Me & My Money

Passion drives her to GET the best deals

Ms Grace Cheng, who started full-time day trading in 2003, took notes on all her trades and started publishing them online. Her blog became DailyMarkets.com in 2008 and evolved into a financial product comparison website in the US, which was then reb
Ms Grace Cheng, who started full-time day trading in 2003, took notes on all her trades and started publishing them online. Her blog became DailyMarkets.com in 2008 and evolved into a financial product comparison website in the US, which was then rebranded as GET.com in September 2014.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Keen interest in finance sparked blog that later became financial product comparison website

Biology seemed to be setting the career path for Ms Grace Cheng until reading about finance sparked a life-changing interest in trading.

Ms Cheng was exploring her job options just before graduating from the National University of Singapore with an honours degree in biology when she stumbled on financial books.

She was so intrigued with the idea of being financially independent that soon after, she picked up foreign exchange trading.

After graduation, her first job was at Bloodbank@HSA. After that, she began working as a financial consultant but threw in her regular job for full-time day trading in 2003.

There was little encouragement from family and friends for such a move.

"None of my friends were interesting in investing. It was very unconventional," says Ms Cheng, 35.

"My parents couldn't warm to the idea. I convinced them with the results I produced gradually."

Forex trading was not easy to master. Ms Cheng spent a lot of time demo trading, and making "a lot of mistakes, from psychological to technical".

UNDERSTANDING IS KEY

I prefer to invest in what I understand, so stocks are not my cup of tea because I can't foresee the sentiment that drives stock prices.

''GRACE CHENG, on why she does not have stocks in her investment portfolio

  • Worst and best bets

  • Q What has been your biggest investing mistake?

    A We bought land and that was not a mistake but in 2012, I commissioned a Singapore-based architect to design a resort in Vanuatu. Even though he was world-renowned, he had no airs and was enthusiastic about our project.

    In early 2013, we had a call from his family that he had suddenly died.

    He was the sole proprietor of his firm and the principal architect, so there was no one else to replace him and we lost the initial deposit of US$30,000.

    In hindsight, I should have gone with a firm that had a few architects instead of just one main one. It never crossed my mind that something would happen to him.

    Q And what has been your best investment move?

    A When I decided not to sell Get.com while it was still known as DailyMarkets.com.

    Some companies wanted to buy it a few years ago, and I thought it would have more value if I continued to grow the business.

    Since then, the business has grown tremendously. We've earned more than what was offered each time.

    I'll only consider selling it when I'm 100 per cent sure there is a better steward of Get.com than me.

    Rachael Boon

"I traded the main currencies like the Euro-United States dollar, and the US dollar-Swiss franc. I was a day trader, so it was about making small profits over many trades."

She improved and eventually came to earn a four-figure, and sometimes even a five-figure income in some months.

Ms Cheng had taken notes on all her trades and she started publishing them online in 2006.

That took on a life of its own when the blog attracted readers from Singapore, Britain and the United States.

"I made a lot of mistakes. As I became better, the blog also evolved and in 2007, I was approached by the British publishing house Harriman House to write a book called the 7 Winning Strategies For Trading Forex," says Ms Cheng, adding that it has sold "tens of thousands" of copies.

Her blog became DailyMarkets.com in 2008 and evolved into a financial product comparison website in the US. This was rebranded as GET.com in September 2014. The Singapore version was launched last February.

Along the way, Ms Cheng experienced adventures and tough times.

From 2007 to 2008, she and her husband, GET.com chief executive Pedro Pla, 34, went on a trip around the world, covering around 15 countries and places like Easter Island.

She continued blogging, but this time about her travels and getting the best deals, which eventually inspired GET.com.

After a brush with thyroid cancer in 2009, she stopped trading and chose to focus on the finance website.

That paid off as it reached an eight-figure revenue in 2013, and it is continuing to hit those figures.

"Fortunately, (the cancer) was treatable and I was fully cured after two years. The business was a good distraction, and I also travelled a lot to relieve the stress," she says.

Ms Cheng, who has two sons aged three and one, says the team has grown to about 30 people across Europe, the US and Singapore, where it took up a new office in HarbourFront Centre last month.

"I'm proud of the fact that we built GET.com from scratch, with no connection, no funding and no debt," she adds.

These days, the biggest investment for the wildlife lover - who has adopted orphaned orang utans and other primates from Borneo with her husband, a former programmer - is spending more time with her family.

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

A I grew up in the heartland. Even though we weren't rich, we didn't have money troubles, as my parents were frugal.

My dad worked in the PUB (national water agency) and my mum in the hotel industry. I've two older brothers. My parents' strong work ethic influenced me to work hard for what I want, and it's something I want to pass on to my children.

During my university days, in order to fund my yearly travels, I gave tuition and also sold jewellery that I handcrafted on eBay.

Q How did you get interested in investing?

A I was interested in investing right before graduating from university. I started to explore my career options and I devoured books on investing, as much as I could.

I read that if you want to be financially independent, you can't be clueless about money. And I decided to learn forex trading on my own, trading from home for a few years.

Q Describe your investing strategy.

A I invest in my own business. We invest heavily in our technology, which enables people to compare and get the best credit cards and home loans, for instance.

The aim now is to build value, and that will take precedence over immediate profitability.

Last July, we launched an app here called GETdeals that lets you see dining, shopping, petrol and entertainment discounts - that you get with credit cards - near you. So far, there have been more than 17,000 downloads.

I also believe in investing to gain people's trust in us as a trusted source of information.

Q What's in your portfolio?

A I am constantly reinvesting in Get.com, which takes up a bulk of my portfolio. The rest is in properties, cash, fixed income and art.

I own two properties in Singapore, both fully paid for. One is my home, and the other is a two-bedroom apartment in the central area that I bought in 2007 for less than $1 million.

I've a piece of land, a beachfront property in the South Pacific island Vanuatu, that stretches 500 metres and cost a seven-figure sum. I plan to develop a high-end resort.

I prefer to invest in what I understand, so stocks are not my cup of tea because I can't foresee the sentiment that drives stock prices.

I also have some Renaissance art pieces from New York and London auctions in my portfolio, though that's more of an excuse to explain my passion for art.

Q What does money mean to you?

A Money is just a means to an end.

What keeps me motivated is the fact that there are so many new and exciting opportunities to embrace.

And at the end of the day, it's the relationships we have with our loved ones that mean everything.

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

A Travelling around the world with my husband for a year in 2007 to 2008, without missing a day of work.

We did a lot of research on how to get more for our money and never overpaid for things. Everything was done on a budget. It cost at least $100,000. But it was worth every single cent and the best thing I ever did in my 20s. I would like to do that again, but with my little ones in tow the next time.

Q What are your immediate investment plans?

A I don't invest just for the sake of it. My investments must be something I have passion for and that I care about.

GET.com is new in Singapore, and we've been investing heavily in brand awareness. We want to build up our readership base among the youth and working adults.

Another ongoing investment is spending enough time with my little boys.

Q How are you planning for retirement?

A I don't think I will ever retire from doing some sort of venture. If I'm ever bored and done with a project, I will move on to the next one.

Right now, we are so busy building our business that we can't even begin to think of retiring.

Financially, we have enough set aside for retirement. We are able to retire anytime we want, but that's not what we want to do.

Q Home is now...

A A four-bedroom condominium in Sentosa Cove, since the end of 2012.

Q I drive...

A A Land Rover Discovery Sport, large enough for two child seats and other kids' stuff.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'Passion drives her to GET the best deals'. Print Edition | Subscribe