Pooja Dhyani, founder of LocalHood, a volunteer social venture. In her 2021 Spotlight Series, she talks about what motivated her to join the financial industry, coping with change, her 2021 mantra, her passions, and much more.

What drew you to a career in finance? And what’s been your journey since? 

After my business school, most of my friends seemed to be choosing between finance and consulting and so I too joined banking. I started in Securitization in France, then worked in Asset financing in Europe and most recently in Debt Capital markets in Europe and Asia. Learning new financing techniques, contributing to important aspects of our clients’ financial strategy, living the success of transactions I had worked on and finally the perks with a cushy bonus that came with it were clearly my fuel on the job. My job also meant long work hours and questionable work-life balance but I really enjoyed every moment. 

Working at the source of the world’s worst financial crisis of 2008 with perfectly helpful financial techniques which had been mis-used, sub-standard due diligence by banks and inadequacies in our rating agencies gave me an important perspective about my work. 

In mid-2010s after I became a new mom for the second time, I felt the need to do something more in life than finance. I was acutely aware of the environmental issues Hong Kong was facing as well as the isolation and solitude you could feel in such a crowded place. I wanted to do something to tackle these societal problems at the grass root level. That’s when I founded a social venture, LocalHood (www.localhood.org), with a mission to connect Hong Kong neighborhoods both on-line as well as offline. LocalHood is the only Expat originated 100% volunteer-led neighborhood-centric social venture thriving in Hong Kong. 

This year has brought tremendous upheaval and disruption to all aspects of our lives. How are you and your company coping with this change? What has kept you motivated to succeed this past year?

Our volunteer team of about 20, both locals and expats, have been affected like everyone else. Our monthly meetings are at present taking place on zoom. They help us catch up with work but also with what’s going on with all of us and use our network to help one another.

Then, what brings the volunteers together is the will to make a positive impact on our neighbourhood community. In today’s uncertain times, organisations like ours are needed more than ever! Helping others, listening to their problems, and trying to be there for them also gives us a sense of fulfillment, of peace and reinforces our motivation to continue.  We made it a point to connect with the community through our blog and keeping a tab on well being through the phone or meet-ups, as much as possible. 

What will be your 2021 mantra to keep you motivated, either professional or personally?

What keeps me going on a daily basis is being grateful for all my blessings. Growing on a professional and personal level by always learning something new, is also very important for me. 

I believe to integrate better with the community, one should make the effort to speak the language. So, I have been learning Chinese for about a year now.

Environmental protection and sustainability is not just a trend or a buzz word but is very much a reality in all aspects of our life today. I am excited to be expanding my grass-root sustainability advocacy at LocalHood and practical knowledge in the ESG/Green finance space gained in banking with a course for sustainability professionals at the HKU. 

Apart from this, as the covid situation improves, we are also looking forward to welcoming neighbours in various districts to some exciting, creative but socially distanced events that our team has lined up all through the year. For example, our upcoming activities include a family Treasure hunt that we are organizing with a local pre-school. Other activities include a charity hygiene products collection drive benefiting a refugee charity, and a zoom workshop for Do-It-Yourself sanitizers and other hygiene products.

Aside from work, what are your other passions?

A healthy body keeps a healthy mind. I try to go by this saying. I work out 3 times a week at the gym and work on keeping a positive attitude to life. I am an avid hiker too and love a walk with friends.

I also try to be there as much as possible for my family. I engage with my family as much as possible with work, which is obviously easier at LocalHood than my past jobs as a banker.