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Teoh Kok Lin, CFA

Founder and Chief Investment Officer, Singular Asset Management


“If you put in enough effort, you will receive the corresponding gains in the future.”

A curious soul, Kok Lin is constantly on the move across Asia in search of firsthand insights and ideas in his role as the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Singular Asset Management, a boutique Asian equity fund management company. Kok Lin also actively participates in promoting commerce in Malaysia — chairing multiple working committees to engage with policymakers and stakeholders. He also serves as an independent director at Credit Guarantee Corporation, a subsidiary of Bank Negara Malaysia.

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01

How would you describe yourself?

Some would describe me as a positive thinker, energetic and possessing strong willpower. I love to do things well, be it managing funds, training interns or running marathons. I’ve always been curious; this keeps me active and keen to explore different things.


02

Why did you pursue a career in finance?

I started off studying electrical engineering in university. One summer, I decided to sign up for a double degree course in engineering and finance. It was then I discovered a link between engineering and finance — theory, logic, and math.

I ventured into finance and was lucky to have a few great mentors from Citibank, Barings and HSBC. Subsequently, I met other mentors as a credit analyst and sell-side equity research analyst. These encounters deepened my passion for finance, which fueled my journey from being an analyst to founding a fund management company in 2002.


03

Why did you embark on the CFA® Program?

During the double degree course, a professor mentioned the CFA Program. When I started work at Citibank, I realized the importance of continuous learning, and decided to enroll.

Back then, very few people in Malaysia were taking the CFA® exams, but we managed to form a (very small) study group. A study group is crucial to stay motivated and disciplined to put in the hours of study. Also important: passion. If you are passionate about the subject and willing to put in the time and effort, I believe that one can be successful in anything, including the CFA Program.

The CFA Program curriculum is relevant to my role. I’m particularly fond of how it is constantly updated to stay relevant to the current and future investment profession. The curriculum also provides guidelines on how to make ethical decisions.


04

What is your work or life motto?

“天道酬勤”. It’s a Chinese idiom that translates to “the law of nature rewards those who put in the hard and persistent work”. If you put in enough effort, you will receive the corresponding gains in the future. I’m a strong believer in hard work and positive thinking.


05

Which book do you think every investment professional should read?

One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch. The book laid out investing as an interesting practice where simple daily observations can become great investment ideas. Investing is more than analyzing finances, it requires one to be inquisitive and to apply common sense.


06

What is the favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?

I love finding the “superhero”, i.e. Peter Lynch’s “multi-baggers”. These are investments — usually undervalued — that have enormous growth prospects. I enjoy working with our team of investment professionals at Singular Asset Management to identify these superheroes. It requires a lot of legwork, analysis, and thinking beyond prevailing opinions. Discovering and watching them turn out as (we) expected really gives me a sense of achievement.

Time management is the most challenging part of my job. There are always a ton of things I want to learn and a long list of companies to discover. As a people-person, I want to meet new people and also old friends. I have to balance all my interests with life, family, and friends. Meanwhile, I also allocate time to train for marathons.


07

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?

Explore and find your true passion. My advice would be to try a different area and discipline to broaden your views. My career moved from engineering to credit analyst, equity research, and eventually fund management. In my career, I have come across innovative companies as well as brilliant analysts and fund managers. These encounters broadened my areas of interest and understanding.

In 2014, I was appointed an independent non-executive director of Credit Guarantee Corporation (CGC). I participated in financial inclusion projects, helping to provide financing access to many traditional “unbanked” micro-SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). We are also actively involved in many fintech initiatives. Between my fund management practice and work with CGC, I can better understand the investment landscape and generate more forward-looking insights.

I encourage young professionals to explore extracurricular activities with a positive attitude. Effective communication skills, creative thinking, and good analytical skills are becoming increasingly important. Mundane procedures are rapidly being replaced by digital and technology disruptions. One must stay humble, embrace lifelong learning, be willing to take risks, and try out new areas.


08

If you were not a fund manager, what would you like to be?

A professor. I love teaching and academia. I’m sure I could get many new ideas and opportunities to learn from students.


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