Kenneth Tan, studies the different facets of the Energy and Utility sectors as an analyst within the Credit Research and Strategy Team in the Fixed Income Department. He is a GIC Scholar and he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from The London School of Economics and Political Science as well as a Master’s Degree in Financial Economics from University of Oxford.
Thanks to the advent of technology, making an investment these days is as easy as a few taps on your mobile phone. If done correctly, you can see your personal wealth grow but conversely, reckless investors may see their accounts go into the red sooner rather than later.
The stakes grow exponentially higher if you are investing billions of dollars from a country’s foreign reserves. In fact, that is exactly what GIC does for Singapore.
The organisation was set up in 1981 to manage Singapore’s foreign reserves with the key objective of helping to secure our national financial future. To date, they have over US$100 billion in assets in over 40 countries worldwide, making them one of the largest global investors.
With so much riding on GIC, members of the organisation must have the guile and gumption to make fundamentally sound investment decisions for the country. The work isn’t easy, to say the least, but it is a challenge that Kenneth Tan has embraced since he embarked on a career with GIC.
We caught up with the GIC Scholar, and got his thoughts on his foray into investing and his perspectives of working in GIC.
How did you get interested in investing?
Through football. Or rather, football transfers. I have always been intrigued with how football players had different market values, influenced by a variety of reasons like their technical and physical competencies. I saw the world of investing as a career pathway that also shared similar characteristics. For example, security prices were driven by a combination of fundamentals and technicals, and company selection is key to make a robust investment decision. Investing thus far has proven to be an extremely intellectually stimulating endeavour.
Share with us some of the work that you do at GIC that has kept you “intellectually stimulated”.
I am responsible for covering companies that fall within the Energy and Utility segments. As part my coverage, I analyze both the industry and company fundamentals and attractiveness, develop financial models and projections as well as interact with the management teams of companies to formulate a sound investment decision.
On a day-to-day basis, apart from my daily work as described above, I ensure that I get up to speed with the news flow for all the various companies under my coverage as well as the broader global markets to analyse any implications from daily developments. Analysts, like me, work closely and collaboratively with the Portfolio Managers (PMs) in the team, and the investment recommendations that we make are crucial to the portfolio construction decisions of the PMs.
Surely, your academic background would have helped you in your role.
I studied Economics and Financial Economics during my undergraduate and postgraduate days respectively. While these were highly theoretical in nature and we might not necessarily rely daily on the mathematical derivations that were examined in university, it provided me with a solid grasp of key economic concepts which is very relevant in my current role. As I love to understand concepts from first principles and formulas, learning these enabled me to better appreciate the news-flow and decision-making process by policymakers that we read in the news daily. For instance, I pursued modules in monetary and international economics, which helped me better comprehend the various considerations, decisions and market impact of corporates and policymakers.
How do you find working at GIC?
When I first joined GIC, what struck me was a culture of collaboration among colleagues as well as active encouragement for cross-pollination of ideas. During my days in the graduate program and even until now, I have had no qualms asking my colleagues from various teams out for a coffee or lunch to learn more about their experience within investing or their area of specialisation. These collaborative experiences and interactions have been extremely beneficial in my learning journey and career development in GIC thus far.
Also, even as a first-year analyst in my team, what had been extremely empowering was the ownership and the high degree of trust placed by my colleagues in me.
Juniors are encouraged to opine and are empowered to contribute our views towards investment decision making.
From a more macro perspective, how do you feel about working in an organisation that impacts Singapore’s financial future?
Working at GIC provides me with added meaning to my daily work, knowing that I possess a fiduciary responsibility for making the right investment recommendations which have ramifications on the broader economic and financial landscape of Singapore. This added sense of purpose helps to keep me going and continuously work hard to cover as much ground as possible.
Finally, what advice would you give to juniors who are looking to take on a career in investing?
Keep an open mind, focus on learning, and gain as much exposure as you can during your university days. Do not be entirely fixated on one specific segment or an asset class that you might be interested in, but instead, focus on learning and sharpening your knowledge of global markets and current affairs which will come in handy and be applicable across the board.