Exclusive Interview With Terence Wong, CEO of Azure Capital
Recently, we got in touch with Terence Wong, the CEO of Azure Capital and also one of the renowned panel of judges for the upcoming Investor-One Challenge, for how he got started in his career and his words of wisdom for budding professionals who wants to venture into the finance industry.
1.We’ve all heard of your company, Azure Capital. As the CEO, do share with us the milestones of the company that you’ve been involved in and are proud of.
I stepped out of my dream job and comfort zone back in 2015 to start my fund management firm Azure Capital. In my 16 years as an analyst (12 of which as head of research), I developed an affinity towards small caps in Singapore, winning awards along the way. Over the years, I have met up and solidified relationships with the management of hundreds of companies in region. We leverage on this strength by focusing our investments on companies listed on the SGX and in the Southeast Asia region. This way, I am able to get a deeper understanding of small-cap companies, compared to other funds. I remember the first stock Azure Capital invested in was CWT Ltd, an integrated logistics solutions provider, that subsequently got privatised by Chinese conglomerate HNA Holdings in 2017.
2.We do know that Azure All-Star Fund, flagship fund of Azure Capital, is research-driven and strongly believe in age-old fundamental analysis to uncover gems in the market. Can you share with us the investment philosophy that drives the fund?
I enjoy talking to the entrepreneurs and company management teams. By understanding their vision and challenges, and not just their financial performance, I could better judge whether they were headed in the right direction. I have taken this philosophy to drive my funds at Azure Capital. I strongly believe that a company’s management team is the difference between good and great companies. This is why I take the time and effort to know the people behind the companies I invest in. I also see great value in an under-the-radar asset class: small cap. These companies are often overlooked by large institutional investors and even equity analysts. Being able to sieve through this relatively less crowded segment has allowed me to uncover gems in the market. I am also a strong believer in the Singapore and regional story. The bulk of my investments are in companies listed on the SGX and regional bourses. I try to meet as many entrepreneurs and management teams as possible, and it has been easier to build rapport with these companies.
3.Is there anyone in the investment field who inspires you?
Peter Lynch, the legendary fund manager. He has some simple stock tips which works – investing in what we know, focusing on companies rather than stocks, and ignoring day-to-day gyrations in stock prices.
4.What’s your philosophy in running your company?
My philosophy revolves around people – whether it’s the people running the companies that I want to invest in, or the people I work with in my office, or the people I go through to assess the investments. People aren’t just resources, they have aspirations, feelings, hobbies and characters. If we treat the people we interact with right and create meaningful relationships, they will deliver not only good work, but also put in their best effort to help you. Even if we don’t work with them, we would have made a good friend.
5.What are the most important skill sets that you reckon are crucial in this ever-changing finance industry and how can someone acquire or hone these skills quickly in today’s context?
Soft-skills has always be the most important thing in my book. Being able to communicate with people, create that meaningful relationship and having the right attitude is vital to succeeding in any industry. The actual skills they need to have can always be learned. Without the right soft-skills, even the most skilful person may find it difficult to succeed.
6.What advice do you have for budding young professionals who aim to achieve accelerated career progression in the financial industry?
To have a passion of the financial industry, and not just what they may think it entails – be it a fat pay check, glamorous job titles or luxurious lifestyle. To listen to what people have to say and to love listening to their stories. It’s really easy to know when someone is genuinely interested. This also sets you up to create the meaningful connections with people.
Once again, Mr Terence Wong is the CEO of Azure Capital and also one of the renowned judges for the upcoming Investor-One Challenge.
Investor-One Challenge is the biggest, public stock pitch, ever held in Singapore. Registration is still open here.
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