Busy year at SGX showing investors 'how to fish'

Ms Gasper's advice to investors in what she believes will be an even more volatile year is to be clear about their goals as well as their exit strategies.
Ms Gasper's advice to investors in what she believes will be an even more volatile year is to be clear about their goals as well as their exit strategies.PHOTO: LYNN GASPER

MS LYNN GASPER

Senior vice-president and head of retail investors at Singapore Exchange

Q What were the best and worst things (financially) that happened to you this year?

A The best thing was my long-term investing portfolio. There were a few buying opportunities when markets were undervalued - banks, real estate investment trusts (Reits), logistics, selected industrials.

Markets go through cycles, and I look for the low points to invest in good blue-chip or growth companies that will easily recover when the cycle reverses.

For my short-term profit-taking plays, the uncertainty and fear around the Brexit vote and United States presidential election gave me quick and profitable flips in the gold exchange-traded fund (ETF) and a US pharmaceutical company.

STRONG COMPANIES, STRONG OUTLOOK

Unforeseen global macroeconomic events aside, good companies should have more positive results and stories to inspire investors in 2017. They will take advantage of the general (albeit cautious) consensus of expansion and execute their growth plans. If you believe in fundamentals as I do, this should mean that they will increase shareholder value too.

MS LYNN GASPER

 
 
 
 

The worst thing happened early this month - the one-day, 12-14 per cent hit that gambling stocks such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts took when China unexpectedly announced a 50 per cent cut in ATM withdrawal limits in Macau.

But as of this writing, analysts are still cautiously optimistic that ATMs are not the only source of gambling funds in Macau. So hopefully, my paper loss will not be a permanent one. I'll need to watch developments closely, set a stop loss and be prepared to exit if it's triggered.

Q How has 2016 been for your industry?

A Ha! Without a doubt, it was a year of surprises for global markets. A second China stock market plunge in February, Brexit in June, then Trump in November. Negative interest rates, the oil price plunge, gold price spikes... although all are beginning to reverse.

Banks took a hit earlier on in the year, but have recovered nicely now, while the offshore and marine industry is still sorting through the cash flow challenges.

Reactions from our industry participants have been diverse - speculators looking to bet on "hot tips" or waiting for bull runs were hoping for more activity; long-term and value investors were pleased with the several windows that opened for them to snap up good companies at attractive prices; and technical traders found different pockets of opportunities at different times.

What didn't change though is the commitment of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to educating and equipping investors with the skills and confidence to manage their investments in any market condition. Our objective is still to teach investors "how to fish" rather than to "provide the fish". We embrace the fact that there are different investment or trading styles and techniques for different people.

For the long-term investor, we collaborated with Sunday Invest, CFA Society Singapore and MoneySense to launch a year-long campaign in January this year, starting with a monthly "Save and Invest Portfolio Series" feature in The Sunday Times.

This series features simulated investment portfolios of three Singaporean individuals and families at different life stages, to help them achieve their different financial goals. The portfolios were guided by a panel of four CFA Society Singapore volunteers who are CFA charter holders and collectively have 77 years of experience as investment professionals, and the performance was tracked over the year.

Together with CFA Society Singapore, the SGX Academy hosted four public symposiums, where retail investors had the chance to have their questions addressed by SGX Academy trainers and CFA Society professionals. The seminars attracted over 1,300 participants.

For the active trader, we rolled out a few new initiatives, including Live Trading Mondays, where market practitioners share the ropes of trading through a live trading session, and SGX Investment Hour, a thematic seminar series targeted at professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) working in the vicinity who can afford only grab-and-go education sessions focused on the latest investment themes.

So we had another busy year in 2016 - conducting about 300 face-to-face investor education and engagement activities with 16,000 participants, about 10 per cent more than in 2015. The 20 e-tutorials hosted on the SGX Academy website garnered more views too this year, up 20 per cent at around 170,000 views. All this was part of SGX's continued commitment to encouraging informed investing and confident investors.

Q How do you see 2017 panning out? Please give some tips to retail investors.

A Overall, I'm positive about 2017, even though I think it could be a more volatile year. This year had maybe three large global market jolts with months of calm in between; I think 2017 will see more frequent triggers but perhaps smaller in magnitude, hopefully returning to a more vibrant economic cycle.

Unforeseen global macroeconomic events aside, good companies should have more positive results and stories to inspire investors in 2017. They will take advantage of the general (albeit cautious) consensus of expansion and execute their growth plans. If you believe in fundamentals as I do, this should mean that they will increase shareholder value too.

The world is more volatile, and global markets react more virally today. But good companies with forward-looking leadership and competitive products and services will have ways to weather the storm. There are investment opportunities in every part of the market cycle.

My advice to investors is to stay informed about the products and companies they are invested in, and to keep current about the global and local economy, as well as financial markets. When you make an investment decision, be clear about what your goal is and your exit strategy. Then start and stick to it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 25, 2016, with the headline 'Busy year at SGX showing investors 'how to fish''. Print Edition | Subscribe