Louis Koay is a dual-licensed representative at Phillip Securities. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with First Class Honours and he is a CFA charterholder as well as a Certified Financial Planner. He is currently managing a team of 6 advisors and servicing more than 2,500 clients with asset under advisory of more than $40 million. As a trainer at Dr Wealth, Louis developed the Personal Finance Mastery Course and he is a key trainer in the Intelligent Investors Immersive Program. He has trained more than 20,000 retail investors in analysing stocks and on personal financial planning.
I did not come from a rich family; my father is a hawker and my mother, a housewife. Since young, our family income is barely sufficient to support us.
I was told by my parents to study hard so that I can get a high paying job and improve our living standards. I followed their advice and was fortunate to get a scholarship to study in NUS.
And I did not disappoint them. I ended up with a good degree and a good paying job. When I got my first pay cheque, I spent it all within a week. It was then that I realized that I cannot just wait for my pay to come in every month. I need to take control and grow my money.
I heard that ‘investing’ can make money. So I started to invest. At that time I did not know about Fundamental Analysis or Technical Analysis.
I saw that some companies that produced items for my day to day living are listed. My mobile plan is from Starhub. So I bought Starhub shares at $2.67. That was the very first investment in my life. I felt very excited and hoped that the stock will shoot up. I monitored the stock every single minute. Fortunately, I made a big profit because Starhub was doing well at that time. I sold my investment at $3.20 and made some money.
I began to think that I am born to be an investor. I started to buy many stocks. One of stock I bought was HPH trust during its IPO. The price went down after IPO and never recovered. I lost about 50% of my portfolio value. It was then that I know that I am not born to be an investor. I needed to learn the right way to invest.
One day I came across a book in popular. The book is entitled “What school never taught you about money”. It was written by Dennis Ng, my late investing mentor. The book teaches about personal finance and investment. My mindset was totally changed after reading the book.
At the end of the book, there is a ticket for a “Path to Financial Freedom Workshop”. I went to attend the workshop which was a preview for Dennis’s seminar. Without much thinking, I signed up for the seminar on the spot. I still remembered that the price was $2298. As a typical fresh graduate, I make about $3000 a month. I have spent about 80% of my salary within a day!
Fortunately it turned out that the money spent is the best investment in my life. Not only that I have learnt about Financial Analysis, the mindset, the values that Dennis Ng shared with me have change my entire life. My stock investments started to show positive return.
My burning desire to learn about investing never stopped after the course. I wanted to know more, I wanted to acquire more knowledge to help me become a better investor. I know that knowledge is the key for successful investing.
I heard that Chartered Financial Analyst program is the toughest exam in the world. I like challenges so I took up the program. The CFA program brought my financial knowledge to the next level. I learnt about investing in stock, portfolio planning, macro economy analysis, corporate finance, and much more.
During one of the graduate gathering sessions, I was given an opportunity to share my investment analysis for a stock. That was the first time I spoke in public. I prepared for a few days before and received excellent feedback. After the session, I realized that there are many retail investors who claim that they are using FA for investing, but they do not know how to read and analyze financial statements.
Warren Buffet said that you must be able to interpret financial statement before you can start to invest. I then joined Dennis as an external trainer to develop my first ever financial course to teach retail investors about FA. There, I met Alvin during one of the coaching session. We share the same mindset, same outlook, and same attitude towards money. It was like meeting a long lost brother.
Together with Jon and Alex, we started Bigfatpurse with the intention of educating retail investors on proper financial management and sound investment techniques.
In 2015, I took another massive step forward. I left my stable and good paying job as an engineer to join the financial advisory field. I am now in process of becoming a dual license representative – Remiser license and Financial Advisory license. In the future I will be able to recommend and execute trades for my clients.
Interestingly, I first thought of being a financial advisor some years ago. I shared my thought on facebook and received many comments from my friends. None of them were flattering. One of my friends said – you have a professional job, why you want to become a salesman? Another said – one more phone number to be avoided.
I do not blame them as I know there are some culprits in the industry that destroyed the image of financial advisor. Instead, I blame myself for listening to their comments and delaying my move till now.
I learnt one thing from this movie “The Pursuit of Happiness” by Will Smith – Don’t ever let someone tell you that you cannot do something. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they are gonna tell you that you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it!
And this is how I got to becoming a professional financial specialist. My dream is to help people better manage their money and become more financially savvy. I am going all in to pursue my dream and I am confident that it will be the best decision I have ever made.
Today, my team has grown to 10 advisors, servicing more than 2,500 accounts and investing more than $40 million asset under advisory. While there will be people who could have accomplished more, I am pleased with my achievements thus far and will continue to strive for better results.
I would like to share 5 learning points that I have experienced in the past 5 years. These are relevant for you even if you have no interest working in advisory or broking services.
It has not been an easy journey for the past 5 years. I have been working for 12-14 hours a day for 7 days a week.
As a self-employed person, I have no fixed working hours. Every single day is a business day for me. I have to constantly put in effort to brush up on my knowledge, my networking skills and my presentation skills.
I try to remain disciplined by following a routine. Routines lead to habits. And having good habits definitely help in my business.
Every morning before breakfast, I will check through trade settlements for my clients to ensure that all are in good order. I will then follow up with them on outstanding issues. Once the stock market opens, I will be on standby mode to assist client with their trading instructions.
At the same time, I will also prepare portfolio analysis for clients who are looking to review their finances. I also meet clients for financial advisory work during the day and after the stock market closes. I have been doing this every day including weekends for the past five years.
I also conduct a monthly update seminar to share my views and the investment outlook with my clients. I usually take one to two weekends to do the research and to prepare the presentation materials.
Being a remisier, I will have to make fast and accurate analysis and execution. Multi-tasking is an essential skill. For financial advisory, the key to success is more of soft skills such as communication. I am constantly learning to speak and to present to clients better.
There is a saying that if you find something you love to do, you will never have to work a day in your life. I love what I am doing. That is why I can do this every day.
Throughout the past 5 years, I have met over 1,500 to 1,800 clients. My golden rule is to meet at least one client each day. Through meeting more people, I have learnt that every client’s situation is different.
On one hand, I have met very high net worth individuals who are thinking of how to grow, preserve and distribute their wealth. On the other extreme, I have also met with individuals who are struggling to clear their debts and are running into cash flow issues on a weekly or monthly basis. The rich-poor gap is very much real in Singapore.
There are a few key differences I have noticed between the rich and the not so well off. The rich tend to take prompt and immediate action. They also tend to be more savvy with their finances. They understand the principles of cash flow, assets and liabilities, good and bad debt. Perhaps because they tend to be senior management in corporations or are managing their own business, they tend to be more decisive.
To reduce this rich-poor gap, I believe financial education is the key. Everyone should understand the basics of financial planning – how to protect, grow and distribute wealth effectively.
Meeting clients is never an easy task. I cannot remember how many times I have been rejected. Even after I have understood my client’s needs and have prepared a proposal according to their needs, I may still get a “no” reply from them. I do understand that. Rejection is part of my job and not every client will like what I am able to provide. That is fine with me. What really bothers me is when a client fails to turn up for an appointment without even bothering to notify me.
Of course, there are good experiences as well. I tell myself that I am here to do my best for every client. The best validation of my effort comes when clients refer their family and friends to me.
My success over the past five years is intertwined to that of Dr Wealth’s. In 2013, Alvin, myself and two other partners started Bigfatpurse Pte Ltd. When we first started, there were no staff, no office, no printers, absolutely nothing. We were just 4 like-minded people who got together to share our passion.
Shareholders were staff and we had to do everything on our own. I still remembered us spending our weekends back testing our strategy and preparing our course material. It feels just like yesterday!
The company has since grown. We now operate with a team of 7 staff. Along the way, we have also acquired Dr Wealth through a share swap. We have opted to use the Dr Wealth name and we have since rebranded our website and all our marketing materials to the Dr Wealth name.
Dr Wealth has also evolved into a financial education company that provides multiple courses to cater for different target audiences. Over 5,000 have graduated from our courses and over 20,000 have attended our talks since 2013. As the key trainer in this flagship course, I am able to reach out to more people and to share my financial knowledge. Many of them have become clients for my financial services.
I am committed to complete my professional qualification in finance and I have since completed both the Chartered Financial Analyst Program (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner Program (CFP). I am able to put what I have learnt through these programs into practice. The CFA provides me an in-depth knowledge of financial analysis while the CFP provides me with the foundation knowledge for financial planning.
With all the hard work I have put in and the trust from my clients, I have managed to become one of the top advisors in the financial firm that I am in, garnering 19 awards in the past 5 years. From the Rising Star Award in year 1, to the Top Dual Licence Representative Award and Top Team Supervisor Award, I am fortunate to achieve these within 5 years. I will continue to provide my very best service and not to disappoint people who have placed their trust in me. My team has grown to 6 advisors, servicing more than 1500 accounts and investing more than $20 million asset under advisory. I have also helped more than 500 clients with adequate insurance plans. I have also hired an assistant to assist me with servicing clients so that I can focus on activities that add value most rather than be bogged down with administrative work.
I will share my views in two sub-sections. The first is to my fellow financial advisors and remisiers; the other is to my clients and investors.
To my fellow advisors and remisiers, we all know that servicing clients is never easy. We have to face a lot of rejections and sometimes even downright ridiculous requests.
One thing I always remind myself is that we don’t have to convince everyone to follow our advice or strategy. There is no best advice or best strategy. As long as we provide our best advice, and we did our best for our clients, that will be good enough.
We also have to be professional in this industry. There will always be some black sheep in the industry. We try not to be one of them and to differentiate ourselves from them.
We need to enhance our image. I like to draw this analogy between doctors and financial advisors. The former is there to provide diagnosis on health, the later helps to provide diagnosis on wealth. If we go about our duties professionally, we become a financial doctor. If not, we are just selling medicine without any diagnosis.
To my clients and investors, I would like to thank everyone who have supported me throughout this journey. I may not be the best advisor in Singapore, but you can be sure that I will put in 100% of my effort to give you best advice that I have.
2020 has seen very volatile markets. In times like these, trust is crucial. The market will always have its ups and downs. If we plan properly, with the right asset allocation, short term market fluctuations should not be a concerned to us.
Before a pilot operates an aircraft, he or she will do all the necessary checks and plan for the safest journey. Any turbulence during the flight is an expected event. Passengers should not be jumping out of the aircraft door whenever the plane flies through a patch of turbulent weather. Instead, they should buckle up, sit tight and wait for the turbulence to pass. Similarly, all forms of investing will also come with volatility. Instead of panicking and selling everything at the first sign of market turmoil, investors should ignore the short term volatility, follow the plan and stay invested.
I hope I am able to inspire others through this sharing. Regardless of what you do, you will find success if you love what you do.
There is no easy journey for any career or business. There will always be ups and downs. The only certainty in business is uncertainty and we have to learn to adapt with the constraints that we have. Case in point, during this critical circuit breaker period, face to face meetings are not allowed. I have since learnt how to communicate with my clients and provide my advice through online meetings and webinars.
I am sure I will have more to share when I hit my 10th year in the industry. I am looking forward to the next 5 years!
Till then, stay safe and invest well.