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Me&MyMoney

Faith in World Of Warcraft maker pays off

Motley Fool writer picks companies with growth potential even if share price may hardly move over a period of time

Mr Chong Ser Jing seems to have been predestined to be a part of the world of stocks and investing.

He discovered investing in junior college, started writing about it in university and eventually left his job in an engineering firm after just three months, in 2012, to become an investment writer and analyst.

Mr Chong, 29, recalls with a smile the happy confluence of events that enabled him to make the switch.

As an engineering science undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, he signed up with a platform - for people outside finance to write about investing - under investment advice portal The Motley Fool in 2012.

"The company liked what I was doing and invited writers like me to Virginia. I was a student, they didn't know I was from Singapore, and I bought my own ticket to fly over.

"They found out where I was from, and it happened that The Motley Fool wanted to come here so they asked me to meet the Singapore team. I got the call after starting work at the engineering firm and said yes."

  • Worst and best bets

  • Q What has been your biggest investing mistake?

    A Buying a company's stock without knowing what it does. Examples include Ford Motors and Dolby Digital, my first few stock purchases.

    For Ford, everyone knows it as a car manufacturer but it has a huge financial arm that gives out car loans but I didn't know it existed.

    I'm sitting on an 8 per cent loss. It's not catastrophic but it's about opportunity cost. Since I bought it in 2010 till today, the S&P Index is up nearly 120 per cent.

    I didn't understand Dolby's business and bought it as its historical financials looked great, and am down 30 per cent from the first time I bought it. When I started to be more familiar with Dolby, I invested further. I am now up 10 per cent overall. I learnt I had to build up discipline in investing and not take the gains in the short term.

    Q And what has been your best investment move?

    A The biggest winner in my portfolio is Netflix, which is up 530 per cent, which I bought twice in 2011.

    The first time it was at US$25 per share, then at US$16 per share and it later fell to about US$8.

    Anyone would have been inclined to sell it, but I felt the business was strong.

    If I didn't have the discipline to hold onto stocks that I thought would go on to do well, I'd have sold and missed out on that. I'm not selling Netflix yet as I don't look at past gains, but where firms will be in five to 10 years.

    The two best investments I've made was buying Philip Fisher's book. It laid the foundation for how to think about investing and the stock market. It was a very tough read. I'd never recommend it as the first investing book to read but I was interested in what he was trying to say.

    Before I joined The Motley Fool as an employee, I was a subscriber to its services from mid-2010. I paid less than US$200 a year and that's my second-best investment as my learning accelerated.

    Rachael Boon

Mr Chong, who has been with The Motley Fool Singapore ever since, thanks his lucky stars every day.

"I invest not for the sake of money. I truly enjoy it and I've a dream job that allows me to spend as much time as I can learning and researching stocks and the markets."

Q Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?

A We weren't fabulously wealthy, I'd say an upper middle-class family - my dad was an engineer who was in senior management and my mum a housewife - so there was no need to worry.

When I was younger, I knew my parents were buying and selling stocks as they were often looking at the stock (prices) on Teletext on television. I've a younger brother who is 27 and a 26-year-old sister but they are not interested in stocks.

Q How did you get interested in investing?

A I was in National Junior College studying economics when I felt I didn't agree with what I was learning. I Googled terms like "people who work with money" and "people who invest" and found out about Warren Buffett and investing.

I wanted to buy a particular book but I bought Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher, who was also one of Buffett's influences, by mistake.

When I was in national service, my interest in investing waned a little but picked up again when I was studying in university.

I started investing in October 2010 with $10,000 in capital from my parents as I wanted to help them invest as well.

My parents had lost a bit of money before 2010 and some were losses that would never recover.

Q Describe your investing strategy.

A I tend to look for companies run by their founders or in industries that I think are poised for growth, such as e-commerce, e-sports, things to do with the Internet, clean energy.

For instance, I invested in Facebook because of the trend of advertising dollars flowing from offline sources to online platforms.

Facebook and Google are the two linchpins in this trend.

Facebook has more than a billion active users daily on its website.

It's a powerful company that is able to take advantage of the trend.

Financials-wise, I like firms with great track records of growing revenues, profit, cashflows, with a strong balance sheet with little or no debt and with more than US$20 billion (S$29 billion) in cash.

PROVEN HITS

Some of my biggest winners were companies I bought when they were already doing well.

'' MR CHONG SER JING, on his investment choices


NO HURRY TO CASH OUT

I like to hold my stocks for the long term. I feel that the more action an investor takes, the more mistakes he makes... I see it as a bank account or fixed deposit.

'' MR CHONG, who spaces out his buys to see how a business performs.

I tend to buy one stock over a long period of time. I try not to purchase the same firm within three months.

I tend to invest $1,000 to $2,000 nearly each month.

I space my buys out to give myself an opportunity to see how the business performs. I also like to diversify over time as the economy and market environment change.

I like to hold my stocks for the long term. I feel that the more action an investor takes, the more mistakes he makes.

Even though that means I will not take out profits, I'm able to hold on now because there is no need to touch the money. I see it as a bank account or fixed deposit.

I look at what the company could be making five years from now and today, and I look at the price I'm buying it at today.

Q What's in your portfolio?

A I invest only in Singapore or United States stocks and I have built up a six-figure portfolio.

I invested in Amazon in 2014. It is the largest e-commerce retailer in the US now.

Data shows e-commerce is probably less than 10 per cent of total retail sales in the US so there's a tremendous runway to grow.

It even has a thriving cloud computing services business that wasn't on the radar of many investors five years ago. I'm up about 140 per cent on Amazon.

My annualised returns are about 13 per cent and I don't compute the gains with dividends, which I don't track. My target is 12 per cent a year over the long term.

I calculate my returns using time-weighted and cash-weighted internal rates of return.

Another firm I invested in was US gaming and entertainment firm Activision Blizzard that created games like World Of Warcraft.

My two initial positions - I bought the stock in 2010 - are up 220 per cent, but for the first few years, the price didn't move.

But I was convinced the business was doing well and it taught me not to focus on the stock price but the business.

Some of my biggest winners were companies I bought when they were already doing well.

Q What's the most extravagant thing you have done?

A Going on a solo road trip in Australia. I spent about $4,000, hiking at places like Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Q What are your immediate investment plans?

A I'm looking to buy more stocks of e-commerce firm Mercadolibre, the "Amazon or eBay of Latin America".

Latin America hasn't done well over the last few years but this firm has managed to grow. Its number of registered users and number of items sold, and its payment volumes, have grown tremendously.

eBay used to be a large shareholder until the last few months.

Q Home is now…

A A condo in the central region with my parents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Faith in World Of Warcraft maker pays off'. Print Edition | Subscribe