Affluent Society Giving is excited to introduce Huy Truong, the first in our series of Giving Heroes. Jenny McGregor caught up with Huy (socially distanced of course) earlier this week. Huy is a former refugee who arrived in Australia on a boat from Vietnam in 1978 as a 7-year-old. He went on to become an IT entrepreneur, private equity investor and a pioneer of the Australian e-commerce industry as founder of Wishlist.com.au, which was later sold to Qantas. Huy was recognised as the Australian Financial Review E-commerce Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000.
Huy’s business activities have included:
Founder of private equity fund Yarra Capital Partners
Chief Executive Officer of Jurlique International
Chief Executive Officer of Carter Holt Harvey Tissue, and
Consultant with Boston Consulting Group
Jenny McGregor: Hi Huy welcome to Affluent Society Giving. What is your day job now?
Huy Troung: Hi Jenny, I’m the CEO and co-owner of ALI Group, a specialist insurance company.
JM: It seems a large undertaking. Why is running a business not enough?
HT: Well it’s really more that I think society has lots of critical issues that need to be addressed. We need those who can help to lean in. It’s never sat comfortably with me to be frustrated about issues and not contribute.
JM: What led you to setting up a not-for-profit?
HT: Choosing a cause is remarkably similar to developing your career. You need to find the intersection between three factors:
1. Social/Community need. For me, the global growth of refugees presents an increasing challenge and opportunity
2. Personal passion/resonance. Being a refugee myself and now an entrepreneur, I strongly believe that refugees are not a burden but an economic opportunity for Australia
3. Expertise. My long-term involvement in leading small business, capital investment, corporate strategy and start-ups provided the experience and networks to set up Thrive Refugee Enterprise.
JM: You are also a member of the Australian Government’s Refugee and Migrant Services Advisory Council (RAMSAC)
HT: Yes, I decided to join the committee because of its potential to influence government policy around refugees. I thought this was an area where my interests were aligned, and I could contribute.
But I only agreed to join when it was clear that the Immigration Minister was focused on ensuring that the economic participation of refugees would be his Advisory Council’s number one objective.
JM: How do you decide where to focus your financial giving?
HT: The same way I decide how to contribute more broadly, finding the intersection between society’s need and my passion and expertise. My wife and I also donate to organisations where the common denominators are leadership and impact.
JM: This seems a huge financial and time commitment, what do you get back personally?
HT: I get back so much more than I give.
I can make a positive difference to refugees, asylum seekers and the Australian community through influencing at the highest levels. I get to apply my skills and creativity beyond my business. I have also expanded my network of other like-minded people who are all making a significant difference locally and globally.
I think most of all is the irreplaceable gift of being able to live a meaningful life with purpose.
JM: And society what does it get from your work with refugees and asylum seekers?
HT: Benefits include:
1. An expansion of refugee-run businesses growing our economy
2. Increased effectiveness of government policy and public expenditure
3. A more integrated community and less selfish society with improved mental health for all
JM: What advice would you give to someone considering giving for the first time?
HT: Redefine your success beyond your financial position.
If you can find that intersection between problem/challenge, passion/resonance, and expertise/ experience you will feel so much more fulfilled and enriched. Hopefully, you can inspire and motivate others to get involved too.
Contributing to an improved society – whether locally or globally – should be part of your professional and personal ambition..