It’s not every day that you get to hear one of the richest bankers in Singapore give advice on how to manage financial investments.
The man in question?
Wee Ee Cheong, who is the current CEO and Deputy Chairman of United Overseas Bank (UOB).
Having owned and managed UOB within the family for three generations, the Wees are one of the 50 Richest Families in Asia for 2016, coming in at #41 with a net worth of US$4.6 billion.
That certainly puts Wee in a good position to give advice on financial wealth and investments.
Speaking to university students at the My Money @ Campus seminar at Nanyang Technological University on Feb 22, his advice was nothing like the jargon-filled investment techniques some people would have expected.
In fact, it was rooted in values and concepts we’ve known for the longest time but may not always practise.
Here are five somewhat motherhood but potentially useful points from the esteemed banker’s keynote address.
1) You are your biggest asset.
Wee says it’s “a responsible thing to do” when you take care of yourself.
To Wee, it doesn’t mean fancy clothes, makeup or material possessions. Instead, it is learning beyond the classroom, acquiring knowledge, skills and experiences.
“Nimbleness and openness to change are crucial”, he stresses, emphasising that life would be a cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning continually throughout, with the rapid changes in society.
2) Have some money sense – this means budgeting, saving and control
Nope, you don’t even have to take up some fancy plan to start – all that’s needed is some money sense.
To Wee, “it’s common sense, like living within one’s means, and only investing in what you understand and what you can afford.”
Gambling, lifestyle expenses, luxury goods and travel expenses were mentioned by Wee to be common causes of serious debt, even amongst highly educated high-income professionals.
3) Practice carefully, and trust the experts.
Wee believes that investments should be handled by professional experts, even though he did not mention that such services in the real world usually requires a fee and may not be affordable to some people.
But he also thinks that individuals have a part to play in making sensible financial decisions as well.
“When it comes to managing your finances there are so many products and solutions in the market. Do shop around. And chose what is right for you.”
Like nearly everything else, however, nothing beats the benefits of practising one’s skills in investing, to effectively seize opportunities and fine-tune our sense of judgement.
4)Your health is important.
The best risk management to Wee in a highly stressful working environment? Staying healthy.
“Remember, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, it’s not worth burning out early. Only when you are fit and healthy can you sustain your earnings and investment capacity for the long term.”
5) Good character over success, stable growth over volatility.
A believer of being disciplined and selective, he quoted a Chinese proverb which can roughly be translated to: “seek progress in stability, and seek stability in progress.”(稳中求进，进中求稳)
Wee also told the students to “gain trust before you gain success, strive for good character, before good achievements”, when he ended his talk with a second Chinese saying: “Be a person of character first, then get work done.” (先做人，再做事)
He also half-jokingly told the students that they could send him their CV.
Well, that’s probably a piece of advice too.
Top image from Guan Zhen Tan