount Otemanu presenting a breathtaking backdrop.

A range of accommodation options are available to suit every guest’s specific needs, from the spacious Lagoon View Suites designed for families to the spectacular overwater villas and Presidential Villas. The resort’s six restaurants and bars cater to all tastes and appetites. Enjoy innovative French cuisine amid stunning views of the lagoon at the resort’s signature Iriatai French Restaurant or indulge in modern Chinese fare at Banyan Chinese Restaurant.

Whether you want to fill your days with vibrant activity or simply relax at your own leisure, there are many ways to spoil yourself at Conrad Bora Bora Nui. The more adventurous can explore the island surrounded by incredible views while biking, swimming among sharks or hiking. Those who wish to take it easy can unwind at the stunning infinity pool or pamper themselves at the hilltop Hina Spa.

Top off your stay with a truly memorable experience by spending a day at the resort’s private islet, Motu Tapu, and enjoy a picnic prepared by chefs in one of the world’s most exclusive settings.

For more details:

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Conrad Maldives Sunset Water Villas

Diving and snorkelling enthusiasts will marvel at the sight of the sparkling waters off the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, where an exceptional underwater experience awaits.

Nestled in atolls surrounded by azure blue waters and powdery white sand, the resort inspires travelers by offering them a memorable respite from the bustle of modern life. It features more than 150 purposefully designed villas and suites, a choice of 12 award-winning restaurants and bars, two spas and a selection of cultural activities. One notable highlight is Ithaa, the world’s first undersea restaurant that allows you to dine five meters below the surface of the ocean with panoramic views of coral gardens and tropical fish.

Guests also get to revel in the privacy of Rangali Island while enjoying access to the facilities of the larger and livelier Rangali Finolhu Island, which is linked by a 500 meters bridge. Indulge yourself at The Spa Retreat, an overwater destination spa set 100 meters off of the tip of the main island.

For a truly unique experience at Conrad Maldives, the resort offers the world’s first undersea residence that will allow you to social distance in the most exclusive setting possible. The MURAKA is a first-of-its-kind, two-level residence with a master bedroom submerged 5 meters below sea level. MURAKA, which means coral in Maldivian, is an awe-inspiring reflection of how the resort exists in harmony with the natural landscape of the Indian Ocean.

For more details:

Hilton CleanStay

To ensure the safety and comfort of guests during this unprecedented time, Hilton has implemented Hilton CleanStay, an industry-leading program that delivers an even cleaner stay from check in to check out at their properties worldwide.

“For over 100 years, Hilton has been at the center of hospitality and was one of the first in the industry to foresee the global growth of luxury travel, setting the benchmark for discerning travelers all over the world. The brands in our luxury group, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts; Conrad Hotels & Resorts and LXR Hotels & Resorts, have all helped define the hospitality experience for the modern-day traveler,” says Nils-Arne Schroeder, Vice President, Luxury and Lifestyle, Asia Pacific.

“Today, we remain committed to being at the forefront of invigorating the essence of luxury travel to create the most unforgettable and inspiring experiences for our guests all around the world,” he adds. “Being in two of the most sought-after destinations in the world, our all-villa Waldorf Astoria and Conrad resorts in Bora Bora and the Maldives offer the highest levels of exclusivity and privacy. From arrival to departure, our guests are assured of a safe and uninhibited environment during this unique time where they can stay with peace of mind whilst enjoying unparalleled, bespoke service delivered by our dedicated team members at every turn.”

If you have been yearning to travel again, the time has come for you to plan your next travel memory with Hilton.

Hilton Honors

Hilton Honors is the award-winning guest loyalty program for Hilton’s 18 world-class brands. Through the current challenging times, the program continues to provide flexibility and value to members and guests—from offering flexible booking and cancellation policies, digital enhancement through the Hilton Honors App for a seamless booking and stay journey, to loyalty status extensions with no points expiry, to making it easier for members to qualify for higher tier status with reduced requirements, and much more.

*To stay up to date on the latest policies and programs, visit

Hilton Honors offers its 108 million members worldwide hundreds of ways to earn and redeem points, including Hilton Honors Experiences, which gives greater opportunity for members to use their points outside of redemption stays. Members can redeem a wide range of exciting Hilton Honors Experiences, such as private beach dining at Waldorf Astoria Maldives, cocktail hour at Ithaa at Conrad Maldives or a relaxing 60-minute spa massage at either resort.

Seoul’s Startup Ecosystem Thrives

South Korea’s decisive, science-led response to the coronavirus pandemic offers insight into another successful partnership. Seoul is working with Korean entrepreneurs and their fledging companies to develop one of the world’s most promising startup ecosystems in line with the nation’s growth as a global economic center.

Across the South Korean capital, startups are harnessing government investment and services to make significant advances in industries engaged in the most crucial challenges of our time, notably finance, biomedical, manufacturing and social enterprise. Seoul is providing intensive support to 300 companies to prepare for global demand for banking and health services in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city’s startup ecosystem already has a value of US$39 billion, according to the research firm Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020. Driving that success has been the emergence of 13 Korean unicorns—privately held companies valued at US$1 billion or more. The near future promises more game-changing developments by a bevy of new Korean companies.

Kim Eui-Seung, Deputy Mayor for Economic Policy at Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), said at a news conference in Seoul in June, “Startups are drawing more attention amid global challenges such as the Covid-19 outbreak, and are becoming increasingly more influential in a technology- and innovation-dependent global economy.

He added, “The city of Seoul will focus on the scale-up of promising startups amid a prolonged pandemic, as we have steadily invested over the past few years to foster future industries such as AI, fintech and biomedicine.”

π-Ville, Korea University’s office space for startups ©PENTA PRESS

To support innovation in the financial services sector, Seoul Fintech Lab offers accelerate programs, mentorship and investment to fintech startups in Seoul. “We want to be a driving force to change the fundamentals of the existing financial industry and ultimately serve as an edge for international competition,” says Im Gug-hyun, Team Leader of the Financial Industry Team at SMG.

Seoul Startup Hub Seongsu ©PENTA PRESS
Seoul Fintech Lab ©PENTA PRESS

At the lab’s gleaming offices in Yeouido, Seoul’s financial district in the heart of the city, companies are provided workspaces as well as common areas to network and hold meetings to promote idea sharing and support. “There are many stages of business development, and Seoul city would like to encourage growth to generate synergy,” Im says.

Down one hallway sits Tanker Fund, an AI platform that provides real-time information on real estate. Its technology also can help determine terms of a property transaction, such as the optimal amount of a loan. Tanker Fund CEO Lim Hyun-seo says, “The centralization of data collection and sorting on a daily basis is challenging. Our competitive advantage is in the accuracy of our platform’s sorting and processing of data.”

Along with the office space offered by Seoul Fintech Lab to get his startup off the ground, Lim says, Tanker Fund has benefited from the ability to network with other startups while having a foothold in South Korea’s financial epicenter. “Being in a lab gives us access to the companies that can most benefit from our services,” he says, and its Yeouido address gives the firm additional clout.

Along with modernizing key industries such as finance, Seoul startups are also working on today’s most pressing health issues. Seoul BioHub, located at a nexus of ten universities and six hospitals in the north of the city, provides a space for companies to operate in an ecosystem while seeking to deliver valued-added health services in South Korea and beyond.


The sprawling green campus, which opened in 2017, features separate buildings for laboratories, education and events, as well as offices. From 2018 to 2022, the government will build a Seoul Bio Fund valued at 300 billion won (US$262.3 million) and allocate 24 billion won (US$21 million) for a R&D fund. It also will ease some government regulations to facilitate research. Sixty-six companies now operate in the hub, drawn from the medical device, pharma and digital healthcare sectors. The pandemic has made the hub’s activities particularly timely and relevant.

“Our key role is to recognize potential. This year, Covid provides opportunities for overseas expansion,” says Kim Ji-seung, a researcher at Seoul BioHub.

In one brightly lit office is Palogen, a startup that leveraged semiconductor technology to build the diagnostics industry’s first “Genomic Biosensor,” which provides fast, accurate testing for diseases including early-stage cancers and Covid-19. “Our goal is to harness the speed and efficiency of semiconductors to provide real-time testing,” says Palogen CEO Han Kyung Joon. “The workspace and support from Seoul BioHub have made it possible for us to pursue that.”

The fledgling ecosystem of the campus is also an attractive destination for global investors. U.S. healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division operates an office at Seoul BioHub, recognizing the opportunity for growth and development. “We came here to form a network, to get expertise and ideas. We need innovation to meet challenges in the bioscience field, and we want to help mature all of these ideas,” says Lee Joon-youp, Manager, Janssen Korea. “We’re all striving to meet challenges that are more important than at any other time.”

Seoul Fintech Lab

Seoul’s startups are using a diverse range of ideas, locations and technologies to find solutions. Throughout a maze of alleys in northeastern Seoul, disused university properties and converted shipping containers now serve as office space for startups, and a former underground parking lot is a hub for cutting-edge 3D printing technology.

The initiative was launched by Campus Town Startup at Korea University—a broad effort to merge technology innovation with the revitalization of the local community through collaboration between the government, the university, entrepreneurs and local residents.

With a 10 billion won (US$8.7 million) investment from the Seoul government, the project provides office space and equipment, including desks, printers and Wi-Fi, to fledgling companies along with facilities for the community, such as library space and public work stations. Campus Town organizers also hold local events and forums for dialogue between students and residents. “We focus on more than supporting startups. We also find ways to link them with the local community and make those connections sustainable,” says Kong Jung-sik, a Professor at Korea University’s School of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering. “Creating a good living environment is our ultimate goal.”

One of the most promising startups to come out of Campus Town is AEOL Korea, which makes next-generation, energy-efficient heating and cooling ventilation systems. The company is in talks to supply its products to two large public companies in South Korea, and plans to continue developing energy-saving materials that can be applied across industries. Baek Jae-hyun, CEO of AEOL Korea, says, “Our technology can change the world and be part of a more sustainable future.”

In Seoul’s Seongsu area, in the east of the city, old challenges and new solutions come together. The neighborhood was once a buzzing ecosystem of auto repair shops and publishing houses. Lee Tae-hoon, Head of the Startup Division of the Seoul Business Agency, saw the now-struggling industrial area as the perfect location for Seoul Startup Hub Seongsu, which is focused on fostering social impact ventures.

Established in 1998, the Seoul Business Agency added the startup division in 2009, selecting 1,000 entrepreneurs for comprehensive early-stage support. The group has prioritized not just the firms’ rate of return but also the development of a startup culture in Korea and inspiring young entrepreneurs. Another aim is to establish a space for shared economies to address social issues.

Its annual 5 billion won (US$4.4 million) investment in the program is paying off with participating startups posting an average annualized rate of return of 160%. “Our goal was to create a culture where socially minded startups could pursue their vision without having to worry about money, and then provide direct investment when they advance to company form,” Lee says.

Ted Kwon, CEO of Coolidge Corner Investment, a Seoul-based venture capital fund, says Seoul Startup Hub Seongsu is a constant source of the kind of startups to which he is most drawn. “Before, questions of investment only focused on the financial aspects. Nowadays consumers, especially young people, are more interested in who made the product and why,” Kwon says. “The first question we ask is, ‘Did the founder start this company to solve a particular problem?’”

One particularly exciting startup to emerge from Seongsu that has enormous potential for social impact is The Wave Talk, whose core product measures the quality of drinking water with easy-to-use, inexpensive laser technology.

The Wave Talk CEO Kim Youngdug says he was motivated to find a solution since it can be difficult to tell the difference between safe and unsafe water with the naked eye. The Wave Talk has raised more than US$10 million in funding and plans to launch portable sensors that can be installed in homes around the world to potentially prevent millions of people from drinking tainted tap water and save lives.

“The technology measures bacteria, plastic, heavy metal and viral impurities and gives a numerical reading,” Kim says. “It currently takes 10 seconds, and we will get that down to five.”

A Historic Year for G20

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is busy working toward its mission to diversify its economy as part of its Vision 2030. Tourism plays a major role in its development plans. As an example of one of many projects, in November, Saudi’s Ministry of Culture announced an initiative to establish a world-class center dedicated to the management, restoration and protection of underwater cultural heritage in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. The center will be affiliated with the Ministry’s Heritage Commission and will be responsible for developing the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Saudi is also seeking to play a main role in strengthening the global economy. In November, Saudi hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit for the first time in its history, chaired by His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The G20 Leaders’ Summit, which was kicked off in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, occurred this year amid exceptional circumstances as world leaders urged solidarity against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. G20 economies are expected to contract by about 4% to reach US$65.8 trillion in 2020, down from US$68.6 trillion a year ago. Members of the group represent around 80% of the world’s economic output, which is projected to be worth US$83.8 trillion in 2020, two-thirds of the global population, and 75% of international trade. They represent the voices of 4.6 billion people around the world.

The pandemic crisis, healthcare plans and the recovery of the global economy were at the top of the G20 agenda this year. Saudi hosted an exceptional virtual meeting to discuss the Covid-19 outbreak. “At this critical time, with the world facing the coronavirus pandemic, which affects humans, health systems and the global economy, we meet with the G20 in an exceptional summit; to come up with initiatives that fulfill the hopes of our people, strengthen the role of our governments, and unite our efforts to confront this pandemic,” said His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Twitter in March.

The G20 meetings also touched on enhancing trading ties. “In these challenging times, the need for an open, fair and rules-based multilateral trading system is critical to support global economic recovery,” said Majid bin Abdullah Al Qassabi, Minister of Commerce and Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at an earlier virtual G20 trade and investment ministerial meeting.

So far G20 countries have contributed over US$21 billion to support the production, distribution and access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines; injected over US$11 trillion into safeguarding the global economy; and launched a debt suspension initiative for the least developed countries that allowed beneficiary countries to defer US$14 billion in debt payments due this year and use the funds instead for financing their health systems and social programs. As 2020 comes to a close, the world will be watching and waiting to see what further help is coming.

In this report exploring the future of Saudi Arabia, some of its key influential business leaders share their insights on the impact of Vision 2030 and Saudi’s ambitious plans. |

Alpha JWC Ventures: Championing Firms Amid A Pandemic

Despite the headwinds caused by the Covid-19 crisis, Indonesia continues to be an attractive destination for savvy investors. According to the IMF, Southeast Asia’s largest economy is expected to shrink by 1.5% this year due to the pandemic, before rebounding to expand by 6.1% in 2021.

The Indonesian government is preparing to spend about 2.75 quadrillion rupiah (US$186.3 billion) to bolster the economy next year, with most of the funds going to infrastructure, education and healthcare. Meanwhile, the Omnibus Law on Job Creation passed by parliament in October will help businesses by cutting red tape, easing restrictions on foreign investment and providing more incentives to free-trade zones.

Outperforming in a Crisis

Venture capital firm Alpha JWC Ventures is capitalizing on the potential of Indonesia’s economy as its funds continue to outperform its industry peers during this pandemic year. The firm’s two Southeast Asian venture funds invest primarily in early-stage Indonesian startups, with the aim of discovering and supporting exceptional entrepreneurs to create enduring industry champions. About two-thirds of its investments are in Indonesia-based companies.

Alpha JWC’s first fund was launched in 2016. The US$50 million fund has achieved a net asset value (NAV) of 3.6 times with a Distribution to Paid-In (DPI)—cumulative investment returned to the investor relative to invested capital—of at least 12% by the second quarter of 2020. The second fund (2018 vintage) has a NAV of 3.3x and a DPI of 26%. Reflecting its confidence in the region’s longer-term prospects, Alpha JWC is currently gearing up to launch its third fund next year.

Amid a tumultuous 2020, Alpha JWC’s portfolio companies have also continued to attract significant funding. For example, Indonesia’s largest grab-and-go coffee chain Kopi Kenangan completed a massive US$109 million Series B round, while the Indonesia-based B2B marketplace for FMCG traders, Gudang Ada, announced its US$25 million Series A funding in May, only 15 months after its inception. Both companies have Alpha JWC as their first institutional investor.

Alpha JWC Ventures is led by Cofounders and Managing Partners Chandra Tjan (L) and Jefrey Joe (R).

Long-Term Partnerships

Alpha JWC’s success is underpinned by its philosophy of prioritizing the vision, passion and grit of a company’s founder when it comes to assessing potential investments. Indeed, it is this philosophy that has made the firm a top-choice partner of many startups.

“We always say that we have a ‘Founder First’ philosophy, meaning that above all calculations and business potential, we put the quality of the startups’ founders on the highest regard. This also includes spotting their unfair advantages and track record, which would be a determining factor in the company’s success in the future,” says Alpha JWC Cofounder and Managing Partner Chandra Tjan. “Finding the right ones doesn’t only require thorough due diligence, but also experience and gut feelings, something that you can only get after doing something for a long time.”

Prior to Alpha JWC, Tjan made a name for himself investing in Indonesian unicorns such as Traveloka and Tokopedia in his previous role as Cofounder and Managing Partner of venture capital firm East Ventures. He has been in the industry for more than a decade, starting when Indonesia’s tech ecosystem was still nascent.

The firm is also led by Cofounder and Managing Partner Jefrey Joe, formerly Chief Operating Officer of Groupon Indonesia and Cofounder of Indonesia’s leading bill payment aggregator Alterra. With one of the largest early-stage funds in the region, Alpha JWC is well positioned to support startups as they progress on their journey of expansion.

“However, for us, investing right does not stop at finding and funding the right companies and founders. We believe that the VC should be an active partner and support its portfolio companies throughout their journey,” Joe says. “Studies show that a hands-on approach improves fund performance significantly. Over the years, we have seen the positive impact of value creation on our companies’ performance, but the past months have shown everyone just how important it is for investors to support their founders in good times, and especially in bad times. We’re lucky we’ve had a long head start so we were more than ready when the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges.”

The firm has one of Southeast Asia’s largest VC teams, made up of high quality and experienced professionals from various backgrounds including regional investment funds, tech giants and global consulting firms. As a value-adding partner, it is the firm’s commitment to provide the best resources and platform to company founders during both early days and the growth stages.

A Pandemic Boost

The pandemic has pushed companies, both established and startups, to pivot and adjust to survive. While the turbulence has been disruptive, Covid-19 also boosted digital adoption in some sectors, including technology. Many Alpha JWC portfolio companies have gained momentum and accelerated their growth during the pandemic, including healthy food producer Lemonilo. The Jakarta-based company has seen sales surge as more Indonesians turn to a healthier lifestyle.

Another company that has benefited is B2B marketplace Gudang Ada. Transactions on its platform increased as regional lockdowns pushed industry players to quickly adopt technology solutions. In May, Gudang Ada launched pilot logistics services to ensure a steady supply of essential consumer goods in Indonesia’s cities.

Meanwhile, the social commerce sector has provided alternative jobs for workers laid off or forced to take a pay cut amid the economic downturn. It also has helped brands to connect with customers who have stopped visiting shopping centers. One of Alpha JWC’s social commerce startups, Evermos, noted significant user and transaction growth since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a tough time for everyone, but it’s not as grim as people painted it to be,” Tjan says. “Times like this reveal whether your investment thesis and portfolio management have been right, and we like what we are seeing right now. The pandemic has created unique investment opportunities, hence we are still actively investing. Our founders and internal team are stronger than ever, and the learnings we get throughout the pandemic will make us even more resilient.”

Joe adds, “We are confident that Indonesia and Southeast Asia is still the most lucrative hot spot for the tech industry in the world right now, which is why we will continue finding the next great companies and support them the best we can. Our third fund will hold the same investment thesis, but with even more dry powder, Alpha JWC will be able to double down on our existing extraordinary startups while also investing in new larger companies.”

For investors seeking opportunities in Southeast Asia, Alpha JWC has shown that there are still gems to be found even in the roughest of environments.