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Lisa Genasci: The fund adviser with a drive to help alleviate poverty in Asia

A former journalist's enthusiasm for change directs millions into environmental challenges and children's programmes in Asia, writes Josephine Bond

 

Journalists tend to be on the outside of a story, looking in. For Lisa Genasci, it wasn't enough. She wanted to be more involved. So began the switch to philanthropy in 2006. The former Associated Press writer and freelancer founded and heads the ADM Capital Foundation, which manages funds for investors who want to contribute to charitable projects.

Genasci established the foundation for the partners at ADM Capital Foundation, a Hong Kong-based investment adviser with US$1.7 billion under management. The aim was to fund and support non-profit organisations that help alleviate poverty in Asia, with an emphasis on children's programmes in the region and the environment in Hong Kong and the mainland.

In the past six years, US$7 million has been put into various projects by the team, which began with Genasci and has now grown to 10 people.

Lisa Genasci makes time to go hiking with her twin boys

The foundation has 28 non-profit partners in eight Asian countries.

Genasci's work resulted in a 2011 Rising Stars of Foundations and Endowments award at the Non-Profit Awards in Miami in September last year. The foundation has helped bring education to more than 150,000 children in Asia.

"Our goal is to enhance what exists, be impact-driven," Genasci says. "We want to provide not just finance but strategic engagement, housing, whatever is necessary … we start always with the need."

Genasci started her career as a journalist, spending 10 years with the Associated Press, initially as a correspondent in Rio de Janeiro, and then working on the foreign desk in New York, and as a financial reporter.

Lisa Genasci assesses the facilities at the Assist Vocational Training Centre for community development in Piduguralla, India

She came to Hong Kong 12 years ago with her husband and three children.

Genasci soon learned the benefits of bringing up children here.

"Hong Kong facilitates,'' she says. "You have great support - it's an amazing thing for a working mother to have." She also found the city to be relatively easy in terms of tolerance to women working.

"There's no expectation women should be in a particular role," she says.

Switching careers can be daunting and, to Genasci, starting the foundation from scratch was virgin territory.

"The challenge was not having done anything like this before, trying to create something outside the normal foundation in Asia, not having any models to follow in what we wanted to create," she says. Genasci credits the partners of ADM Capital for giving her space to take a risk and be creative. "They haven't tried to micro-manage," she says.

Her one regret is not having mastered the local language. "My Chinese is not great, it should be," she says. Her advice to those seeking to take a similar career path is to "just join in, not worrying too much if it's the wrong or right answer … trying or experimenting."

Nothing is set in stone, she says.

"Try a lot of different paths and don't be afraid."

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