#10 The Asian Mavericks – Mr. Alvin Vong (EquitiesTracker Holdings)

This is an exclusive interview with Mr. Alvin Vong, CEO of EquitiesTracker Holdings Bhd.

EquitiesTracker Holdings is a key financial data provider and investor educator in Malaysia.

We sat down with him to understand how has the business changed over the past few decades and why has the management team decided to list the company on the Bursa Malaysia recently.

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Intro:                                      From value invest Asia; this is the Asian Mavericks. We explore the hidden stories of successful Founders, Business Leaders and Investors in Asia. Here’s your host; Stanley Lim!!!

Stanley:                                 Welcome to the season 2 of the Asian Mavericks; where we go across Asia to interview Founders, Business Leaders and Investors in the region. Through our program, we really hope to help you understand more on what’s happening in the brain of all these Business Leaders when they’re managing their businesses, and why they make the decision that they make. this month we’re very privileged to be able to speak to the CEO of EquitiesTracker Holdings Berhad (Bhd); Alvin Vong. EquitiesTracker is a company that is just listed on the LEAP market of Bursa exchange this month. They provide financial data for many of the brokerages and financial firms in Malaysia, and they are also one of the most prominent value investing educators, provider in the country. I met Alvin about two years ago, and they engaged me to speak for some of their events, and I’ve been following up on their development ever since. The history of EquitiesTracker actually goes back to more than 40 years ago, from Alvin’s father; Jim, who was one of the co-founders of the original company. So, in the interview, you will hear from Alvin on how the company has really changed over the years, and why did they make the decision to list on Bursa Malaysia, and also what are some of their future plans that they are already planning in the works for the company going forward. As full disclosure, I am considered a subcontractor for the company, as I do speak in some of the events, and also, I am now a minority shareholder of the company, after subscribing to the IPO as well. So, please note that this interview is only for general and education purposes only, and in no way a recommendation of the company. So, do study up, and do your own research, if you are looking at the company, and before making any investment decision. Without further ado, this is the CEO of EquitiesTracker Holdings Bhd; Alvin Vong. Enjoy!!! Yeah! I’m very excited to talk to the CEO of EquitiesTracker today, Mr Alvin Vong. Hi Alvin!

Alvin:                                     Hi Stanley! Thank you for having me.

Stanley:                                 Congratulations on your IPO.

Alvin:                                     Thank you.

Stanley:                                 So, it’s quite a milestone for you guys. Isn’t it?

Alvin:                                     Yes! It’s been a very long process, extremely long process. We are very happy to be where we are today, we are very grateful to all our advisers, our board members, everyone who has contributed to the success of this year.

Stanley:                                 So, maybe just get a sense from you, how’s the feeling among the team members, are you guys very excited or you know just totally but now at the moment?

Alvin:                                     I think if we draw our excitement sort of scale, you know, it looks exactly like a roller coaster up and down.

Stanley:                                 Like the stock market?

Alvin:                                     Yeah! Like the stock market, it goes up and down. Yeah! I think many times throughout this process, we felt like just giving up.

Stanley:                                 Okay! Interesting, I’m right deeply into why that is, but from my understanding EquitiesTrackers actually has been around for quite some time in Malaysia. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about the history and origin of the company?

Alvin:                                     Yeah! So, EquitiesTracker was founded over 40 years ago, 1976. My dad was one of the original founders, it was made of total of three founders, and what happened was, back then he saw the need for financial information. So, if you can imagine during the 70’s and 80’s where; iPads’, phones or computers were not as commonplace, or didn’t even exist, or the internet didn’t even exist, right? He realized that anyone who went into the stock market, mostly went in on rumors, are news driven, what other people are telling them, he realized that there should be a better way to do it. Is there a more scientific method? You know, what we call data driven investment decisions. So, that’s where he started; the first place he looked was the annual reports, of course, if you look at the annual reports, you realize –

Stanley:                                 No one really reads them.

Alvin:                                     No one really reads them, and I think it’s like a legal document, right? So, unless you’re properly trained, it’s not easy to understand, end to end what it actually means, right? So, what he did was, he actually started to take all this information out, putting it in the standardized, normalized format, right? So that any investor could come in and actually use the information to make more informed decisions

Stanley:                                 Okay! So, at the beginning he was tabulating all the data from these annual reports?

Alvin:                                     Yes! Correct.

Stanley:                                 And publishing them as a book or?

Alvin:                                     Yeah! So, actually we tried several formats; definitely we tried print, very expensive, not easy I think also the market wasn’t quite ready for it, but a lot of the print eventually went on to the newspapers. So, he sold a lot of information to the newspapers, because there was the main source of information dissemination back then, before the internet.

Stanley:                                 That’s pretty smart though.

Alvin:                                     I think so. Yeah! So, we had clients like Star and Business times, who actually you know, if you remember the pullout section from the business sections, all the long numbers, that’s all generated by him.

Stanley:                                 Yeah! Okay.

Alvin:                                     So, we’re one of the pioneers in doing this.

Stanley:                                 Okay! Yeah! So, I guess because it has been around for quite some time, so definitely when you were born, your dad was already running this business, right?

Alvin:                                     Yeah! I mean as early as I can remember my child memories, yeah my dad has always been in business. So, you always see him go to work, and coming back really late.

Stanley:                                 Okay!

Alvin:                                     So, that’s sort of – I grew up in that environment.

Stanley:                                 Okay! Did he immerse you guys into the business, or he sort of has it quite separate, did you know what he was doing when you’re young?

Alvin:                                     I always had a little bit of understanding, because he always tried to explain in simple terms as possible, but generally; yes, I wouldn’t know the intricacies, but I sort of understood what he was doing, but at that point, did I understand the importance of what he was doing? Probably not so much

Stanley:                                 But do you also have interests in numbers, and analyzing data?

Alvin:                                     I think the funny thing was, when I was much younger, I actually wanted to become a doctor, I don’t know why.

Stanley:                                 Okay! No pressure from your parents?

Alvin:                                     No, actually my grandma, she’d say you know, doctors are good, but I think in terms of – so I naturally went the physics chemistry extreme, and I had a science treatment, I was pretty bad at it. Then I found that I was probably a bit more natural when I did economics, and accounting, it just became easier to understand. So, then you know, I thought why not do something that I understand better, and I’m more familiar with.

Stanley:                                 I see. Okay! Is that the subject you chose in your university as well?

Alvin:                                     Yeah! So, I did a partial commerce in Investment Finance and Accounting and Information Management, alright. So, those were the three areas that I majored in.

Stanley:                                 Okay! And then after you graduated, did you go out to work or you joined the family business straight away?

Alvin:                                     So, actually while I was studying, so when I did my post-grad it was part-time. So, I held several jobs, when I was studying part-time. So, I graduate I was 28 years old, my first degree. So, my second degree spread over two years on a part-time basis, so that I got some work experience there. So, one of the things I used to do was, I actually used to teach accounting information systems as a tutor in university part time, amongst other things.

Stanley:                                 I see, that’s where you started to own your talking skills on stage?

Alvin:                                     Yeah! Actually, I was quite nervous, because I was only 21 years old.

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