Making investing great again | ZUU Exclusive Interview with Eng Thiam Choon, CEO, Tiger Brokers Singapore

·7-min read

Eng Thiam Choon, CEO of Tiger Brokers Singapore, has a vision to bring vibrancy and excitement to the Singapore investment scene. Even after 17 years in the finance industry, his passion for the investment scene remains palpable.

Zuu Online Singapore met Eng via video conference, to learn more about his vision for the investing scene in Singapore and his future plans for Tiger Brokers Singapore one year after its launch.

Building a vibrant investing environment

“My vision is to see investment becoming a common talking point in Singapore. We like to talk about celebrity gossip and other things, but we should also talk about shares, and talk about investment,” Eng tells ZUU online.

“Looking back, I realised that I should have started to invest earlier,” he said laughing. “But when we were in school, no one told us to invest. Our parents would always tell us to focus on studying first, and getting a good job after. We were even discouraged from finding a girlfriend too early, so investing was most definitely not part of our upbringing.”

“In fact, we were taught to think that investment was serious business. You needed to be very cautious, and only invest when you had a lot of money to spare. But with the younger generation, their needs and values are changing, and the way we think about investing needs to change as well.”

To be sure, Eng was very heartened by the dramatic changes in the investing scene in the past few years.

“Now we see people starting to talk about it, investment classes popping up, people discussing about investment philosophies and reading investment books. Even tertiary education institutions are teaching about investments,” he adds.

After spending two years helming Tiger Brokers Singapore, Eng believes its online brokerage platform is poised to build on that momentum, by lowering the barriers to investing.

What is Tiger Brokers all about?

Tiger Brokers is an Asia founded online brokerage firm, with a focus on global investors. Its holding company – UP Fintech Holding Ltd – is listed on the Nasdaq exchange in the U.S.

The firm prides itself on providing a low-cost brokerage service on a user-friendly mobile and online trading platform. For 1QFY2021, Tiger Brokers reported total revenues at US$81.3 million, a 255.5% increase from 1QFY2020.

Total trading volumes surged past US$123.8 billion, nearly triple of that seen in 1QFY2020. Total number of customers with deposits increased by 180.4% y-o-y to 376,000.

In Singapore, Tiger Brokers is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and holds a Capital Markets Services Licence.

A trend setter

Tiger Brokers Singapore launched in early 2020 with a bang, when it gave out free shares for the Hong Kong listed Haidilao, which was unheard of at the time. This set the stage for other subsequent new players to offer similar perks to attract customers.

To date, Tiger Brokers offers access to six stock exchanges – New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), NASDAQ, Shanghai/Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX), the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) – and it also offers Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs), Futures, Stock Options, Warrants, Callable Bull/Bear Contracts (CBBCs), Daily Leveraged Certificates (DLCs), US-listed over the counter (OTC) equities and Fund Mall.

“We may be offering the same products as other brokers, but we understand the needs and the demands of the market,” Eng said, explaining that the Tiger Brokers’ trading platform integrates all of its product offerings into one account. “This eliminates any hesitation to trade since investors can choose to trade a different asset class with a simple activation.

He added that the account opening process is streamlined and simple. Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents can open their account with their Singpass in 5 five minutes, while foreigners need only wait up to 24 hours to have their accounts processed and activated.

The key difference is its mobile platform, which is able to provide customers with a convenient and smooth trading experience. “We invest heavily in research and development for the user interface and user experience in our mobile and online platforms. You can’t quantify it, but when our customers tell us that they prefer our trading platform over others, it shows that we have succeeded in this aspect.”

He added that many traditional trading brokerages lagged behind in their adoption of mobile technology, remaining largely web based, even though their customers had already embraced mobile usage in all other aspects of their lives.

Today, Tiger Brokers counts big name companies like Interactive Brokers and Xiaomi among its investors, as well as renowned Singapore-based investor Jim Rogers.

What advice does Eng have for new investors?

In the past, Eng often noticed that a lot of new investors would rush into the market, and buy stocks after reading some news and analyst reports, without doing sufficient research on their own. This was especially so in 2020, when global markets were very depressed from economic repercussions of the pandemic.

The problem lies in the delay between the actual release of the news and the time when retail investors receive it. Institutional and professional investors often received the same piece of news days before it reaches retail investors, and would have acted on it shortly after. By the time retail investors react, the market may already be at a peak. Subsequent market corrections often catch new retail investors by surprise, and result in them closing their positions too early and making a loss.

Instead, Eng advises investors to look into creating a diversified portfolio that balances market volatility and return with 3 key components: stocks, unit trusts, and futures.

“Share investing allows you to participate directly in brand name companies that you are familiar with. You can find out easily if their business is doing well or not, just by following their announcements. While prices are more volatile, stocks can also provide you with better yield. You can also invest in a mix of different industries like property or retail through REITs.

“Funds like unit trusts are good for long term investment. They give you a slightly higher yield and more flexibility than things like fixed deposits. For new investors, it also allows professionals to manage that portion of your investment for you.”

“Futures allows you to invest based on the big picture view of the economy. You might invest in index futures for specific stock markets, gold futures if inflation is rising, and oil futures in relation to changing consumption patterns or import and export activities.”

However, he cautions that there is always the danger of profit taking when markets rally. “Understand your risk tolerance and prepare an exit plan based on your objectives. When markets are down, take the time to revisit your past investment ideas and think about adding suitable companies to your portfolio. Then review and restructure your portfolio on a quarterly or half yearly basis.”

Looking forward from a very unique 2020

“Last year, the market was very good from an investment perspective. Everything looked cheap, and everyone had little else to do when they were stuck at home, so many people were looking at the market. In fact, market participants were promoting a lot of courses and trading systems, and this created a good atmosphere and environment for people to pay attention to investments and wealth management.”

“Since the slump in 2020, investor confidence has been returning, and financially solid companies have been recovering,” he observed. “Markets will be exciting when travel and cross border trades finally recover, and more companies will benefit from it.”

To celebrate its 1-year anniversary, the company has beefed up its new account opening rewards programme, by offering 60 commission-free trades within the first 180 days, a free Starbucks share for funded accounts with a minimum of $2000, as well as a $100 stock voucher and a chance to win a free Tesla share for successful referrals.

Tiger Brokers is also looking to add more technical analysis tools and indicators to the Tiger Trade platform, as well as new asset classes and more statistics and live data, to help investors make better investing decisions.

In both its marketing effort and its platform offering, Eng assures that Tiger Brokers will never sit on its laurels. “There’s always more to come.”

(By Gwyneth Yeo)

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