Dorothy in conversation with LPs #3
As part of SuperReturn’s series of interviews with LPs, Paning Wong, family office investor and founder of Novel Energy and Paning Centennial Foundation, speaks to Dorothy Kelso, Global Head of SuperReturn, about his upbringing and accomplishments, the principles he lives by, and what he would like to do more of in his spare time.
Dorothy: How did your career develop?
Paning: I was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong at the age of 5. My family had been wealthy in China, but due to external circumstances we had to relocate to Hong Kong and start over. My mother supported our family by buying surplus inventory from hotels and at the age of 12, I had to start working in a plastic moulding factory as a child labourer. Our family motto was: determination, family, hard work. I feel blessed to have had this upbringing because it helped shape who I have become.
I went to the University of Nebraska (Lincoln campus) to study mechanical engineering and had to work at multiple jobs, like busing tables and washing dishes to support my education. Studying in Nebraska gave me a good education and opportunities, which I previously did not have access to. I graduated in 1975 and emigrated to Canada where I started working for the Ford Motor Company.
In 1984, I got a job as Director of International Trade with the Alberta Government of Economic Development. This role involved me working as an interpreter for the Chinese delegations visiting Canada to learn about developing the oil fields in China. I saw an opportunity to start my own business and left to set up Novel Energy, a company exporting North American equipment and technology for China’s oil fields.
Dorothy: What does the Paning Centennial Foundation focus on?
Paning: My family comes from Ningbo city, where many Chinese billionaires come from. The principles of Ningbo businessmen are: honesty and integrity in business practices; modesty; and giving back to society.
I set up the charitable foundation in 1996 to give back to society. The Foundation provides reading and teaching materials to over 800,000 primary, secondary and special needs students, and gives financial aid to over 1,000 University students across 10 Universities such as Fudan University, Beijing Normal University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Minzu University of China. The Foundation has also published three art books ‘For the Love of China Volume I-3’. In support of promoting Chinese art and culture, we have donated woodblock prints to over 200 global institutions and universities. We are privileged to be a Beijing, P.R. China registered charitable institution.
Dorothy: What would you like to do more of in your spare time?
Paning: I devoted the first part of my life to building my company. Now I want to spend time giving back to the community and giving back to myself. After the SuperReturn Conference, I will be part of a delegation with the Pacific Basin Economic Council visiting Kyoto and Osaka.
Going forward, I look forward to spending more time travelling the world, exercising, and attending interesting conferences across the globe like SuperReturn Asia. I really appreciate SuperReturn Asia – it is a global meeting place for all nationalities and cultures in Hong Kong. I also like swimming, skiing, polo and horseback riding.
Dorothy: How would you describe yourself in one phrase?
Paning: Impassioned with life.
Dorothy: What are you glad to have accomplished?
Paning: I’m happy to have made the most of my Chinese background, upbringing in Hong Kong, education in the US, and work experience in Canada to continually learn and grow.
Dorothy: What advice would you give to others?
Paning: Be humble, curious, passionate and knowledgeable.
Dorothy: It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you, Paning. Thank you.
Under the spotlight: Paning Wong
Paning Wong is the principal for his Family Office which has a diversified investment approach across asset classes such as private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. Mr Wong founded Novel Energy, a company specialising in oil & gas in China and Canada since the 1980s. Mr Wong also founded the Paning Centennial Foundation, a privately funded Beijing registered charitable foundation focused on the arts and education in Greater China.