A concerted focus on innovation and technology has helped PhillipCapital expand from its base here to a presence in 16 countries with activities from stockbroking to financial advisory services to fund management.
The firm, which started in 1975, was named best retail broker at the Sias 18th Investors' Choice Awards last month. The award from the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) aims at encouraging brokerage firms to raise their quality of service and information provided so that retail investors have a good understanding of what they invest in.
The Sunday Times caught up with Mr Luke Lim, PhillipCapital's managing director, who gave his take on the market and insight on how the firm clinched the award.
Q What are the biggest challenges for investors in the current market?
A One of the biggest challenges for investors today is determining whether it is still the right moment to enter the market now, especially in the light of high valuations.
For example, the S&P 500 is trading at 21.5 times the price-earnings (PE) ratio compared with a mere 17 times back in 2016. The PE ratio is the ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative to its per-share earnings. It is also known as the price multiple or the earnings multiple.
However, I would like to emphasise that high valuations indicate only that the market is riskier at the moment and this is no cause for concern when investors are expecting future earnings growth to be sustainable. Under such circumstances, I believe that the market still presents opportunities for returns for investors but they should be on the lookout for news that can cause a reversal in the bullish sentiments.
Overall, investors can remain cautiously bullish on the stock markets. The possible interest rate hikes and shrinking of the balance sheet may pose a concern for them.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that the undertaking of such policies will likely be gradual and in line with market expectations. On the other hand, the possibility of earnings surprises and the approval of tax cut plans by the US Congress may be some positive news that investors can look out for by the end of the year.
Q What is your market outlook in the middle to long term?
A We are upbeat on the market. Global growth is back to six-year highs. We see this being reflected in Singapore export and trade data.
While our domestic economy has not totally responded to the robust external environment, Singapore, being such an open economy, will be a key beneficiary.
Sectors such as banking, property and electronics are already enjoying healthy momentum in demand.
Reits is another sector we favour. Together with the attractive dividend yield, we expect a recovery in office, industrial and hospitality Reits to help drive growth in dividends.
Q What does your firm offer to retail investors?
A The range of products includes direct shares and options listed not just in Singapore but also globally, including the exchanges of Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka as well as the United States and European exchanges. There are more than 1,000 unit trusts and insurance policies from the major insurance partners offered under one roof.
We have made good progress in catering to the full spectrum of investors' investment styles and needs. These include investors who invest on their own or with an adviser, or a little of both.
We have an exciting year this year. For the past 10 months, we have been launching multiple new products and platforms to continue our efforts in creating more value for our clients.
Markets are getting faster and more unpredictable by the day. We recognise that active traders require an edge in speed - speed in getting to the information they require, speed in analysing the unstructured data, speed in decision-making and speed in execution after making the decision.
With the launch of our world's first bond mobile trading app, we have changed the way bonds are being traded. We have made bond trading accessible right from the point of research. With the ease of access, investors will consider introducing bonds to their portfolio.
To meet the growing demand of income-seeking investors, we have also moved up the value chain into manufacturing our very own Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders Reit ETF (exchange-traded fund).
The Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders Reit ETF is the first ETF focusing on Asia-Pacific Reits, allowing investors a convenient and easy way to gain broad exposure to the best Reits and prime real estate assets in the region.
Robo-advisory Smart Portfolio breaks the traditional stigma that fund management is expensive and only for the wealthy. With a low starting investment amount of only $5,000, investors can get into high-quality, professionally managed portfolios like the well-heeled.
Q What were the factors that enabled PhillipCapital to win the award?
A One of the most critical factors is our emphasis on trust. We believe that trust is two-dimensional - clients need to trust not just our moral character and values, but also our professional competency. Trust grows gradually and the building of trust is a continual process.
This is why even after 42 years, we are still delivering our many firsts. We have never stopped reinventing ourselves to provide the best tools, support and products to investors.
The dynamic investment landscape increases the importance of choice of investment and investor education. We aim to help investors attain their investment goals through various investment instruments and financial knowledge.
PhillipCapital has been expanding its offerings to provide clients with more choices of investment instruments to suit different investment goals.
In fact, we offer more than 19,000 investment choices across various products, including shares, unit trusts and insurance plans.
We have also been continuing to educate our investors so that they can make informed investment decisions. Besides traditional regular seminars at our Phillip investor centres, massive bilingual educational content is generated for investor community outreach via new modes.
For instance, we offer StocksBnB (mobile-friendly research), Facebook Live seminars (mobile on-the-go consumption), seminars and webinars (more than 20 a month), Chinese Market Outlook to cater to the Chinese community, market and investment journals and so on.
We also offer "Phillip 20 portfolio", a technical portfolio handpicked monthly by our analysts. This is for investors who are well versed in investments but, at the same time, need more investment ideas.
Furthermore, we have unit trust wrap and securities wrap advisory services that are designed for clients who require some advice from us on a customised portfolio.
Our consultants will guide investors in building a personalised investment portfolio with a mix of asset classes, such as equity, balanced, bond and/or cash funds, that aim to deliver returns that meet their profile, goals and appetite for risk.