American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, Warren Buffett, is famously quoted for saying “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
While this was said in reference to one of the foundational pillars of Warren’s long-term investment ethos, in layman terms it simply means there is no better time than the present to start thinking about starting your investing path.
However, for the average person, the term ‘investing’ inevitably triggers intimidation caused either by a lack of understanding or fear of losing money due to the stock market’s volatility.
Millennial investor, Alex Ng, is helping change this narrative after realising the power of strategic Value Investing which he personally learned from his mentor, Ken Chee, who is the CEO and co-founder of the region’s leading financial education provider, VI College.
Alex is one of the Master Speakers and Trainers in VI College with more than 10 years of investing experience in local and foreign equity markets. Also a former auditor in Deloitte, Alex’s investing journey started when he was looking for ways to support his family financially and realised his active income was simply not enough.
Today, he leads VI College’s team of trainers and coaches in Singapore and Malaysia, while continuing to empower people with Value Investing knowledge, be it participants, graduates or the public.
Under Ken’s guidance and through his passion to learn, before the age of 30, Alex was already managing a USD20million fund as an investment analyst with 8I Holdings Ltd, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
By designing bootcamp programmes with easy to follow strategies and unique investing tools, VI College and its trainers such as Alex, empower the average man-on-the-street to achieve sustainable wealth as part of their mission to make investments smarter, faster and easier.
To understand what sets VI College apart from other financial investment courses and learn more about Alex’s credibility as an investor, I spoke to the man himself.
In the following interview, Alex humbly shares his personal investment journey and investment philosophy that has enabled him to grow his personal portfolio at 30% year on year.
VR: Before taking on the role to lead VI College full time, you were an auditor in Deloitte. What pushed you to explore Value Investing?
AN: I actually started investing at the age of 19, which was before I even joined Deloitte. The reason I wanted to learn about investing was because I realised the importance of financial freedom, early. Growing up, my dad was the sole breadwinner in my family and his salary was just enough to support my siblings and I so I grew up seeing my mom live very frugally. From a young age, I realised that I have to be rich and wealthy in order to not be a burden to my parents.
When I was 19, a friend lent me Robert Kiyosaki’s book, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, and this was my first introduction to the idea of making money by investing it rather than simply “working-hard.”
From there, through my own online research on the stock market and through books I bought to understand investing, I self-taught myself investing strategies and tried it out for two years. Unfortunately, I saw a ton of ups and downs during this time and in fact, I lost quite a bit of money. So I told myself that I have to learn about investing from someone who’s actually done it successfully and that’s when I came across a Facebook ad from my mentor Ken, who had started a millionaire investor programme (now called VI Bootcamp).
I was impressed and inspired by the fact that Ken had attended a Value Investing course at Columbia Business School once taught by Warren Buffett himself because it meant he learned the correct strategy right from the source and was bringing it to Malaysia and Singapore.
Long story short, I learned about value investing from Ken and then tested out his strategies with RM 3000 and this time, I started to generate much better results than I did during my first two years.
VR: Just out of curiosity, when you started investing at 19, how much money did you start with?
AN: I started at about a RM 2,000 range and I remember the first two companies I invested in were Genting Group and Padini Holdings Berhad. This was money I had made through several odd jobs growing up, one of which was in fact as a cashier at Padini.
VR: How long did it take you to get a hang of investing and when did you start noticing a significant positive difference to your financial anxieties/concerns?
AN: I truly gained confidence in my investment results after I learned under Ken and my results actually grew when I was with Deloitte. Most of my colleagues were focused on doing their job and as an auditor, there’s usually not much time for anything but work. But hearing about my wealth growth through investing, I had colleagues who started asking me about it and that’s when I realised I also enjoyed guiding other people to help them realise, as I did, that investing is powerful and can generate safe and consistent income.
VR: From that point to now, would you say your investment portfolio has seen a steady positive growth or is that something people shouldn’t expect when investing?
AN: There have definitely been ups and downs and it isn’t always a smooth journey because first off, the market is volatile. But as an experienced investor, you learn that you shouldn’t be in a position where you’re only happy if your share prices go up.
Instead, you should be happy regardless because when share prices decrease, it’s also an opportunity and this is where value investing comes in. To explain this better, let me give an easy example.
If someone who bought a branded handbag for RM 10,000 is selling it to you for RM 5,000 because they urgently need the cash, would you buy it? Most people would because they’re purchasing something they know the true value of, at a cheaper price, while knowing that they’ll be able to sell it for its true value, when the time is right.
Similarly, share prices track the fundamentals of a business and because behind every stock, there is an actual business, the share prices will go up and down. But when a business’s share price decreases, it doesn’t mean it won’t go up again. It’s in fact a wonderful opportunity for me, as an investor, to buy more and wait for share prices to go up. This is the essence of value investing.
VR: This could be my lack of experience with the investment scene but speaking of better results, isn’t investing all about secret strategies and if so, why would you and other trainers share them?
AN: First off, when you sign up for one of the investment courses under VI College, there will never be a case where you’re only taught a portion of the strategies and then are left to figure the rest out on your own. We teach our students Everything they need to know when it comes to value investing.
In fact, our 5-day course for beginners also includes weekly coaching sessions once they’ve completed the course.
Whenever an opportunity is detected either locally or globally, we as trainers, share that information with our students and we grow our wealth together. At the same time, when someone discovers a new strategy or a deeper understanding of investing, it is shared with the VI Community.
In fact, within our community, it’s not just trainers and coaches who share opportunities we stumble upon. Very often, the students also share their findings.
At the core of it, this is the reason we (VI College) have been able to grow as much as we have. We are now a listed company with more than 35,000 graduates around the world.
So to answer your question, we support each other in our wealth creation and I truly believe in win-win situations. Unlike gambling for example which is a win-lose situation because you automatically risk losing to the dealer or a machine. But in our case, the strategies we teach our students don’t become void once they’ve used it; all parties can use it and see positive results and this is the win-win situation I stand by.
VR: How would you say your investment portfolio has changed since the onset of COVID-19?
AN: My investment philosophy and strategy has always been the same, which is value investing. But more specifically, I look at these 3Rs when making an investment decision: the Right business model, the Right management running the business and the Right valuation vs. price.
Despite what most people may think, when the pandemic hit, a lot of new investment opportunities presented itself. For example, in March last year when the market crashed, I invested in a few tourism related companies because I knew that despite the pandemic’s impact on this industry, it would eventually stabilise once borders reopened globally.
After a few months down the pandemic road, I realised COVID-19 wasn’t going away for a while. So I started looking at trends surrounding new working behaviours and saw businesses adapting to the new norm by implementing work-from-home arrangements and investing in cloud infrastructure and cyber security.
Understanding this helped me slowly move my direction while maintaining my investment strategy.
VR: So it sounds like despite the uncertainty of the times, ironically several unique investment opportunities rose specifically due to the pandemic?
AN: Yes, exactly.
VR: Is that a common trend you see when investing? Is investing all about being smart enough to find unique opportunities amidst challenging times ?
AN: Yes, during challenging periods, more opportunities do arise. But in terms of being smart, I don’t think you need to be very smart to be a good investor.
I only have an average IQ and I can say that you don’t need to be a genius to spot opportunities. There’s tons right under your nose.
For example, if you’re an iPhone user and you enjoy the product, you can always invest in Apple at a fair or undervalued price, which will make you money. Or even locally, you can invest in companies you grew up with such as Nestle, which makes Milo or even Hup Seng Industries Berhad which makes everyone’s favorite cream crackers.
In fact, Hup Seng has been giving great dividend returns. Three times higher than your fixed deposit return.
So truly, these opportunities are right in front of you. It’s just that with most people, I’d say their “investing third eye” hasn’t opened up yet and that’s what we help you do during our course.
VR: Which leads me to my next question: For individuals who are interested in learning about investing, what impact will VI College’s course have on them and what can they expect to learn?
AN: Of course learning the strategies is one thing but it’s isn’t the only thing.
Firstly, you must also learn about financial defense. What I mean by this is when people start investing, oftentimes they’re very focused on the “attack” element which is all about growing their money. But before you do that, having the right set of defenses in place is important. Just like how basketball or football coaches won’t simply focus on their team’s attacking strategy without also having a good defense strategy because you’ll also lose if your opponent keeps scoring.
Similarly, we are the coaches of our portfolios and must make sure our money management is right. Such as monthly spending, understanding the differences between our needs and wants and also ensuring we have the right insurance in place in case of an emergency.
After understanding these fundamentals, you’ll then learn how to understand the stocks, the businesses behind them, how to identify the good companies from the bad ones, when to buy, when to sell and how to manage and diversify your portfolio so you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Or in other words, you’ll learn about lowering the risk.
VR: Speaking of risks, what are some of the most common mistakes people are making when they invest?
AN: Investing based on hearsays, stock recommendations, broker recommendations and now the most recent example would be the crypto market. I’m not saying that people should stay away from the crypto market entirely but I’ve seen tons of people investing based on hype without having a strong enough understanding of crypto currency or the technology behind it. Making investment decisions based on greed or FOMO (fear of missing out) is a common mistake that should be avoided.
Of course, your investment journey doesn’t come without risks. And risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing. When you understand something well, you reduce your risk and while risk cannot be completely removed, it is about reducing it.
Even with stocks, the risk is always there but because we understand it, we are able to reduce it to the lowest and generate a much better return without sacrificing a peaceful night’s sleep.
VR: Are the courses offered by VI College mainly for beginners or can individuals who already own an investment portfolio but have been struggling to generate positive results, also benefit from the courses?
AN: If you tell me you’re happy with investment results, I’d say you don’t need to take our course because you already know what you’re doing. Unless of course you want access to a supportive community such as ours.
However, if you’re someone who’s been investing but not generating good results or if you want to transform your results or even you’re someone who knows that investing is important but you don’t have the courage and confidence to start, join us.
In fact, prior to joining our course, one of our students, Michael, who had been investing for almost a decade, said he lost close to half a million ringgit. That’s a lot of money!
But after joining our course, he started seeing positive results and told me that he regrets not joining us sooner despite knowing about us.
VR: Ooof, that is a lot of money. Have things gotten better for him?
AN: Yes it has, he’s managed to make back some of the money he’s lost and I believe he will continue to do so by using the strategies he’s learned from us.
VR: Okay before I let you go, can you share with me some of the useful avenues or resources that are available for people to learn more about Value Investing?
AN: Definitely. At VI college we provide a smart stock analysis and screening tool infused with a social networking element called the VI App, which enables our students to invest smarter, faster and easier. The VI App simplifies complex stock analysis processes into easy-to-use visuals under a comprehensive framework. I’m proud to share that 8BIT, the FinTech entity behind VI App, is licenced and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Aside from that, I’d say YouTube is a good resource to learn from. However, there’s so many YouTube channels out there on investing so it’s important to know if your source is credible before you trust their teachings. If someone’s interested to learn through YouTube, they can also follow us through VI Channel.
In terms of books, my recommendations would be Robert Kiyosaki’s ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’; John Rothchild and Peter Lynch’s ‘One Up on Wall Street’ and also Joel GreenBlatt’s ‘The Little Book That Still Beats The Market’.
Though I must add that while YouTube and books give you a good knowledge and concept about investing, it doesn’t provide you with the practicality of investing. Which is why I performed poorly during my first two years of investing.
Looking for a structured framework to learn how to invest safely and profitably? Join VI College’s free 2-hour webinar, Behind The Stock Masterclass: https://8vi.link/MM.