The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2019

Danny Yong: Paying it forward by helping to address gaps in society

For Mr Danny Yong, founder of philanthropic organisation The Majurity Trust, good grades do not equal talent. Meet the man trying to change how companies in Singapore approach their hiring.

Hedge fund founder Danny Yong understands how getting one chance can change a man's life.

After all, Mr Yong, one of Singapore's richest men, was the recipient of a life-changing opportunity once upon a time.

In 1997, a year after graduating with first class honours studying business at the Nanyang Technological University, he applied to be an Asian currency derivatives trainee at American investment bank JP Morgan. His application, along with 899 others, ended up on the reject pile. But a bored trader at the bank chanced upon the application and recommended him. Mr Yong eventually snagged the position, out of 1,000 applicants. "It was serendipity," he said. "An opportunity can change someone's life."

In 2008, he co-founded Dymon Asia, which went on to become a leading Asia-focused alternative investment management firm, employing over 160 people, with offices in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan. In 2017, Mr Yong was placed 47th in Forbes' list of the 50 richest people in Singapore.

Now the 47-year-old gives to society to show gratitude for his good fortune. "There are gaps in every society. Where we can, we should play a part to fix gaps in Singapore.

"Someone once gave me an opportunity, so I would like to pay it forward where I can."

In memory of his father, who died when Mr Yong was 10, he set up the Yong Hon Kong Foundation in 2011, which has donated millions to charitable causes.

Together with former Singapore Exchange chief executive Hsieh Fu Hua, he also set up The Majurity Trust last year, a charity which provides philanthropic advice and grants, and creates solutions to tackle social issues.

The trust supports initiatives including Ray Of Hope, a fund-raising platform for donors to help Singaporeans who have fallen through the cracks. Each year, the charity raises funds for 150 to 200 families, such as giving financial support to the family of a 13-year-old boy who suffered severe heat stroke.

 KUA CHEE SIONG
Hedge fund founder Danny Yong set up The Majurity Trust last year, a charity which provides philanthropic advice and grants, and creates solutions to tackle social issues. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Also under the trust is Tangent, a social enterprise which urges employers to look beyond grades or experience, and be open-minded when hiring. Mr Yong said: "Grades are not the only way to find a good match for jobs. We need to give risk-takers, ideas-driven and street-smart Singaporeans a chance at good jobs too."

 
 

On the work of the trust, he said: "We want to identify the gaps in society by using research and data, then find or start charities that address these gaps, and get partners to help fund these charities.

"When we see gaps in society or injustice, let's not assume someone else will fix it. Every small act of kindness can make a difference."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2019, with the headline 'Paying it forward by helping to address gaps in society'. Subscribe