How would you describe yourself?
I am probably one of the few non-finance graduates in investment, with a MEng in Electrical and Electronics Engineering with Management from Imperial College London. My role currently is as head of variable-price unit at Asset Management of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB).
Why did you pursue a career in finance?
I did not intentionally go into investment. As my degree was sponsored by PNB, I had to serve a 10-year bond once I graduated. I started as an analyst, a role I stayed in for 1.5 years before becoming a fund manager. I have now been a fund manager for over 13 years, enjoying the challenge of predicting where the market is heading and trying to identify the next outperforming stock early.
Why did you enroll in the CFA® Program?
As an analyst, I noticed my colleagues with accounting and finance backgrounds were picking up things much faster than I could manage. Eventually I realized that I needed to up my skills to keep up.
When selecting a program, I wanted something relevant to my job, which I could pursue without putting my career on hold. The CFA Program seemed the most suitable choice.
It took me five years to complete the CFA Program, and I had three kids in between. It was tough trying to raise children while also putting in the hours to study. Discipline, self-motivation, and hunger for knowledge kept me going. Passing the CFA® Level III exam is still one of the highlights of my career Passing the Level III CFA exam is still one of the highlights of my career.
Earning the CFA® charter has given me an edge. The CFA Program curriculum is so comprehensive that I have not encountered an investment challenge that it cannot address. My suggestion to CFA Program candidates is to take the time to really understand what you learn. You may be surprised by how much the knowledge will help in your career.
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Have you faced any ethical dilemmas in your career?
Fund managers are always hunting for the latest information on a company before the rest of the market knows it. However, one concern is whether the information is public or insider knowledge. This is especially so when we are major shareholders of a stock, as certain corporate actions require major shareholder approval before it is announced to the market. Although PNB already has policies and procedures to address this, often my colleagues and I will reflect on the ethics examples covered in the CFA Program curriculum to help us make the ethical decision.
What is your work or life motto?
I once won a competition with this slogan:
Job satisfaction is first priority,
Salary is secondary,
Traffic jam-free is bonus to me.
This still holds true. Job satisfaction will help you give your all at work, because you like what you do. You will be willing to go the extra mile, which will translate to better output. Then, the recognitions, promotions, and money will come.
Which book do you think every investment professional should read?
I believe having the right attitude is the most important factor for success. I recommend The Rules of Work by Richard Templar, which shares tips on how you should carry yourself, how to project a good image, and how to work towards achieving your career goals.
What is the favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?
I love being a fund manager; I have never seen the market behave in the same way from year to year. This keeps my job interesting. The most challenging instance would be when the equity market is in a downtrend, but we still need to ensure we can deliver dividends.
Tell us your proudest moment to date.
One of my proudest moments occurred two years ago, when almost all the funds I was responsible for ranked very highly in terms of total return. This took a lot of hard work, including re-educating the board and investment committee, building a new business plan for the company, and undertaking many studies and proposals.
You have been in the financial industry for many years. What is your advice for young professionals starting their career journeys? What skills or attributes would you like to see more of in millennials?
Be humble, work hard, be patient, and stay hungry for knowledge. Accept advice from others, especially those who are more experienced. There needs to also be respect for more senior colleagues as their life experience cannot be rivalled by any qualification.
If you were not a fund manager, what would you like to be?
The stock market has always fascinated me. If I were not a fund manager, I would probably be a programmer — but play the stock market on the side.
Disclaimer: The content was written in March 2019. Information, views, opinions, and recommendations expressed belong to the interviewees thereof. They do not necessarily reflect the views of CFA Society Malaysia. In no event shall CFA Society Malaysia be liable for any damages resulting from their opinions.