Recently, I have been approached by a project group from a local university who was conducting a study with financial bloggers to learn about their investment journey, along with their thoughts about the S-REITs’ investor relations’ level of engagement (with unitholders.)

For the benefit of the investment community, I have sought their permission to post some of the questions asked (in my email interview with the project group), along with my responses, in this post, which I hope you find useful (particularly, you will learn about the challenges I faced when I started learning the ropes about investing, as well as in running this particular site, things I look at when I make my investment decisions, as well as my thoughts about the investor relations of S-REITs.)

Let’s begin…

Question #1: What kick-started your investment journey?

Answer: My first contact with ‘stocks’ was back when my dad passed on in late 2016. One of the assets he left behind were his portfolio of stocks, and as an executor of his will, I needed to make decisions on what to do with them.

However, at that point in time, I knew absolutely nothing about stocks (yes, not even how exactly to buy or sell on the stock exchange), and I thought to myself, “how am I able to make the best decisions if I know nothing about it?”

That was when I started to study about it. Without any background in finance or accounting (as I was an IT graduate, and believe it or not, subjects relating to business were the worst modules during my academic days!), the beginning was really a struggle – particularly when it comes to making sense of financial statements of companies (it really gave me a huge headache!) However, luckily for me, my wife was an accountant, and she helped me a lot by explaining how to read financial statements, and how to make sense of the numbers. 

As I was learning the ropes about investing and trading, I slowly grew an interest in it and I eventually made the switch to become a full-time retail trader as well as investor (I was previously an Internet Marketer in case you’re wondering.)

Question #2: Most people invest with a goal of wealth preservation or growth. Based on your observations, do you think there are any major non-financial reasons that go into influencing an investor’s investment decisions (buy/sell) in Singapore? And if so, what are they? 

Answer: One of the non-financial reasons I am aware of, as to why someone made the decision to start building his/her own long-term investment portfolio is that they see their friends doing it – particularly when they started to share about the capital gains they have generated from their investments, along with the dividends that they receive on a periodical basis. This inspired them to want to build a long-term investment portfolio for themselves.

Question #3: Where are your main sources of information when conducting analysis of different stocks?

Answer: The best source of information to study about any particular company is through its annual report, which you can find from the company’s ‘investor relations’ page (all you need to do is to Google the company name, along with the words ‘investor relations’ in your search.)

I am aware a typical annual report usually consists of more than 100+ pages, and that it can be quite ‘boring’ to read through it from cover to cover.

The good news is, you need not do so – you only need to focus your attention on a couple of sections, namely:

i. the first few pages about the company’s business operations (personally, I only invest companies where I can understand their businesses.)

ii. Chairman and CEO’s Message to Shareholders, where you will find a summary of the company’s financial performance compared to the previous year (along with reasons for their improvement or deterioration), outlook for the financial year ahead (I like it when the chairman/CEO is very candid to talk about the possible headwinds may be facing – the more detailed the better), along with plans they may be embarking on in the financial year ahead

iii. Consolidated Financial Statements – where you will find its income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement (for the current year under review, compared to the previous year)

Typically, I do not just study the company’s latest annual report; I will look at its annual report over the past 5 years to find out if the company’s financial results have improved or deteriorated over the years (in a nutshell, I will only invest in companies that are able to record improvements in its financial results over a 5-year period.)

Question #4: What inspired you to start “The Singaporean Investor”? Were there any gaps that you were trying to fill or bridge?

Answer: As I have mentioned in the earlier part of this interview, I had zero experiences in finance and accounting when I was just starting out.

Not only that, I also noticed that most of the books were written based on the US market, with very few of them written in a ‘Singapore context’ on the local market. With regard to investment blogs, while there were quite a number of them, but you need to have some sort of financial background to understand the posts.

This inspired me to start up ‘The Singaporean Investor’ (TheSingaporeanInvestor.sg), with the aim of simplifying things (to a manner where even if you are a complete newbie, you can make sense out of the postings) when it comes to studying about companies, as well as how to make investment decisions. Everything that you read about in the site are the exact notes I have taken (about individual companies, along with my personal thoughts about it), and base on when I make any investment decisions. 

I am very encouraged to receive many compliments on how they have benefited from the contents within – particularly how they helped them to understand more about what exactly they need to look at before making any investment decisions, along with how the company analyses helped give them an even better understanding of the companies.

Question #5: What are the key challenges that you face running “The Singaporean Investor”? What considerations go behind deciding which contents to publish?

Answer: One of the key challenges I’ve faced is the writing itself. To be honest, writing isn’t my forte due to my limited command of the English language. Behind every single post in ‘The Singaporean Investor’ are many hours of hard work – from first studying about the company, to thinking about the most important aspects to include, how to explain in layman terms so that even someone who is a newbie to investing can comprehend, and finally, the work of drafting, proof-reading, and then publishing.

On the second part of your question regarding the considerations that go behind which contents to publish, most of them are actually suggestions from readers of the site who pro-actively gave me content suggestions (via email or via Telegram.) As much as possible, I will try to cater to each and every one of them.

Apart from those suggestions, I also get my content ideas from investing questions raised by my readers, as well as from my conversations with fellow investors – if there are active discussions about a particular company (and especially if it is one that has good business fundamentals), then I will conduct my researches about the company and write about them.

Question #6: What areas do you typically focus on when conducting your investment analysis?

Answer: Personally, I focus on a few areas (four of them) to determine whether or not I should invest in a company, and they are:

i. Company’s Business – It has to be one where I am able to understand its businesses.

ii. Financial Performance – As I’ve mentioned earlier, I typically study a company’s financial performance over a 5-year period, where I will only invest in a company that has exhibited growth in its revenue and net profit. 

iii. Debt Profile – I prefer companies that have very little or no debt. I also prefer to invest in companies that are in a ‘net cash’ position over the years.Iv. Dividend Payout – Personally, I prefer to invest in companies that has increased its dividend payout to their shareholders over the years, and that its dividend payout ratio suggests that there is further room for the company to increase its dividend payout.

Question #7: Do you think more frequent / targeted engagement opportunities with representatives from S-REITs would be beneficial for your work as a financial blogger? If so, in what format do you think such engagement could take? 

Answer: Of course, more frequent/targeted engagement opportunities (apart from during their AGMs, which I strongly encourage investors to attend if time permits) will definitely help us further improve our understanding of the companies we invest in – especially in face-to-face conversations, where we can not only study how our concerns are being addressed, but we can also study their non-verbal cues when they answer them (like their body language.)

Speaking of which, in case you’re not aware, from time-to-time, the Singapore Investors Association (or SIAS for short) will organize events with the company management which we can attend (an upcoming one will be with the CEO of both CapitaLand Mall Trust and CapitaLand Commercial Trust regarding their upcoming merger, which will be held next Friday, 18 September, which you can sign up here – http://www.sias.org.sg/cmt

Apart from that, the SIAS also raises questions relating to the individual companies’ annual reports on behalf of shareholders, all of which you can find in their website here – https://www.sias.org.sg

Question #8: In your view, what are the most important attributes of good Investor Relations? (frequency of information, transparency, etc.)

Answer: Now that it is no longer compulsory for Singapore-listed companies to provide quarterly financial reports, it becomes all the more important for the company’s investor relations to provide updates about any developments in a timely manner, and at the same time, provide as much information as possible, so as to allow shareholders to make informed decisions (relating to their investments.)

Question #9: Do you think S-REITs have sufficiently addressed investors concerns during this COVID-19 crisis? Have you noticed any innovative ways that companies conduct IR during this crisis? 

Answer: Personally, I am happy with the way they have updated investors through their business updates.

Question #10: In general, as a full-time retail investor and financial blogger, do you have any suggestions on how S-REITs in particular can improve their investor relations?

Answer: At the moment, I am satisfied with the channels which unitholders can get in touch with the company’s investor relations – via email or phone, should they have any concerns. From my understanding, they are quite prompt in their responses.

 

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