We are very excited to sit down with Marketing Director of InvestingNote, Mr. Ethan Ho, to discuss with him about how he sees the future of investing is evolving.
InvestingNote.com is now the largest social media platform for investors in Singapore.
Ethan is a self-taught investor who started investing in the US stock market, and is currently the Director for Marketing & Business Development at InvestingNote. He works with many well-known financial professionals and bloggers who are now on the platform. Prior to his role in InvestingNote, he was a personal banker dealing with unit trusts and bancassurance in the wealth management division of a bank.
He has Capital Markets and Financial Advisory Services (CMFAS) certification and a Bachelor’s degree (hons) from NTU. He is a strong advocate for financial and investment literacy as he believes everyone should be able to manage their personal finances well.
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Stanley Lim: Hello everyone! Welcome to Value Invest Asia Facebook live, September edition. And we try to have this Facebook live every single month and talking to interesting people in the investment industry. And this week we are very fortunate to be able to talk to InvestingNote. Unfortunately, maybe I wouldn’t say, unfortunately. Fortunately, over this weekend, Shanison, the founder of InvestingNote informed me that he couldn’t attend because his wife has just given birth. So, congratulations to Shanison, and now very busy changing the baby diaper. So, we have the next best thing with us, Ethan is with us, Ethan Ho. He’s the director of the marketing and business development in InvestingNote.
little bit about Ethan. Ethan is a self-taught investor and have started investing from the US market. And he has also worked in retail banking before. And also he’s a graduate of NTU, so, you know, he’s a smart guy. He’s a strong believer of financial and investment literacy and believes that everyone should be their own investor, which is very similar to us in an Value Invest Asia where we believe that you are your best fund managers. So without further ado, welcome Ethan, nice to meet you.
Ethan Ho: Hello! Hi guys! Thank you everybody for watching. Thank you, Stanley from Value Investing Asia for having me. So, you know, me and Shanison [Inaudible 01:40]. So in a couple of years, I know he’s a nice guy. He’s content is really good.
Stanley Lim: Thank you very much for your kind words. I think when we we’re first starting our, I think investing really help us a lot as well. Before we talk about InvestingNote, maybe we talk a little bit about yourself, you know, the founder of InvestingNote is Shanison, maybe talk about your journey into the investment view and how you met Shanison, and how did you end up working together side by side with Shanison.
Ethan Ho: Okay! So, it’d be about myself. So for me, right, when I met Shanison, it’s through a mutual friend, so back then I didn’t know anything about investing, you know, so I’m not even from a finance or business background, but for me, I’ve always been interested in finance and investing. So, I took up quite a few investment, more due respect in university. So, there I really, actually got me started because, you know, it’s a very, very steep learning curve for investing. But then again, when I met Shanison, back then, he just started InvestingNote. The whole office was still in U.S. and he actually was in hiring interns to actually help him do some content work. But then again, the very first meeting where I met him, I felt that he’s actually a very passionate guy. I could see the passion in his eyes, but then I didn’t take up the role was because back then he had no funding. So, you know, being interns still had a good way. But then again, never mind, we kept in contact.
So, after my graduation, I actually went onto work in a bank, of course it’s for retail. So, throughout the journey for me, the bank actually gave a lot of training as well, so we actually very well versed in your unit trust, you know, bank assurance and stuff. But then again, when I was in a branch, I realized that a lot of people actually come to the bank with a lot of money, but they have no idea where to put it. Correct. How to invest. So the very first thing that come up their mind is actually walk into a bank and just ask the banker, right. So of course, I wouldn’t say that banks are evil, I’m just saying that if that person would have a bit of more financial investment interest, right, amount of money could have been working harder for him.
So, after I quit my job, because I just left there you know, I want to champion investment to receive, right, but over the bank is more of a getting clients to invest. But then I rang up Shanison that how is investing [inaudible 04:36], and they say, Oh yeah, we just got funding from the SPH. So I was like, wow, really? Okay, let’s sit down and talk about it. So then he says, looking for marketing and business development guide. And I say, am on why not?
Stanley Lim: Interesting. You’re talking a little bit about the history of InvestingNote there as well, which I want to really dive a little bit down in. InvestingNote, for those of you who maybe have not heard of them, they actually now the largest social media platform for investors in Singapore, right? And maybe talk a little bit about the starting of InvestingNote, I understand that when Shanison first started, he told me he struggled, he really struggled for many, many years before he finally got the attention of share investor. From what you talked to him about, how was the first initial few years like for him?
Ethan Ho: Okay. So, give you a bit of background, right. So, InvestingNote as a company was incorporated that was registered back in 2014. That’s about the time when I met him as well. So, from his sharing he actually said that he was very tough because they had basically he’s running on his own funds, like its own savings. But then again, there was very, very little progress because essentially it’s only one man is doing it. So it was very, very difficult. And prior to that he actually worked in Share Investor as a tech developer for about four years I believe. So he actually quit his job. He was doing pretty well with it.
But then again, he has a certain [inaudible] mindset, right, which really inspired me until today, you know. So, he’s a guy who’s a go-getter and he believes in his special, which is actually doing what he likes. So he quickly came up the idea and actually quit Share Investor – on a good note. Yeah, definitely. So after that he started to do his own InvestingNote. And one fine day, he actually got a call up, I think is either he got a call up from the founders of Share Investor. Yeah. So, he got a call up and they met, he actually had told his previous bosses what he was working on and eventually, as you know, Share Investor is actually owned by SBH, and they eventually got a funding, peaches which one person, yeah, that’s inspiring to me.
Stanley Lim: That’s a quite amazing story as well. And then after InvestingNote got the funding from Share Investor, you guys really grew from that. And you remember in the past with that InvestingNote, there’s a lot of our website investing forum out there, from my understanding, more or less, most of them has already integrated into InvestingNote now. From your record now, how many users is active on your platform and at the beginning, how are you able to convince like all these platforms to migrate to your site and also some of the more prominent bloggers, how do you convince them to get on your site?
Ethan Ho: Okay! So firstly, right, talk about numbers, we are definitely the first and the largest, so we are very close to 50,000 registered users and web users right now. So but to where we are right now is basically a very tough journey I to say. So initially, right? Yes we got close to a half a million of funding Share Investor, but this kind of money, if you’re talking about acquisition, costs of acquisition, right? In finance industry, if you’re running ads, you know that the cost per acquisition is very high because we are essentially competing with people who are brokers and financial institutions, right?
So, what our strategy was actually to get prominent financial progress like yourself, got them on the platform and actually convince them to actually create account. And you know, establish a show foot hole, show me the space, right? But again, a lot of bloggers weren’t convince because, you know, they just say you guys are small. I mean, there’s a lot so do crossovers. Then after that, that’s when we actually thought we should bring more value to these content publishers, because essentially, once that are there influencers, so all we did was you know, we were told that if you have good articles, we will put it into our weekly email. This email will be sent weekly, an entire base for everybody to actually appreciate your effort in writing.
Another initiative we had was that we actually hold monthly workshops. So the workshops, right is really to help bring the relationship online to actually offline because some of these people don’t get to meet financial bloggers that often. We brought the people, you know, to meet financial bloggers and at the same time learn something. That’s the value that we actually promised to our potential platform.
Stanley Lim: Okay! So, from that you get – able to convince more bloggers to come on and then they will help you introduce more of their, I guess readers onto your platform and that created a network effect on your platform right now. And with such a big database that you have, I think it also shows that, you know, how investing and especially how we get information about investment really changes over time. In the past, mostly you get that information just from news or from your brokers, but now more and more, we are listening to individual investors through your platform to understand some of the investment why people making, maybe those kinds of views are more independent. What do you feel that is the main key advantage for say retail investors to join your platform, what is the main value that they get out of it?
Ethan Ho: Okay! Very firstly, yes, it’s true that traditionally without social media platforms, people are actually receiving – retail investors and on the receiving end of use and let say announcements, right. So right now, we have created this platform where – yes, we have other news updated in real time, but people were actually discussing their opinions on the news or what they think, whether it’s a good news or bad news. So, it’s actually the second layer. And there’s no longer just receiving, but it’s actually a two-way in direction of that. So, you can see if a company releases a certain type of news. Investors were actually starts talking very actively and they will share their views and stuff.
Stanley Lim: Okay! Interesting. So, it’s more interactive and people, I guess it’s looking for those kind of interactive and understanding how everyone thinks about a specific issue. With such a big database that you have now and a lot of content generated, maybe you can share a little bit about what you are looking at on your platform. What are some of the most popular companies that are always been discussed among your users.
Ethan Ho: Okay! So, I think for the past maybe 3-6 months, right, there’ve been a lot of tech companies, Singapore tech companies that investors have been looking at like [inaudible 12:27] AN, right now it’s creative because they just released the [inaudible 12:34] and stuff. And UMS, as well as companies like a [inaudible 12:42] over the, because they were affected by the Uber and Grabbed you and other company. So I mean, as a retail investor, if you don’t have an indication of where other retails investors are looking, right, I wouldn’t say you will be disadvantaged, but then again you will be one step slower because people are actually actively doing their homework on what are the potentials stocks that are good to buy.
Stanley Lim: Cool! Well, if you’re just joining us, I saw some of you guys just joining us, Mike, Veronica, Bennie welcome to our Facebook live. We’re talking to Ethan, the director of marketing and business development in InvestingNotes. And also a platform that some of your big data maybe showing, is the general community sentiment now, do you use see that they are still very bullish or bearish now among the community?
Ethan Ho: Okay! So most of our comments and posts, right, is all qualitative. We haven’t put any quantitative metrics, but from what I see, right? A lot of people actually very bearish because I know, okay, we have talked about the trade war, of course it’s between U.S. and China, but you know, it inadvertently it will probably affect us very as well. As you can see from the stock market right now, the SDI actually has been in the down trend.
Stanley Lim: Yeah! I think a platform like yourself will be very valuable, especially on understanding investor psychology, you know, like knowing how they are feeling right now. What are some of the stocks they’re interested in right now? I think that’s very valuable information. And when we talk about, also people spreading information and producing content, sharing their views, is there a risk of people spreading fake information just to push up a share price of a company, especially small cap stocks, and all this context. Is it a problem or a platform? How do you mitigate that?
Ethan Ho: Okay, a very good question. So, this is question you ask always been on my mind as well. So when we first started, we have been together this big way, someone manipulates while doing something. But thankfully, a lot of people right, when did discuss right, they’re using the actual news source and the actual announcements as a reference. They’re not creating it from scratch, right. So a lot of discussion is from, as a reaction to the real news. Of course, that being said, there are a few cases where people had been spreading fake news, right. So when they did so, right, we’re are going to sizable amount where people start tagging us and notifying us at it, this is totally fake, this person has not verified.
So, what we did was; first of all, moderate the post he did from public view, and after that, we went to do our background check all the specifics that this person has posted. So we ask the person to actually justify, if not, his post will be moderated and deleted on the platform. So, if the person didn’t say anything, so we actually moderated it. And we have a set of committee guidelines our users will have to follow very closely. For example, if you’re attacking writers or you’re spreading fake news, right? Your account can potentially be bent.
Stanley Lim: Wow! Okay. So, even though it looked like a fun website, fun social media platform to us to share information and react to news, there’s a lot of actually policing behind the scenes. So make sure that things are, you know, objective, and there’s no, spreading or fake news on the platform.
Ethan Ho: Just to add, right? We have created a culture in our platform where there are lot of key influencers like financial bloggers. They are also policing for us as well. Once they see something, they actually take our account and we remove it or we did very fast.
Stanley Lim: Okay, that’s good. Okay. So this is one part of I guess the future of investing that will really happen is the amount of information flow and understanding how everyone else is thinking about that situation, whereas in the past we’re always just receiving and people telling us what to think. What else do you feel that is to change in the future for investing do you see?
Ethan Ho: Okay, there are couple of things. Definitely, I think right the rise – okay, technology is being risen, but technology will actually continue to allow retail investors to become better and smarter over time. And a lot of information is going to be free as well because that’s what InvestingNote beliefs as well. We don’t try to make data free as possible, right. So then again, if we give you a lot data is how investors actually mixed sense of the data. So, of course, they are always educators out there who are teaching courses. But then again, we took in other approaches where it’s free but you learn to compensations. You know, for us it’s more of a giving a voice to return investors as well. So, in the future, I would expect a lot of investors to actually start speaking of. Correct. So another initiative we have in investing is that we have a lot of stakeholders. First, there’ll be telling investors, we have a financial bloggers, we have a financial institutions, we have professionals like revisers and stockbrokers as well.
So right now, we’re actually including one most State Quarter, which is listed companies. So just a few weeks ago, we had our very first corporate visit to St. Julian, and this is a very intimate session where our investors can actually get in touch with the CEO and the senior level management, dropping any discussion involving the blogger as well. And after that we brought them down to tour the company grounds and understand about the company more essentially the more awareness but a listed company as well. So going forward, right, and the future investing, right, I would foresee more in retail investors being able to interact with these listed companies directly their service, and apart from getting information.
Stanley Lim: Basically opened up the doors for correctness to retrenchment.
Ethan Ho: Correct!
Stanley Lim: Yeah! We do have quite a number of Malaysian investors with us on our site also. If you guys have any question for Ethan, you know, just comment down below and I’ll make sure he answers all of them, but they’re talking about, because I understand that you do have a presence in Malaysia as well. Maybe you want to talk a little bit about how’s the progress there and is there any initiative on that part to improve the interaction in Malaysia?
Ethan Ho: So, okay. First off, right? Stanley is probably right, so we actually have some plans to actually go to Malaysia and we already have a Malaysian channel two people to discuss about Malaysian stuff. However, that being said, we haven’t really developed to go to market penetration strategy as of now because manpower is limited for us, but in the very near future, we’ll be going to Malaysia. So then again, for our Malaysian friends over in Malaysia, right, you know, we know that Malaysia is a pretty big state as well, but from my understanding that a Kale is one of the – is the capital and where most of the investing community actually is situated. So, going forward we’ll be working with a lot of financial institutions like brokerages and also a share investor and investor in Malaysian site, and also financial bloggers who are very well versed in this area. While I believe, Stanley is a very well versed in the Malaysian market as well.
Stanley Lim: Yeah, I’m not sure about that.
Ethan Ho: Yeah, I’ve seen his blog is within some of the Malaysian success.
Stanley Lim: Yeah, we do cover Malaysian as well.
Ethan Ho: Okay! So, we’ll be looking to go.
Stanley Lim: Okay. Very exciting. Now, maybe we talk a little bit about yourself. How would you describe your own investments style? What kind of investor are you?
Ethan Ho: Okay. The very beginning where we were still studying way, you know, it was sort of a bull market for a lot of those tech stocks.
Stanley Lim: Which year is that?
Ethan Ho: 2014, I believe.
Stanley Lim: Okay! Not too far away.
Ethan Ho: Not too far away. Take in pharmaceutical stocks. So those were the, you know, crazy. So last time when I first started, right it’s not [inaudible 22:13], you know, so I learned a couple of terms on investing and the causes, right. So I thought I was good. So, the very first few stocks I went in was actually I think Copro, when he first got listed back then. So, Copro hopeful I, I went into about $40, you went all the way up to $100, so he was so crazy, you know. But then again, I thought it was good because investing is so easy, I guess. But the thing is, right, of course I see that I existed Copro. I actually went down by a lot and I think the price about $6, so it’s 90 plus percent a down over the shares, pretty scary like I didn’t get out in time I wouldn’t be.
So right now, I think we’re investing, learning from the community and as well as all the workshops and myself learning as well. So, my approach is actually more micro at top-down approach. It cost right, for that I only did some homework on stocks that I knew of, right, same for the pharmaceuticals once. So, pharmaceutical, you know, they’re lot of Unicode trials and stuff in the U.S. So, if one clinical trial was let’s say disapproved by the FDA, the stock goes down crazy 20% within a day. That is a lot of a volatility involve. But then again, for now, if you asked me to go into pharmaceutics, I wish. That is crazy. That’s more speculation. That’s all really investing, that’s not campaign. So, I changed my style though to actually understand from top-down approach. Like for example, last time I didn’t even consider whether interest rates was going to affect stocks or not, now you know that interest rates are going to affect the cost of reform of companies and those companies who are highly geared like [inaudible 24:08], probably going to get affected. And it shows in a lot of like for example, the benchmark, your FTSE reinvestment, [inaudible 24:19] the FTS in this index, right? It shows there as well, you know, it’s a downtrend. Understanding a market cycles are so very important.
Stanley Lim: Right! Okay, would you be kind enough to maybe share a little bit of a few companies that you recently bought, as you want to share that the investment thesis with us, but are you still mostly invested in U.S. market now or you are…
Ethan Ho: So, I think I recently comfortable to share with you guys that I recently invested in Micron. So, I’ve been Micron for a while and realize that their financials are doing pretty well, top of the line revenue growth steady for the past few quarters. But then again just to give you some context, your 1-2 weeks ago they actually had some analyst or let’s actually said that, you know, the semiconductor industry, it’s not going to do well, right? So it’s expected that you know their earnings will probably drop. Then that actually cost a 10% deep within one day of the stock, based on just, you know, some analysts saying that.
So, what this actually taught me is actually looking from a top-down approach as well, like if you want to go into a certain sector, you’ve got to see whether the sector is expected to do well, because as a semiconductor industry is actually a cycle as well, alright? So, no semiconductor actually is near the end of this [inaudible 25:58], so it’s actually a down-turn, alright. But then again, you know, if you look at Micron’s financials, they’re pretty sound, so I think I’ll still be holding on quite a well. I just had that earnings result was [inaudible 26:12].
Stanley Lim: And normally for your stock, how long do you tend to hold them for or is that do you try to restrict yourself to hold them for a longer term or what’s your view on that?
Ethan Ho: Chill for me right as a retail investor. Sometimes you’ve asked me to do when I’m going to look for, right? Sometimes you might not just a dancer because sometimes, it’s based on a lot of other factors, like academics as well. So, for my first case, there’s a catalyst coming. I think they’re doing a $10 billion companies share. So, that might be the catalyst to go up and I already know that the volatility is actually how to market reacts to all these news. And then sometimes it irrational as we all thought, you know, I’m going to hold a bit more longer to see what the catalyst and the upside potential for this company.
Stanley Lim: Interesting. Good luck to you. But yeah, that’s a wonderful chat with Ethan from InvestingNote. I think if you guys want to know more about InvestingNote, let me share their website here. Just go to the investingnote.com. You’ll be able to sign up for a free account. They are also on your mobile app, so both iOS, and also android. You’ll be able to download and try it out. And if you’re looking for like-minded investors and to have a community that you can talk to, especially about Singapore stocks, I think you cannot go wrong with InvestingNotes. So thank you very much once again for Ethan for joining us. Look forward to seeing you again.
Ethan: Okay! Thanks Stanley.
Stanley Lim: Thank you!
Ethan Ho: Thanks guys!
Stanley Lim: Bye!