Exclusive Interview With Wei Ren, Manager, Stocks And ETFs Research, iFast Singapore
Recently, we got in touch with Weiren, Manager, Stocks And ETFs Research at iFast Singapore and also one of the renowned panel of judges for the upcoming Investor-One Challenge. He shared with us on how he got started in his career and his words of wisdom for budding professionals who wants to venture into the finance industry.
1.iFAST Singapore is one of the well known brokerages and research houses in Singapore. As the Manager of Stocks & ETFs Research, do share with us the milestones of the company that you’ve been involved in and are proud of.
iFAST has come a long way since breaking into the online funds distribution scene in 2000. We added more investment products to our platform along the way, such as bonds and discretionary managed portfolios, and in 2016, we threw down the gauntlet on Singapore’s stockbroking industry with the launch of our own stockbroking service. I was heavily involved in the launch, and was also tasked to build an equity research team from scratch. For iFAST, the launch marks another important milestone for the company. For me, the launch marks a new chapter in my journey with iFAST, and it’s especially meaningful for me since equity research is an area that I’m passionate about.
2.Tell us about your story: how did you get started in your career and how did you get to where you are today?
I used to have zero interest in investing. I thought investing was a total waste of time and felt it was plain gambling. That was until I chanced upon Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, which totally changed my perspective and made me realise the importance of financial literacy. While the book didn’t teach me the specifics of investing, it did spur me on to learn more about investing through other books and attending investment seminars. I even got myself a full-time job doing investment research! I started off my career at iFAST as a research analyst focusing on global macro. As the company expanded, so did our research team, as we added fixed income and equity research capabilities to the team. It was then I moved from global macro to equity research, something that I’ve always been passionate about and I couldn’t be happier.
3.Is there anyone in the investment field who inspires you?
No one inspires me more than Warren Buffett. I look up to him as a role model of value investing, and I’m always inspired by his timeless investment wisdom and principles, all of which have served Berkshire Hathaway well through many decades of successful investments. His annual letter to his shareholders is also something that I follow closely every year, as it is filled with nuggets of investment wisdom, humorous quips and Buffett’s take on where the US economy is headed. There is much to learn from Buffett’s written tutelage.
4.What’s your philosophy in running your department?
The equity research team is strongly aligned to our company’s mission: helping investors around the world to invest globally and profitably. As such, we search for value across a number of stock markets without regard to any specific industry or sector. We screen the entire market to identify potential investment opportunities, which we will then conduct extensive due diligence on, on a case-by-case basis. This unconstrained approach allows us to tap into a broader range of opportunities that can potentially add value to our investors.
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?
I think soft skills, such as public speaking and problem-solving skills, are becoming increasingly critical. Technical skills are certainly important in the workplace, but in an ever-changing environment, technical skills can be easily rendered obsolete. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more transferrable. Soft skills are probably harder to pick up compared to technical skills, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing about it. For instance, we can always sign ourselves up for public speaking workshops or watch videos of top business speakers delivering their presentations in order to better our public speaking skills. I think the most important thing is to have the willingness to step out of our comfort zones and learn new things.
6.What qualities do you look out for when it comes to hiring a potential candidate?
Given that report writing is the bread-and-butter of equity analysts, technical writing skills and story-telling abilities are qualities that my team cannot do without. As such, candidates with a flair for writing and a strong command in both English and Chinese will be looked upon favourably. Of course, having the right attitude is important too, especially traits like willingness to learn, passion for investing, curiosity and intellectual humility. In fact, I’d say attitude is more important than technical skills. Certain technical skills can be picked up fairly easily, but attitudes are difficult to teach.
7.What advice do you have for budding young professionals who aim to achieve accelerated career progression in the finance industry?
I’m a firm believer of self-directed learning, and I think it’s important to constantly invest in your own development in order to achieve success in life. You can consider picking up a new skill, enrolling yourself in courses to further your education, or earn professional certifications (e.g. CFA) to increase your value to your current and future employers. It can be anything, just don’t stop learning. The moment you think you’re a know-it-all, you become complacent and are at risk of becoming obsolete in the workplace. In the words of Warren Buffett, “the most important investment you can make is in yourself” because “nobody can take away what you’ve got in yourself”.
Once again, Mr You Weiren is the Manager, Stocks And ETFs Research of iFast Singapore 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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