NiQ Lai has a philosophy for life to guide him along his business and personal pathway.
He believes that you live life according to what you measure, similar to how one runs a business. Success, he believes, is measured in terms of contribution to others - making a difference - rather than having the biggest bank balance in the graveyard.
“If we measure only $$$, then this is how we will live life. I have chosen to live life according to the impact we have on the people we interact with,” he states.
NiQ is a hugely successful businessman and leading industry figure in Hong Kong and the region as Co-Owner & Group CEO of Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN). His considerable career achievements are balanced with a fulfilling and happy family life.
I have gotten far more joy and satisfaction from helping CCF than any material purchase could have returned
He is able to have most things that money can buy. However, what gives him the most pleasure is being able to help change the lives of thousands of children and families in Cambodia through CCF.
“Over the past 12 years, I have gotten far more joy and satisfaction from helping CCF than any material purchase could have returned,” he says.
“I live by the principle that I want to earn enough to buy the best buffet lunch for my extended family but once this is achieved, having two buffets at the same time is meaningless.
“I used to think that as I was no ‘Bill Gates’, I cannot change the world, so did little charity work, but then I realised that if I can positively change two lives, I will leave a positive impact on this earth.”
NiQ is a long-term supporter and passionate advocate for CCF who has given his time and money to help those in need. He is also Chair of the CCF Hong Kong Board and has used his influence as one Hong Kong’s most respected business leaders to champion the CCF cause among his network of senior executives.
NiQ was introduced to CCF through his wife, Michele, who is also committed to charitable causes and started her own local charity, Kids4Kids, in Hong Kong.
This sparked a HKBN trip to Cambodia in 2009 as the destination for an annual management off-site experience, where the group of executives visited CCF and spent an “eye opening” two days seeing the programs in action.
When he returned from the trip, CCF became a core part of his financial planning rather than just a one-time ad hoc donation. Helping CCF became his goal rather than something to do when surplus is achieved.
His support has extended to hosting CCF students visiting Hong Kong for events and fundraising galas. “The impact of these hosting have been wonderful, as it brought the world into our home, and this really opened the minds of my family and friends who had the chance to interact with our CCF guests,” says NiQ.
For NiQ to see and hear how his family’s donations are tangibly making a life-changing difference to poverty-stricken children and families in Cambodia is the best return.
“The rewards are priceless,” says NiQ. “We have been intimately involved in dozens of incredible stories of real children’s lives changed. I think being part of this is far more gratifying than any material possession can bring. Whilst a brand new 911 depreciates as soon as you receive the keys, the contributions to CCF grow over time.”
We can all help CCF in different ways, he says.
“My Legal Unfair Competitive Advantage (LUCA) is financial donations and making connections because of the position I am in. I can help fill a few tables at the CCF Gala dinner, for example. Other times, I set a personal financial target and if I achieve this, I will give the surplus to CCF; this gives far more meaning to my work and my life.
“I realize my active CEO position opens a lot of doors, and I am unashamed to leverage this when I can, as I also realize these doors may close when I am no longer an active CEO.”
NiQ was born in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor to second generation immigrant parents, before fleeing to Darwin, Australian in the mid-1970s as refugees, so he has something in common with those families and children in Cambodia that he supports.
His own family had to re-start from the bottom with nothing after the civil war forced them to flee their homeland. As refugees, they had to begin again. His father, once one of East Timor's most successful businessmen, lost everything and spent the rest of his life striving to recover it and never did.
NiQ’s own drive to succeed has enabled him to acquire the means to assist those in a similar position as he dad once was, struggling to make a better life for themselves.
“I can’t turn back the clock to help my family back then, but I can pay it forward to other families,” he says.
Growing up in Australia, NiQ wanted to be a professional tennis player. Realizing he would never make the grade as he had no tennis talent, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) instead. His first job after graduating was an entry level accounting position at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Hong Kong.
Lots of luck and some hard work and ambition have taken him to where he is today.
I truly believe helping today means much more than the promise to help in the future
One of his proudest achievements is far more personal and from the heart.
“It would be looking after my father, putting a nice roof over his head when he was still alive,” says NiQ.
“He passed away a long time ago, about 15 years, but I managed to do that when he was still alive. My mum is still around and I’m trying to spoil her now.
“There is a Chinese proverb: one inch of time can buy an inch of gold but one mile of gold cannot buy an inch of time. I truly believe helping today means much more than the promise to help in the future.”
Compassion has flowed down to his two children, JaQ and Alysha. Both requested to sponsor a little CCF brother and sister, respectively, in place of birthday presents when they grew into young teens.
JaQ visited CCF in 2016 with his father to meet his sponsored ‘brother’, Chhey Ya, (pictured). The correspondence between them is direct and personal. Over 10 years since the sponsorship began, they have grown into young men together and are still in regular contact.
If I die today, I will die with a smile knowing that I made that donation rather than have a second car in the garage
Talking to NiQ Lai about his involvement with CCF and its impact, it’s clear how deeply meaningful it has become in his life.
“It’s something I think about with pride. It’s something that compounds over time in terms of joy and satisfaction,” he says.
“Whilst Scott [Neeson, the founder of CCF] is aspirational to me, my real superheroes are the staff at CCF. The full-time accountant at CCF is very much a superhero. I would like to be a superhero. We can all be superheroes to people we give a hand up to.
“If I die today, I will die with a smile knowing that I made that donation rather than have a second car in the garage.”