by Tan Chin Hwe
“It is not happiness that makes us grateful; it is gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Unknown
Value investing is an investing strategy for stocks that has been taught in the past few decades by some of the greatest investors of our time. It involves selecting investments that trade for less than their intrinsic value, focusing on the long-term fundamentals in the hope for capital appreciation or continuous dividends. Many investors have used this strategy successfully and have made a tremendous amount of wealth through their investments in undervalued companies. However, many have overlooked many undervalued “assets” that can provide exceptional returns to society and the people around them.
My 21-year journey in finance has not been without its trials and tribulations. Through the Financial Crisis in 2008 and the many economic downturns, I could not have pulled through without the support that was behind me. Indeed, it was the love from God and my family that had sustained me throughout my career in the tough financial industry. All the awards and success that I have attained was not through my strength alone, and it is through this knowledge that I hope I can share the same opportunities and love that was first granted to me.
The buy-side of the finance industry was purely meritocratic and only 3 letters mattered to everyone – it wasn’t MBA, CPA nor CFA, but P&L. People were respected by the value they could add to the company or by the better investment ideas that they picked, qualifications didn’t matter.
Unfortunately, it is this very system that has corrupted most people. Given the high emphasis on performance, people are inclined to making profit at any cost. Many have abandoned all internal values to enrich themselves materially, evident from the many fraud cases in recent months. The finance industry has been too heavily performance-based, with no framework for values. Even though corporations have begun trying to instill a family culture, and social issues are increasingly placed in the limelight, there is still some way to go before society achieves a reasonable balance between values and performance.
Throughout my life, I had been very fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful family support system even though I grew up poor. In the same vein, I believe that people with the privilege of a good upbringing should give back to society; remembering our roots as the joy of success is in sharing it. Many of those from the younger generation start their careers with lofty ideals but upon accumulating great wealth, get distracted by the things of this world and start to see themselves as superior to others. But I would like to raise the question: what is the point of accumulating wealth if you don’t have anyone to share it with? Furthermore, who can truly say that they got to where they were, solely on their own effort? No one can, as they were simply at the right places at the right time. My spiritual faith has been the foundation for my beliefs in giving back, for without love for our neighbors, we are nothing.
My passion for social work was kindled during my university days. I met my wife at university and we decided to volunteer with the Salvation Army to give back to society. It was during this period that I discovered the joy of helping others, and also the fact that there is still much to be done. With society undergoing rapid globalization and digitization, new complex issues continue to surface and manpower within the volunteer welfare organizations (VWOs) is sorely needed. To plug the supply gap of manpower, I have joined a number of boards for hospital and non-profit organizations to offer my expertise. One particular initiative that we have kick-started is the KK Hospital Premature Babies fund; a fund that lightens the financial burden of families of premature babies who struggle with the high costs of care. I myself am a father of a premature baby and understand the plight of families going through this ordeal.
Another aim of mine is to encourage a prolonged sustainable relationship between corporations and charity organizations and to prevent projects from becoming transactional in nature; where, if one wants to be critical you essentially pay a fee to wash your conscience. Even if the CSR effort is not sincere, good outcomes can still happen. The key here is for corporates to provide a platform for the staff to do good works.
Many try and find happiness in the wrong places. They look towards wealth, power, success, fame and some of them indeed acquire it; but the joy derived is ever so fleeting as there is always someone who seems to have more than you and it results in a never-ending chase. Instead, people should be thinking about the type of legacy they want to leave behind and what society they would want their children to grow up in. Motivated by my time at Yale and the teachers there, I decided to take up the position as adjunct professor at a number of universities. The youth in this generation are inundated with choices and distractions, facing different challenges as compared to the members of Gen X and Y. They will eventually shape society and I believe the older generation has a part to play in imparting our experience and expertise; through good parenting or other forms of support.
Think about the people that most people admire. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jesus of Nazareth, a good majority of them usually have the characteristics of integrity, courage and selflessness. What sort of legacy do you want to leave yourself?
I believe that most people want to live as their most noble self, but do not know how to do so or how to go about to change themselves to reach that level. My advice would be to set a good example for others, give back to society and help others reach their full potential to create a society where everyone can enjoy the fruits of hard work. Use your expertise to make this world a better place and create a generation where love for one another abounds.
For those that claim to be charitable: actions speak louder than words and only God and yourself know the true intentions of your heart. An ostentatious lifestyle is easy; a life of giving and sacrifice requires far more courage and tenacity.
Invest in your values and in others, for no other asset can give you a greater return and joy than your soul, your family and your society.
Some people are so poor, all they have is money.
This Spirituality and Transformative Leadership series was set up as a response to the need to bring ‘higher order’ principles into leadership today and to spark an ongoing discussion as to the role that spirituality, as distinct from religion, has in today’s world. It is a curated series that invites both Young Global Leaders and others with an interest in leadership to contribute to a discussion on the role that spirituality plays in leadership today. For more information, please see the following link for an overview of the origins of this project see http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/caroline-watson2/spirituality-and-transfor_b_7637984.html%5D and for a link to all the blog posts in the series please click here [http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/news/spirituality-and-transformative-leadership/