UOB chief's advice to young people: invest in yourself

Mr Wee meeting students after his talk last week where he encouraged them to build up their financial literacy and keep up with market trends.
Mr Wee meeting students after his talk last week where he encouraged them to build up their financial literacy and keep up with market trends. PHOTO: UOB

United Overseas Bank chief executive Wee Ee Cheong's key piece of advice to young people is this: Invest first and foremost, not in stocks or bonds, but in yourselves.

Speaking at a seminar last week by national financial literacy programme MoneySense, Mr Wee said: "The first principle is to invest in yourself and your capacity to invest by building on your capabilities and applying the skills to your business or career.

"Acquire knowledge, skills and experience. These will always stand you in good stead. Unlike material possessions which can disappear overnight, no one can easily take these away from you."

The My Money @ Campus Seminar is a tie-up with the Association of Banks in Singapore and Securities Investors Association Singapore (Sias), and aims to reach out to tertiary students.

Mr Wee said it was even more important to build skills and develop the right attitude in this day and age of unpredictability.

Using banking as an example, he noted: "It's much tougher to predict jobs and careers in the future, with step changes in technology and markets. Some jobs in banking these days did not exist 10 to 20 years ago. For instance, data scientists, cyber security experts, user experience consultants - there is a shortage of talent in fields such as these today."

Even as the Government introduces initiatives such as SkillsFuture, Mr Wee told the crowd the responsibility lies with themselves.

"Be prepared to learn, unlearn and re-learn continually throughout your lives. With the right skill set and mindset, you lay a strong foundation for your capacity to earn," he added.

He also stressed the importance of financial literacy.

"Understand basic investment principles, including diversification, time value of money and valuation techniques. Take time and effort to keep up with market trends. Financial literacy is a core life skill, which can be readily acquired.

"Even if you outsource the management of your funds to professionals, don't do so blindly. You should understand what you are investing in and why you select certain managers and products."

Sias founder David Gerald agreed, adding that investing without knowledge is a gamble and education is key to investing.

Mr Wee's and Mr Gerald's advice resonated with the crowd of over 200 people, as 32 per cent had said in a poll that their biggest challenge when it came to investing was a lack of investment knowledge.

Mr Wee also stressed that young people should invest in relationships with people and the community around them.

"No matter how smart or capable you are, no man is an island. Thinking for the long term, building mutual trust and doing good for others are core to one's life... and gives real meaning to the purpose of investment and accumulation of wealth in the first place," he noted.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline UOB chief's advice to young people: invest in yourself. Subscribe