The day before the inaugural My Money @ Campus seminar kicked off on Wednesday at Singapore Management University (SMU) , I received an invite from Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to check out the event.

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This is the first in the series of the quarterly My Money seminars, designed to educate investors on various investment products, highlighting the risk-return trade-offs and key issues investors should consider before deciding whether to take up a product.

Usually, I am pretty selective about such invitations and my first thought was erm, I probably won’t gain much from it. But then, I saw this.

Limited bento box dinner and goodies for early birds.

OK – I’m sold! Nah, just kidding. I actually had two reasons to attend after taking a quick glance at the event speakers – Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS and Christopher Tan, CEO of Providend.

It isn’t often that you get to hear a speaker like the CEO of DBS speak in person. I was hoping to get an interesting tidbit of information or two from him – which I did. More of that later.

The second speaker that I was interested in listening to is Christopher Tan. On and off, I had actually come across many of his articles and I have found his writings to be really sensible stuff.

In fact, I have met him previously at a finance bloggers gatherings just a couple of months back, when I learnt that Providend is one of the rare firms in Singapore that provides fee-based advisory services. I enjoyed my brief conversation with him then, and was keen to hear what he had to say.

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My work place was only 5 minutes away from SMU and so, I could afford to leave work late after settling some last-minute issues and still make it on time for the event. Stepping into an university after so many years felt like a surreal experience. I was literally surround by youthful energy and the atmosphere was rather refreshing.

I arrived ten minutes before the event started and was surprised to see a queue forming up at the registration counter. I joined the queue and got hold of my goodie bag a short while later. And no, I did not take the bento as I wasn’t hungry.

The goodie bag was actually filled with plenty of useful information for the newbie investor. Look, there was even flyers for the second tranche of Singapore Savings Bonds!

goodie-bag-sample

Also included was information on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), direct purchase insurance, checklists when dealing with investment products and a rather useful little handbook that touches on topics like investment goals, Straits Times Index (STI), blue chip stocks and real estate investment trusts (REITs) etc.

For the experienced and savvy investors, these are probably nothing new but I’m guessing many of the students (they made up the majority of the audience) genuinely learnt a thing or two from the handbook. I mean, it felt kind of weird to see them literally taking notes when the speakers mentioned stuff like value investing and Benjamin Graham.

SIAS stands for Securities Investors Association (Singapore), not Silly Investors Always Suffer.

I made myself comfortable at the back of the auditorium, sipped my coffee and waited to enjoy a relaxing evening. Most of what I wrote below are from memories because I didn’t take notes like a diligent student should, and my memory is failing me.

Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS

By his own admission, Piyush said that he is more of a banker than an investor himself, which I found to be rather true as his talk went on. A random selection of what he touched on that evening, based on my understanding and what I can remember –

Income does not equate to wealth – wealth is actually a result of putting capital to work.

Instead of investing in individual stocks, he invests in funds instead. One of his advice is to think of fundamentals and long-term, mega trends when making investments.

Instead of the typical diversification view, he suggests that making sizable, concentrated bets would be a way of getting the desired returns. He also quoted Warren Buffett that “diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.”

The gem I was waiting for is this – DBS has actually been working with Watson for quite some time now. What is this Watson? Amazing stuff. Really.

 

Watson, by IBM, is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer, and uses this same cognitive framework to achieve mastery over a given subject and develop expertise. In the realm of robo-adviser, Piyush feels that it could be a potential game-changer. Watson is capable of dishing out financial advice and suggestions based on a person’s profile and the individual’s information, but is currently used in tandem with a relationship manager who uses his or her judgement to make the eventual recommendation to the client.

To be fair to him, Piyush’s advice is made from his perspective and what he considers as good advice. Otherwise, why else would he say what he said? However, I sense that there is a certain level of disconnect between him and his audience. After all, a person of his position and income level doesn’t quite grasp the idea of affordability and the concerns of a newbie investor – just my humble personal view.

Christopher Tan, CEO of Providend

Christopher was pure gold. Out of the 5 speakers I listened to that evening, charismatic Christopher was no-doubt the highlight.

The first thing he did was to take a potshot at Piyush, and exclaimed he understood the meaning of “affordable” is, which drew pockets of laughter from the students. From the engagement of the audience to the frequent laughter, there is no doubt he had gotten through to the crowd.

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It was a pity that there was too little time for Christopher to share everything he wanted to, so he had to rush through his slides most of the time. You can see the students frantically trying to take photos of all the slides he had prepared.

An interesting bit of information Christopher shared that night –

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Instead of timing the market (which he did mention isn’t impossible, just very difficult), he suggests that a better alternative is to stay invested and keep investing over the long term.

With sensible topics such as knowing an individual’s risk appetite, savings before investing and constructing a portfolio, Christopher is exactly the kind of speaker that I would have wanted to be exposed to 15 years ago. The bunch of (mostly) students in the auditorium on Wednesday are really lucky indeed. If you are new to investing, keep a lookout for events featuring Christopher and I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

I didn’t stay throughout the event as I had to leave right after Christopher’s talk. All in all, I felt that the event was really beneficial from the perspective of someone new to investing.

My Money @ Campus is definitely a step in the right direction by MoneySENSE and I hope that many more will continue to benefit from this series of seminars. Follow MoneySENSE on Facebook to learn when and where the next seminar will be held!