Brexit vote: As results poured in, bankers advised investors to remain calm

A man with a blazer draped over his shoulder walks past buildings in the financial district of Singapore, on June 23, 2016.
A man with a blazer draped over his shoulder walks past buildings in the financial district of Singapore, on June 23, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - As the results of Brexit were becoming clearer by the minute on Friday, wreaking havoc on global financial markets, entrepreneur David Yong found himself being interrupted by a call during his meeting around noon.

On the line was his Britain-based private banker from a British financial institution, whose calm tone belied her worry. Mr Yong said: " I believe she called me right after the referendum, and I couldn't speak for too long.

"She sounded cautious and uncertain of what is to happen next, and even though the bank was worried but she still tried to sound confident."

The advice she and many other relationship managers had for their private banking clients was to stay calm and discuss options, and it was still too early to tell what would happen next.

Private banking clients were told by their relationship managers to remain calm and stay put with their investments in an uncertain period, as panic selling would not make sense. Retail investors were unfazed, with some capitalising on the volatility.

DBS Treasures sent a text message to clients on Friday to participate in a webcast and live chat at 1pm about "the latest insights on risks and opportunities in exchange-traded funds post the Brexit memorandum".

A client advisor in another local bank sent an urgent email asking customers to call if they had European or Britain geographically based funds, regardless of if they were held with the bank or other institutions.

The email said: "Trust me, you need to talk to your relationship manager. If you can't reach me, call your relationship manager where your fund is."

As Brexit became a reality on Friday, the plunging pound dived 10 per cent to US$1.3229 (S$1.7872) at one point - the weakest level against the United States dollar since 1985 - it is little wonder the banks sound an alarm to clients.

A senior private banker at a British bank here admitted the results would be impactful since the bank is based in Britain.

At another local private bank, one senior executive who is not a relationship manager, told The Straits Times that Brexit was "sort of a surprise" for everyone in the office.

"We were expecting the vote to swing to remain. After the results, everyone was very anxious to know what various parties within the organisation, like the economists and those involved with markets, had to say, and what private bankers should be looking out for.

"There were calls made after the Brexit announcement, to quickly inform everyone about their initial views."

Mr Yong said: "My current holdings in pound have taken a beating but this presents a further opportunity to buy in more pound with much potential upside."

Singapore Management University student Yeo Jun Wei even took the opportunity to ride on the volatility on Friday, buying into about US$1,000 worth of VXX, a security that is a popular way to bet on bigger market swings.

He said: "The VXX trade I did went up by 24 per cent since Friday and I'm still holding onto it, but will probably close it sometime next week once things are more in control."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg