This week’s Podcast guest is the CEO of ShareInvestor, Mr Christopher Lee.
Mr Lee has more than 25 years of working experience in the IT and media industry. Mr Lee is one of the founding members of ShareInvestor and was instrumental in the development and expansion of the business. Mr Lee started his career as a marketing representative with IBM Singapore and has assumed various responsibilities including sales, marketing, training and management in his tenure with IBM. Mr Lee holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) from NUS and an MBA from NTU.
I had the chance to sit down with Mr Lee to pick his brain on investing. In particular, he shares great advice for young investors, how he gets his kids to invest and why investing with knowledge is the key to financial independence. We also discuss investing opportunities in Southeast Asia markets, and particularly why Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are the markets to watch in the next few years.
ShareInvestor Company Profile
Founded in 1999, ShareInvestor is a finance focused media & technology company with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. ShareInvestor operates the largest investor relations network in ASEAN and provides online market data information across its online toolsets, ShareInvestor Station, ShareInvestor WebPro and ShareInvestor Mobile. In addition, ShareInvestor organises investment seminars and conferences such as INVEST Fair. ShareInvestor was acquired by SPH in 2008 and the management team did a management buy-out in November 2018.
Watch the 10 minutes highlights on YouTube (don’t forget to Like and Subscribe!):
Full Audio Interview
Listen to the full conversation on iTunes here or just click PLAY below:
For those who are pressed for time, text highlights are set out below.
At this stage of my life, I’m more focused on wealth preservation [3:00]
When I was working in IBM, I was very busy learning things, absorbing everything like a sponge. I only started thinking about investing when I started ShareInvestor. At that point in time, I was looking at growth stocks. At that stage of my life, I was more prepared to take risk, so I was looking at small-mid cap companies that had lots of potential for upside. I was focused on growth stocks that had an exciting story.
Currently, at this stage of my life, I’m more focused on wealth preservation and look at more defensive stocks like REITs and blue chips. I do still have some growth stocks in my portfolio, but some of them aren’t doing so well so I end up holding onto the (proverbial) baby.
If you don’t try, you won’t know. Take the first step! [5:00]
You can read and learn from others, but nothing beats putting your money down and experiencing the journey. I’ve learnt a lot over the last 20 years. There are ups and downs. Investment is a journey.
For young investors, the first thing they should do is to be inquisitive. Start learning about the different approaches to investing. After learning and reading, you must take action. Having the knowledge is important, but taking the first step is even more important.
Be prepared to set aside money to invest in the market [6:48]
Take the first step. You don’t have to invest a lot of money. Do allocate a portion of your earnings to investment. As proven by many great investors in the world, investing will really give you returns as opposed to passive saving.
For a typical investor, they may not have the luxury of time to really analyse stocks. In this case, you may be better off buying an ETF like the STI. But as you get more well-versed in investing, it would be good to look at the macro and the sector, and then to zoom into stocks that can give you an upside. When I was younger, there was so many growth stocks that could give me a multibagger. Nowadays, it might be more difficult to identify such multibagger stocks but there is still opportunity. It is whether you have the time and discipline to look into the market. That’s why at ShareInvestor we have the InvestorOne portal where we help investors zoom into Catalist companies. There are some pretty promising stocks there.
Invest your Angbao money [10:40]
I have a son who is 17 this year. Two years ago, I started talking to him about investing. I told him about ShareInvestor and how we help investors equip themselves with knowledge. I suggested using his Angbao money to invest. At that time, we looked at Netlink Trust (around its IPO time). Based on its business model, recurring revenue stream and what we read about its dividend payout, it looked promising, so we bought it. Today, the returns are pretty decent and whenever there is a dividend, I will give him the money and I’ll remind him that Hey, this is because of the investment decision you made two years ago. I also take it further and discuss capital appreciation and dividends with him to encourage him to invest. So now, I think whenever he gets some extra money, he will be more interested in investing.
How I wish somebody would have guided me when I was younger. When I was in IBM, I was so busy climbing the corporate ladder that I just parked my money in the bank. On hindsight, we could have done more with the money I saved.
Invest with Knowledge [13:25]
You can start off by investing in a diversified portfolio through an ETF or a few blue-chips. But you will only get a solid return if you invest with knowledge. It is important to know what you’re investing into, the company, the management, the prospects and also to understand that in the event there are some developments e.g. macro development, how will this affect the company.
You can choose to put a little bit into a few blue-chips, or you can choose to put a lot more into something you know really well. For me, I’ve learnt to focus. I put money into business I know well. For instance, the management buy-out of ShareInvestor. I know the business, I know the opportunity and that’s why I put money into this business.
If you’re ok with 6 – 8% return, the REITs market in Singapore will probably work well for you. But if you’re hoping to get about 15%, then you really have to invest in something you know. But of course, there will be corresponding risk.
I still diversify by putting money into savings and blue-chip stocks, but I put most of my money into a business that I can manage and see huge potential in.
Tremendous investing opportunity in SEA [18:30]
The Thai and Indonesian markets are very exciting. The Thai market has really grown significantly in terms of market cap and volume of trade. Singapore will still remain a financial hub and key capital market where we attract a lot of FDI, but it’s a more mature market. For growth, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam would be very good. The question is the infrastructure. As individual investors, how do you access the market there? What are the proxies can you use? I’m not saying to jump in immediately, I think there still needs to be a few more years before they are more open to foreign retail investors coming in.
Over the last 13 years we’ve been doing business in Thailand, I’ve looked at the investor returns and its enviable. But the thing that foreign investors should be aware of is forex risk. The one good thing about Thailand is that the Thai baht is quite stable against the Sing dollar over the last 10 years. The companies that are listing in Thailand are local, grown by local consumption, with an average of 30 – 40 listings per year. These are great domestic companies. Investors should first open an account that can access the Thai market, make sure that cost of trade is kept low, and do your research. Research is the same everywhere in every market, you’ve got to read the annual report, look at historical returns. You can do this with ShareInvestor’s online toolsets, ShareInvestor Station and ShareInvestor WebPro. Social media is also becoming increasingly important to educate investors on the potential of companies, and blogs can be used to supplement investors’ knowledge.
ShareInvestor’s vision is to empower investors to make a choice [25:50]
If you look at our 3 business lines, we are providing information to (i) public listed companies to communicate investment merit or (ii) investors to get more timely updated information on public listed companies. Our vision is to empower investors to make a choice.
Financial Independence: the ability to invest intelligently [41:40]
Today’s world is borderless when it comes to investing. For the average investor in Singapore, I would suggest 3 buckets of exposure: (1) Singapore blue chips (2) Singapore growth stocks (3) Regional growth stocks. As to how much to allocate will depend on your risk appetite and experience in investing.
If you keep a dollar in the bank, it will probably be worth half 20 years down the road. One key lesson is that you must invest. The question is timing. Investors should follow big money (institutional investors / funds – where is the money going?). Investors need to do research, and they need to take action.
If just based on your career and you want to be financially independent at the age of 55, it’s going to be very challenging, especially with the high cost of living in Singapore. The wage is not going to catch up at the pace at which the cost is increasing.
Therefore, the ability to invest intelligently empowered with knowledge in the longer run, will help you gain financial independence earlier.
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