Me & My Money

Exposure in start-ups fuels his interest in private equity

Mr Khoo Kian Chew, 29, director of partnerships and marketing at Epik, looks towards the success of the firm as his retirement investment. He is a believer that even when he reaches retirement, he will still keep himself active in some form of busine
Mr Khoo Kian Chew, 29, director of partnerships and marketing at Epik, looks towards the success of the firm as his retirement investment. He is a believer that even when he reaches retirement, he will still keep himself active in some form of business. He is also mindful of living a balanced lifestyle and thinks having a passion outside of work helps you to grow and be yourself.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

This is the first of a three-part Be Prepared series featuring individuals who have taken the step to seize opportunities presented to them.

Mr Khoo Kian Chew attributed his interest in investing to his grandfather and father, both of whom worked in the finance industry.

"I remember my grandfather checking the teletext for stock prices and calling his broker to buy and sell stocks throughout the day," he recalled.

Having worked in two start-ups, Mr Khoo, 29, said the exposure has reinforced his interest in how private equity is bought and sold for pre-initial public listed companies.

"I was involved in private equity through various platforms, but I liquidated my holdings when I returned to Singapore in August 2017," he added.

Mr Khoo was a student at Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) before going to Nanyang Polytechnic for an electrical engineering diploma. After completing national service, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing at the University of San Francisco in 2016.

In July 2016, he worked at start-up Realty Returns as director of marketing in San Francisco for about a year before joining Franklin Templeton Singapore as its digital marketing specialist till September last year. He subsequently joined Epik as director of partnerships and marketing a month later. The firm works with digital platforms - games, apps, streaming, social and so on - and brands such as Warner, Universal, Sony and Nickelodeon to sell in-game items, including Kanye T-shirts, Nike shoes, Heinz ketchup and Gatorade energy drinks.

Epik was set up in March last year and has received $1.75 million of funding from investors from Softbank, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and local company Grasshopper.

  • Worst and best bets

  • Q What has been your biggest investing mistake?

    A My biggest investment mistake was not utilising my time when I was studying in the United States to invest more in the US market. I realised that I was too hesitant to seize the opportunity. Moving forward, I am less risk-averse and am willing to take that jump into the unknown.

    Q And your best investment?

    A The best investment I have made is my company… trusting in my fellow team mates and myself to create a business in an entirely new industry.

    Lorna Tan

The firm generated revenue in the middle of this year and anticipates breaking even 12 months later. It has started looking for a new round of fund raising.

While Mr Khoo works hard to achieve his goals, he is mindful of living a balanced lifestyle.

"Find a hobby for yourself... something that is a creative outlet not related to work. I chose the yoyo and kendama (traditional Japanese toy). These toys have helped me de-stress, travel and make friends all over the world. Having a passion outside of work helps you to grow and be yourself," he said.

Q What's the next stage of growth for your businesses?

A The next stage of our company is focused on more growth and improving monetisation. We are looking at fund raising and reinforcing our position as the industry leaders in the retail of digital merchandise and crossovers. We will continue to focus on growing horizontally to increase our overall footprint.

Q What's in your personal investment portfolio?

A My investment portfolio is a mix of local blue-chip stocks (30 per cent), fixed deposits (40 per cent), mutual funds (20 per cent) and cryptocurrency (10 per cent). Some examples of the blue-chip stocks are OCBC Bank, DBS Group Holdings and Singapore Press Holdings. The funds I own include the Franklin Templeton Next Step Stable Growth Fund and Fidelity Global Multi Asset Income Fund.

I acquired some cryptocurrencies during my time studying in the United States.

My personal investment portfolio is more on the conservative side and I like to take a hands-off approach towards investing as I do not have time to constantly monitor the market.

I estimate my total returns to be around $7,500 a year with the bulk coming from equities and mutual funds. I do not consider my crypto holdings much of an investment as I see it as a utility instead of an asset.

Q What is your immediate investment plan?

A My immediate plan is to continue growing my portfolio through some targeted investments in the equity market and mutual funds.

Q Describe your investing strategy.

A My investing strategy is pretty conservative and quite hands-off. I prefer more stable and long-term investments. I am still young and I have some time before I have to start planning for a family.

Q What are your investment goals/ what are you investing for?

A Currently I am investing for myself so that when I do eventually settle down in life, I will be in a comfortable situation.

Q What's your risk profile?

A My risk profile used to be low but I will consider it as moderate currently.

Q What else is in your financial plan?

A Currently I have no plans yet to start a family as my attention is fully towards the success of my company.

Q How are you planning for retirement?

A I look towards the success of Epik as my retirement investment. I am a believer that even when I hit the retirement age, I will continue to keep myself active in some form of business.

Q Money -wise, what were your growing-up years like?

A My growing-up years were fairly comfortable. Both my parents had full-time jobs.

My father worked in the banking industry with several banks and my mother worked in the human resources department of several large multinational corporations. Both are still working and are getting close to retirement.

I have a younger sister who just started at the University of San Francisco studying computer science.

My family lifestyle is comfortable. Since both my parents work and bring in a steady income, money was always at hand, even during the economic downturn in 1998.

My family has always been conservative with money. I learnt that before making big purchases, you should always consider whether you really need it and how it would affect you financially down the road. At the same time, you also need to know when to spend and the quality that comes with buying certain brands that are more expensive.

Q What drives your buy decisions?

A Do a quick evaluation before you make a big purchase, think about how you see yourself with what you buy and how it can fit into your current lifestyle.

It is always good to have that one item that you aspire to buy. It should be just out of reach, but reachable with the current progress that you are making and when you hit that goal, you find something else to aspire for to keep yourself going forward.

Q Home is now...

A I live in a 2,500 sq ft (built-in) freehold, four-bedroom bungalow in Bukit Timah with my parents, a younger sister and an uncle.

Q I drive...

A I do not own a vehicle, but my family has three cars.

The cars are a dark green 2013 Land Rover Explorer 2, red 2018 Mini One and a white early 1990s Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 20, 2019, with the headline 'Exposure in start-ups fuels his interest in private equity '. Print Edition | Subscribe