Hong Kong-based reclusive billionaire Calvin Lo, CEO of life insurance brokerage firm R.E. Lee International, revealed why he’s not investing in cryptocurrencies.
In an interview with Tatler, Lo explained that his apprehension over digital currencies’ volatility stems from his background in insurance.
According to Lo, a friend urged him to buy Bitcoin five years ago. The digital currency was still trading at $6,000 then, and his friend assured him that it would eventually be valued at over $10,000. While it did reach such value three days later, he did not find the outcome promising.
“The volatility is attracting a lot of people but the same reason is deterring me,” Lo was quoted as saying. “I’m from an insurance background and I’m a bit cautious of something that looks too good to be true. People who invest with us and trust us don’t want us to go into these fancy instruments.”
Lo revealed the same reluctance to cryptocurrencies in an earlier interview with CNBC International.
“There’s huge potential for sure, I think,” Lo said. “In the next five to 10 years, this will be the trend. Even insurance companies are looking into how to incorporate all these kinds of like, bitcoin, NFTs, into policies.”
According to Lo, the concept is “a little bit too new” for him and would take some time for him to fully understand it.
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“I’m an insurance guy so risk is not the thing that I have too much appetite for,” he added. “But then again I’m not saying that is not a universe whereby you should not look into. I’m raised in a way where you get properties, get something solid, get bricks that you could put over your head. You know that type of style, I may say old school, too old school, but maybe it’s something that I should look into it a little bit more. It will be the future. It’s just how it’s going to be fine-tuned throughout the next few years.”
Bitcoin, which reached a peak of $63,558 on April 12, 2021, plummeted to as low as $18,000 last week, trading at levels not seen since 2020. Ether, the second-largest crypto, fell by as much as 16 percent to $1,177, the lowest it has been since January 2021. Lo, whom Forbes has estimated to have a net worth of $1.7 billion, has instead focused on philanthropy, particularly after the pandemic broke out.
“When COVID hit, it really changed how I see things; it made me realize there are a lot of cracks in the system that need mending,” he shared. “Previously I’d just set up a charity and rubber stamp things. There’s a problem of people not putting as much focus on their philanthropy as they do on their business. It needs a keener edge and a more systematic view.
Lo added: “There are kind of similarities to my insurance business. The philanthropic part of these families is also changing. Society is more complex now, so we need to treat philanthropy a bit more seriously.”
Based on public filings, Lo has allotted about a quarter of a billion dollars for his philanthropic projects.
He also attributed his affinity for helping others to his 10-year-old daughter Isabella, whom he took to an orphanage he was supporting.
“One time, during the early days of COVID, I was visiting an orphanage I support with my daughter and explaining how fortunate we are, and she said: ‘I didn’t even know you did this.’ I thought: Wow, even my daughter doesn’t know; I should spread the word.”
At age 46, Lo is now reflecting on his legacy, which includes the nonprofit think tank The 195 Project.
“The purpose of this initiative is to listen, learn and collectively campaign for a global economy that can be kinder and can reward innovation and hard work,” Lo said on the initiative’s website. “Business leaders must listen to those with the least, recognize their individual privilege, and work together for the common good.”