Terry Farris has built a successful business from advising Hong Kong's super rich families on how to give a little back. His firm Farris & Associates specialised in advising families on all things philanthropic from building schools and hospitals to making charity donations and setting up educational foundations.
Now Farris has joined a Dutch private bank, which is a leader in the same area in Europe, to help it build a charities and foundations business in Asia. That bank is MeesPierson.
"I was approached a couple of months ago," says Farris, who had been located in Hong Kong for six years, but is now based in Singapore. "I felt the overall approach of MeesPierson fitted with my own. The approach to charity management is actually mentioned in the firm's presentational materials. The firm is a leader in this area of trust in Europe and it is extremely important to the institution."
Farris says his ultimate passion is helping to "promote philanthropy" in Asia and the reason he set up his own firm was because there was no readymade vehicle that did such a thing. Now that MeesPierson has decided to develop this area in Asia he feels he can expand his expertise of working with families in Hong Kong to those in other parts of the region.
He has based himself in Singapore which is looking to specialise in the trust area. Indeed, there is a lot of overlap between advising families on philanthropy and their trust structures in general.
That's because a lot of the philanthropy requires long term structures that will outlive the benefactor. So trusts go hand in hand with philanthropy.
Farris believes that philanthropy is important to all rich families, if only because it gives the older generation a way to pass on their values to the younger generation. "You can't avoid talking about values when you start to look at philanthropy," he says.
Farris has always prided himself on his role interfacing between charities and families and helping the former to approach (in the most efficient way possible) the rich families that have an interest in their particular area. Likewise he has set up special family councils in Hong Kong which allow families to trade information on their experiences and lessons learned (for example building schools in rural China).
Says Peter Vandekerckhove, CEO of MeesPierson private banking and trust: "Hiring Terry fits perfectly with what we want to do. It is a marriage of his local knowledge with our knowledge - we look after €3-5 billion of foundations in Holland. In Asia we will be the only house with a specialist who can tap into this area."
Of course, like anything else this is a service (ie it's not a charity). Apart from leading to fees, the business will insert MeesPierson into a position with top Asian families that will give it better access to the way they structure their wealth.
This could lead to even more trust business, which is a special focus for the bank in Asia now.