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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Inequality, risk, love

/ 05:18 AM February 25, 2021

My parents say I am too idealistic,” says reader K.T., 25 years old. “They are not sure if I can succeed in our family business because I am ‘too nice.’ But I stand by my values. What bothers me is the huge inequality in our society, especially now in the pandemic. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. I want to discuss inequality with my family, but they don’t read much. Can you recommend a movie?”

My reply: Watch the South Korean movie “Parasite,” the first non-English language film to win Best Picture in the Oscars.

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Without demonizing the rich or romanticizing the poor, the movie portrays the wealthy Park family (who generally treat people well) and the indigent Kim family (who creatively take advantage of the former).

“You might feel uncomfortable and dislike [some] scenes but I did not want to sugarcoat them,” director Bong Joon-ho told Reuters. “I wanted to be as candid as possible about this age of inequality. I tried to make the film as frank as possible to portray the age we live in.”

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Ironically, a prime backer of the film was the Lee family that owns CJ Group. Scion Miky Lee even took the stage to receive the Best Picture award last year.

“In a twist befitting the dark comedy’s skewering of wealth inequality, Lee’s family has become about $100-million richer following their big night, when ‘Parasite’ collected four Academy Awards,” says Bloomberg News. “The Lees, among South Korea’s richest families, are one of Bong’s staunchest backers, even as films like ‘Parasite’ and the English-language production ‘Snowpiercer,’ rail against inequality.”

Risk assessment

“I am in charge of investments for our family business,” says reader A.S. “I took risk-profiling tests online, but I got mixed results. How can I best invest?”

My reply: Risk-profiling tests are popular, and I have taken some myself. But results are not set in stone, because these are subjective, depending on prevailing market conditions and even your mood at the time.

We supposedly invest in a bear market (when prices are low) and sell in a bull market (when prices are high). But since tests are “based on the recent experiences of the taker, [we may] invest too aggressively and defensively at the worst possible time,” says Singapore-based GE Life director Philip Loh in The Business Times.

Loh gives the 2009 financial crisis as an example. “Most who [took tests] early [on] would have indicated their preference for risk aversion. In hindsight, early 2009 was one of the best moments in history to invest aggressively as most markets have about tripled in value since.”

Instead of testing risk profile, study the market and discuss strategies with investment professionals with solid track records.

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Love is stewardship

In this month of love, let’s talk about sibling care.

Walt Disney lived long enough to see Disneyland California, but died after buying orange groves in Florida for a second park. His brother Roy faithfully soldiered on.

Succession plans were in place, and a nonfamily member later on took the helm. Disney has had ups and downs since, but today it is an entertainment behemoth, owning franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel.

Parental love is crucial for family businesses. Love means stewardship, not indulgence.

In his book “Dynasties,” David Landes quotes what French silk manufacturer Alexandre Colcombet told his children in 1894: “You would be making a mistake if you thought that my business, which I have from my father, which he had from his father, is a property that belongs to you by right of birth. I shall leave you factories that will ruin you or enrich you, depending on whether you are ready to work diligently and tenaciously. Then It becomes your business: my responsibility ends.”

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her printed book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada, or the e-book version on Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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