10th Investors” Choice Awards, Year 2009 – SIAS President/CEO

Date: October 7, 2009



7 OCT 2009

Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, CEO Singapore Exchange,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good evening and thank you for coming.

We are emerging from a recession not seen since the Great Depression. In the early days of Singapore, critics questioned our viability. Critics too questioned the viability and sustainability of SIAS after CLOB. Today we all sit in this grand ball room, testimony to the resilience of Singapore and the spirit of ‘dare to challenge’. In 1999, we were about 50,000 strong. Today we have 70,000 members and growing.

Following the CLOB saga, SIAS championed investor education. The challenge – how to get investors to think about their wealth in a long term sustainable manner? How to avoid the pitfalls of punting with rumors and gossips instead of investing based on fundamentals and with a specific investment strategy.

With this in mind, SIAS rolled out the Financial Planning for Families program that educated retail investors on the need for long term planning and understanding of financial products. We also conducted investment clinics and workshops on interpreting annual reports to improve the investing knowledge of retail investors. To date 65,000 retail investors have participated in over 450 programmes.

This year, in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse, we launched the ‘MyMoney’ series of education seminars with the Association of Banks in Singapore, MoneySense and SMU’s Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics to educate on both listed and unlisted products in both English and Mandarin. We are encouraged by the response with about 3000 people attending these seminars since February this year. In addition, radio interviews and webcast of these seminars are available on the SIAS website continue to widen the reach.

We also launched the inaugural Asian Investors’ Conference and Exhibition in July which saw 21,000 people attend talks and seminars by industry professionals. Our objective is to empower investors to make smart investment decisions and to also take personal responsibility for their investment decisions. We exposed them to a variety of investing instruments, encouraging investors to consider diversification as a sound investment strategy.

These investor education efforts could not have been maintained but for the strong support received from our corporate supporters. I salute the following listed companies that continue to annually support SIAS as our Investor Education sponsors – SGX, Keppel Corp, ST Engineering, SMRT, Singapore Airlines, SingTel, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing and Sembcorp. I now call on all listed companies to participate with SIAS to promote financial literacy to Singaporeans and importantly, to your shareholders and employees. The development of the capital markets is a shared responsibility and your corporate actions would be better understood if your shareholders are well educated and informed.

MAS recently announced the proposals to strengthen the regulations of the sale and marketing of unlisted investment products. These proposals include

1. introduction of a Product Highlights Sheet
2. strengthen fair dealing in the sale and advisory process
3. enhanced regulatory requirements for selling complex investment products
4. introduction of a cooling off period for unlisted debentures

SIAS welcomes these investor friendly initiatives.

As investors demand higher returns and financial institutions continue to develop more innovative financial products to meet this demand, investors must become more sophisticated through continuing to educate themselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to make sense of the products offered to them. SIAS has crafted 10 important questions for investors to consider before buying investment products. Distributed at ‘MyMoney’ seminars, the 10 questions are also available on SIAS website and investors can use this for various investment products. Investors have to become more sophisticated and be able to adopt investment strategies and not rely solely on third parties for information relating to financial products and to their investment decisions. Finally, after reviewing the 10 questions, your investment goals and strategies and you still don’t understand the product and the associated risks – don’t buy!

Additionally, rather than waiting for complaints, SIAS will adopt a proactive approach to protect investors. By engaging in research, benchmark surveys and mystery shopping to ensure that financial institutions strive to deliver higher standards of service and create products suitable to the needs of investors. We are confident that financial institutions will rise to the challenge.

Tonight, we are recognizing the efforts of a financial institution that has gone to great lengths to protect the interest of retail investors by insulating their investors from loss in a selfless act of corporate responsibility. We will be awarding this institution with the Most Admired Financial Institution of the Year later this evening. Going forward, SIAS will be recognizing other financial institutions that treat retail investors with a similar level of corporate responsibility.

So what is the next chapter for SIAS?

Over the years, we have had to keep up with the times. We have embraced technology in reaching out to investors. Today, the SIAS website has about 9 million hits a year and our e-magazine has seen readership continue rise to 25,000 per month currently. We will continue to build our web portal into a financial education and information hub. We will be providing information on rates comparison for Savings and Fixed Deposits, together with yields and P/E ratios of selected products and listed companies. These indicators will provide investors more tools to assist them in evaluating their investment decision.

With our current focus to keep our membership base current and relevant, I am pleased to announce the formation of the SIAS Youth Chapter. Comprising the members of the 4 universities Investment Clubs, the Youth Chapter will reach out to include Junior Colleges and Polytechnics. With the reduction of the age limit for trading from 21 to 18, SIAS believes that young investors should be educated on financial literacy from an early age. As Singapore is familiar with campaigns, so we too will also launch the first Financial Literacy Week campaign at the end of the first quarter next year. This will be an annual campaign.

As you know, I have been in this role for the last 10 years, and it is only right that I hand over the baton to a younger generation. No, I am not going to leave SIAS now. We have embarked on selecting and grooming a new generation of leaders for SIAS. This will ensure that SIAS continues to stay relevant to all stakeholders for decades to come. Simply put: SIAS is here to stay.

I wish to record my sincere appreciation to Mr Vasu Menon, Mr Ken Lee, Mr Sebastian Chong and Mr Ang Hao Yao for your valuable contributions to SIAS during the last decade. I welcome Associate Prof Jeremy Goh, Mr Stanley Ng, Mr Christopher Tan, and Mr James Leong for coming forward to take up the challenge for the next decade.

I also like to extend my deepest appreciation to Chairman, CEO and all Senior Officers at SGX for your guidance and support all these years.

I also thank SGX for supporting this event, all prize sponsors and supporters and I congratulate all winners for making this a successful event. Without you, this would not have been possible. I would also like to thank our Chairman, Mr Tan Chok Kian for his patience and excellent guidance, and my staff, who put up with my idiosyncrasies everyday. You have been a great help and assistance. Last but not least, the members of SIAS for your unwavering support. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Please enjoy the evening.