C-100 Chairman Dominic Ng Bridging Progress Between America and China

DominicNg New Committee of 100 Chairman Dominic Ng personifies the Committee of 100’s dual mission. In both his business and community activities, Ng has focused on building bridges between the U.S. and Greater China and raising the profile and contributions of Chinese Americans in American society. Ng brings to the table his more than 20 years as Chairman and CEO of East West Bank, the largest U.S. bank focused on the Asian American community and one of the healthiest and fastest growing banks in the nation. Ng also is known for his nationally emulated initiatives as the first Asian American to chair the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ annual campaign.

Ng is applying his skills to strengthen the Committee’s role in the U.S., both in Washington, D.C., and among the American public, to bridge the gap in American understanding of China as well as of Asian American issues. Ng pointed to the 2012 elections as a critical time when China may become a wedge issue in the rhetoric between Democrats and Republicans. Toward this end, Ng has charged C-100 members with developing a coherent, sustained strategy to engage with Congressional leaders and the Administration (co-chaired by Debra Wong Yang and Ben Wu) as well as an ongoing research program that will build on the Committee’s signature public opinion surveys (co-chaired by Charlie Woo and Frank Wu).

“My leadership philosophy is to empower our Committee of 100 members to be more actively involved with the organization and be responsible for creating and executing a strategic direction for our activities.” Ng will concentrate the organization’s energies on engaging the full talents of the current Committee membership, rather than on recruiting new members. It is his hope that he can help C-100 become more institutionalized with sustainable funding so that ten years from now the organization will “have a much broader platform from which to execute its mission.”

Twenty years ago in 1991, when Ng was tapped to head East West Bank, he committed to only two or three years until a professional banker could be hired. After ten years as a CPA with Deloitte & Touche in Houston and Los Angeles, Ng had just begun a new career as President of the American arm of Asian-based Seyen Investment. He was enjoying expanding the investment portfolio for the company, which included the acquisition of East West Bank, a small savings and loan association based in Los Angeles Chinatown. “When I took over the bank, from day one, I said that we need to be a financial bridge between East and West. Someday we’re going to help American businesses do business in China, and we’re going to help Asian businesses do business in the U.S.” On a personal level, after several years, it soon became clear to Ng that it would be far more important to build on the foundation he had laid, a decision which proved beneficial both for himself and East West.

Under Ng’s leadership, East West grew rapidly, and by the 1998 Asian financial crisis when the original shareholder had to sell the bank, Ng was able to recruit 150 institutional investors for a management-led buy-out. East West Bancorp was born and subsequently went public. Today East West is a full-range consumer and commercial bank with branches across the United States and in Greater China and deep involvement in cross-border trade and investment in Asia (see conference coverage in this issue on Ng’s role in bringing Chinese green tech company BYD to Los Angeles).

Ng’s personal purpose in life is very similar to that of C-100: to be the bridge for Chinese Americans to the greater American society and to promote better understanding of Asian and Chinese cultures. More than a decade ago when Ng joined the board of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, serving as the “token Asian” member didn’t appeal to him. He felt that even though the charity was not an Asian American organization, if he could step up and make a meaningful impact and at the same time send a positive message to the community at large that Asian Americans are interested in giving back and bettering the lives of others, it would be a win-win. And that’s just what he did.

Ng convinced the United Way Board to make a greater impact with its distribution of funds: instead of giving large grants to established non-profit giants, which have their own fundraising staff and multi-million dollar budgets, funds would be divided among smaller agencies, like free clinics serving the uninsured in downtown Los Angeles. Hispanic, Asian and other minority organizations representing the future of Los Angeles also became United Way grantees under Ng’s plan. His passion and commitment made him the preferred choice to lead the 2000-2001 campaign, which broke new ground with the redistribution of funds and by bringing a large slate of generous Chinese American donors to United Way. Ng’s cutting-edge approach also garnered major support among the wealthiest and most influential Angelinos, which resulted in a record $66 million raised, and a national change in direction in United Way’s community agenda. 

Since his United Way experience, Ng has found many opportunities to show that Chinese Americans can be at the forefront of change. He has been sought out for positions on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Mattel, Inc., the Pacific Council on International Policy, and as a member of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Trade Advisory Council, among other influential posts. Ng also says that he takes on new responsibilities “any time I see a connection to U.S.-China relations and a way to help the American public understand more about China and Chinese culture.” Beneficiaries of Ng’s non-profit fundraising and leadership in recent years include groundbreaking collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, bringing the very best contemporary Chinese art to a larger audience; his generous support of Liu Fang Yuan, The Huntington Library’s Chinese Garden; and the Bowers Museum in Orange County where he helped raise funds for a new permanent gallery, “Ancient Arts of China,” which Ng believes will be especially meaningful in a community made up mostly of Whites and Latinos.

Ng is praised by the management of the Committee for his inspiring leadership style, a model in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless. He has his tasks cut out for him—preserving excellence in the core values and culture of the Committee of 100 while leading change in a new era of dynamic U.S.-China relations.

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