Bammy Wong : Building a network of legends
While most people would agree that “legends are made, not born”, some might also ask: What does it take to make someone a legend or be called a legend? And who are the legends of our time?
A good person to ask is Bammy Wong, president of Asian Business Network Association (ABNA), which launched the Chinese Canadian Legend Award 15 years ago to recognize Chinese Canadians who have made exceptional contributions to their communities. So far, 95 individuals from all over Canada and all walks of life have received the honour.
One of the unique aspects of the award is that it doesn’t stop at naming someone a legend; the process also includes publication of a book that collects the awardees’ triumphant stories, how they rose to challenges and struggled against adversity to achieve excellence and make a lasting impact on their community.
By documenting each legend’s experiences and exemplary life, the book has become a rich resource for ongoing research on Chinese-Canadian immigrants.
Many of the people who made it into the “book of legends” had been unsung heroes from every possible background, from scientists and accountants to social workers, businessmen and housewives.
In that sense, the award has re-defined the meaning of legend by setting different criteria. Wong said that one of the key qualities they look for in nominees is what they give — rather than what they get — in life as well as their community. Nominations are open to everyone, regardless of social status, gender, age or economic status.
The whole idea sprung from spontaneous brainstorming among ABNA core members in 1999 when Wong became president.
The association was formed in 1994 with the goal of creating networking and business opportunities for businessmen and professionals. The network evolved into a group of like-minded individuals who shared the same passion for giving back to the community.
The creation of Chinese Canadian Lengends Award (CCLA) was envisioned as a timely initiative to document the inspiring and touching stories of Chinese in Canada who could serve as role models for future generations.
Today, the award is widely recognized not just in Canada, but around the world. Wong said he hoped to see more Canadian and non- Chinese media cover the award as a way to build better understanding and appreciation among the multicultural communities of Canada.
Wong said he was once asked: “Will you be running out of legends soon?”
To which he answered: “Legends will inspire more legends.”
Through the years, he has seen how the immigrant population has been evolving. He noted how recent immigrants from China are enjoying more prospects and opportunities, especially with the advancing political, social and economic ties between China and Canada.
By the same token, they have to face a different set of challenges, let alone having to start their lives from scratch in a new country.
That experience strikes a personal chord with Wong, who also faced the challenges and struggles of coming to Canada as a foreign student from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the 1970s, and when he came back again in the 1990s as a landed immigrant to chart a new course in life on a blank slate.
In 1981, after graduating with a business management degree from Montana State University-Bozeman, Wong returned to Hong Kong and started to progress along a solid career path. But the love of a challenge drove him to apply for immigration to Canada.
When he made it to Canada in the early 1990s, he ran headon into the aftermath of the recession in North America and had to stretch to the end of his wits to make ends meet.
With a contact list of just four people in Toronto, he ventured into financial planning and very soon started coldcalling, knocking on strangers’ doors, as his handful of contacts ran out in no time.
With persistence and diligence, not to mention the unfailing support of his wife, who stood by him all the time while also taking care of their daughter, Wong has become a well-established certified financial planner, boasting clientele from a variety of communities.
His “golden rules of success” are: dedication, direction, action, and review. Not rocket science, but no shortcut either.
He also credits his “wild card”. “It’s the love of adventure that keeps me going,” he said. “A little bit of risk-taking can be good for you.”
Such are the words of wisdom he wants to pass on to the next generation, as they grow up to face an era of uncertainties and risks in life.
ABNA also took it upon itself to raise a new generation of young leaders who are getting involved in organizing ABNA events, and through the process learn from outstanding leaders and role models.
Wong was particularly proud of the fact that his deep involvement in the community has rubbed off on his daughter, who is now an active member of the group. With that same spirit of adventure and heart for charity, she has been volunteering for numerous charitable organizations, including signing up for trips to Africa and China to teach English and assisting in a construction project for a primary school.
As the network of legends continues to extend, ABNA has recently kicked off the nomination process for 2015 CCLA, with a deadline of June 30.
What the faces of this year’s legends will look like remains a mystery, but one thing is for sure: There are always legends in the making.
BAMMY WONG Education: • Bachelor of Science, Accounting and Business/Management Montana State University-Bozeman Career: • 1991 – Present Certified Financial Planner Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network Organizations: • President, Asian Business Network Association Co-Chair, Golden Donation Endowment Canadian Chinese Outreach Vice-President, Fu Hui Education Foundation