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Anna Haotanto, Managing Director of The New Savvy

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Anna Haotanto is the Managing Director of The New Savvy and Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. She is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment, and children’s issues.

Previously, Anna has been featured in CNBC, Fast Company, Business Insider, The Straits Times, Business Insider and Idealist Careers among others.  She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).

Anna regularly conducts workshops on personal finance and had given talks on finance, women issues and empowerment for organisations – Singapore Exchange (SGX), Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW), SG50 Singapore Female Leaders, Singapore Women Network, etc. She regularly teaches and mentors children and adults on financial prudence and investments, facilitating their ability to be better informed when making financial decisions.

On a personal level, Anna is involved in various charities supporting women and children causes. She was one of the main donors in the building of a library for underprivileged female students.

Prior to The New Savvy, Anna has spent 10 years in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai.

She attended and graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance), Hwa Chong Junior College. In her academic year, it was clear that Anna possessed great determination and drive, she was awarded Top Student (Salutatorian) for UOB-SMU Private Banking course.

Anna earned her financial independence at age 28. However, she seeks meaning in focusing her entrepreneurial career on financial literacy as she firmly believes that continuous learning empowers people. This has ultimately led Anna to The New Savvy.

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In your own words what is The New Savvy?

THENEWSAVVY.COM is an online platform that focuses financial and career issues for women in Asia. Despite advancing in our career and earning more, women lack confidence in financial matters. 41% do not invest or manage their money. There is a lack of media outlets that engages women financially.

The New Savvy uses simplified, relevant language to help women make smarter decisions. We cover 35 topics ranging from investments vehicles, savings, buying property, marriage, fashion and health. We want to make money fun and promote better financial habits among women.

The New Savvy is a fast-growing women-focused site, and we have worked with many financial institutions and organisations namely Fast company, Singapore Exchange (SGX), MayBank Securities and others.

We are content partners with Yahoo!, AsiaOne and CPF.

Here are a list of our press and partners.

How did you come up with the idea of The New Savvy?

There are 2 major inspirations for The New Savvy.

First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.  I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.

As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.

I am lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learnt financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21. While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.

Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities. That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.

If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me,  it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up The New Savvy?

In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was pure Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing, and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and HAD to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

I did everything from scratch myself. I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learnt about how websites are arranged and how they worked. I did a short market survey on what is lacking regarding women financial education and what women will like to learn more.

I took up a Digital Marketing course and learnt how to utilise tools like Google Analytics, Seach console and understood the terms.

We focused on having original content that are engaging, fun and relevant. I was very sure that we didn’t want to be another financial site which teaches you to make 20x in a week. I wanted The New Savvy to be relatable to women, so they won’t be intimidated by Finance.

We have also produced our own Retirement and Mortgage calculators that are fun and easy to use.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

There were a few difficulties:

One, when I shared the idea with people, most of them dismissed me thinking that it’s just another blog. Or, they think that I am limiting myself by focusing only on women. Many told me not to make it as broad to ensure that we get more website hits.

Second, coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn into an entrepreneur. I was giving up a good five-figure income and some people told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. That affected my morale.

For a long time, I was wondering if I am just impetuous or silly. Should I just continue earning money and be in banking? There’s a societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I am doing this mostly to help other women.

Third, I wasn’t trained for this. It was an uphill struggle for me. I ended up working till 4 am every day. Most of my close ones were concerned and told me not to overwork. I think I made every mistake that shouldn’t be made. But that’s life, isn’t it? You falter, but you pick yourself up.

Last, a good product is useless if there are no users. How do I get the word out? How do I market TheNewSavvy.com to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists?

Most importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind non-stop since I embarked on this journey – How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?

How have you been developing The New Savvy since startup?

In terms of the content, we have 35 categories in 3 areas of focus: technical articles, lifestyle pieces, and inspirational stories.

– Technical articles are informative, must-know Finance concepts in bite-sized to make it more palatable to readers.
Eg: What’s the difference between ETFs and mutual funds, Bonds 101, Which Real Estate in Singapore Should You Purchase?

– Lifestyle pieces are fun articles that discuss issues plaguing the modern women. All of them include a finance or female empowerment angle to them.
Eg: When Women Earn More Than Men In a Marriage, 10 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Date, How to measure your cost per wear for clothes…

– Inspirational stories include stories of individuals breaking barriers, speaking up, living authentic lives. We also have interviews sections where we question our subjects on their occupations or businesses, financial planning and thoughts on women issues.

We are also developing bite-sized financial online courses and looking at holding workshops for financial education every two months.

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What kind of feedback did you get for The New Savvy so far?

Over the years, my female friends have approached me to share with them on how to invest, how to open a securities account, which loan makes sense, the difference between a bond and a bond fund. Truth be told, even as someone trained in Finance, I don’t want to read yet another stock picks or technical analysis.

As a woman, I want to know how smart financial management can impact my life and how relevant it is to my needs. I want something I can relate to, something that can inspire and motivate me.

That’s what The New Savvy has been to many women. I’ve met many strangers at different events who told me that they read and LOVE The New Savvy. Many women wrote to me, sharing with me their lives and financial situations. Most women I knew always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating. So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances.

Every of this feedback and sharing is precious to me as they are my motivation when I am thinking of giving up. I hope to keep empowering women financially.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry especially from companies?

To be honest, I don’t believe there is a competitor for me. The New Savvy is a women-focused financial website – a cross between a women publication and a financial blog. There is no one else doing this unless you consider women or finance publications/websites as competition. Even then, our offerings are different.

Second, I don’t view anyone as competition or believe in competing. We can all co-exist and improve together. Ultimately, all of us wants to provide a service that benefits the users. The more, the merrier!

My strategy, from day one, has always been: To provide value, focus on users’ needs, learn and keep improving.

What can you tell us about the industry?

I don’t think The New Savvy falls squarely into ONE industry. We are a mixture of new media, finance, publishing, education, advertising and soon, events.

I guess the one overarching theme is that you have to keep growing your audience. The audience is king. If you want advertising revenue, companies still prefer the bigger audience to smaller ones. But I always try to convince them that The New Savvy taps into a niche, hard to reach audience – which I believe is valuable in itself.

Second, if you are talking about new media, you still need to focus on valuable content and insights. The New Savvy doesn’t do trending topics as we feel that there are others that do it better. We focus on our expertise: finance, women, and empowerment.

The only true insights I can share is…I find that the other site owners to be really welcoming and friendly. I’m friends with some finance websites owners, and we motivate each other to be better. We discuss topics and even collaborate. Even if it’s business, I don’t think we focus on making money and ousting each other. All of us started to help others be financially savvy.

I am friends with other women-focused websites owners, and likewise, they are smart women who want to do good. We try to work together and learn from each other.

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What is the future of the industry?

The future of new media, to me, is endless. In today’s era, every one can be and IS already a publisher.

People are increasingly consuming content through their devices such as laptops, iPads and the biggest growth area, mobile phones. We are slowly moving away from print (newspaper, magazines), and while I think that’s a big pity, it’s happening.

In fact, most of us consume content from Facebook. We used to go into the browser and go directly to websites. Now, we see what is shared by our friends.

To stay relevant, you need to produce content that is mobile-friendly.

Similarly, advertising dollar is going to move more into mobile space. There are 2 questions that we have to answer – 1) how do we ensure ethical advertising and placements? 2) How do we present these advertisements in a way that’s most pleasing to our readers?

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

I don’t dwell on unpleasant things. My mind is inundated with things to do, tasks to complete and I’m constantly thinking on how to improve The New Savvy. I don’t have the time to think of unhappy incidents or disappointments.

I just can’t afford it; I don’t allow myself to be mired in unconstructive thoughts.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

As opposed to …where? United States? United Kingdom? Even in Asia, I don’t think it’s parallel for each country. I believe being an entrepreneur in Singapore is very different than being one in Malaysia or Indonesia.

I can only speak about being based in Singapore – there are definite advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages include recent support from government and corporations, stable business environment, structured and efficient. Singapore is a pleasant and easy place to start a business.

On the flip side, I find that Singapore still lacks an entrepreneurial environment and spirit as we are very comfortable. Singapore is also a small market compared to the other Asian cities.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Again, depending on your definition on Western.

I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between Asian or Western entrepreneurship. For me, it’s more of culture and market needs.

For example, United States is a big market and is mostly domestic driven. So is China and Indonesia. These are the most populous countries, and you are talking about big numbers. Mostly, if you develop a product, you can cater it to most of the country. A bank account can work for most of the cities in those countries.

In contrast, Singapore is a smaller market, so most businesses have the ambitions to expand to the region. But each country are different – they have different needs, different products, and different cultures. So that’s our big challenge.

Going back to Western vs. Asian entrepreneurship, I think the biggest differences for me is; I personally feel that we Asians have to learn to embrace failure more. There is still a stigma to failure here, and maybe, that’s stopping people from stepping out.

We did an article on The Worst And Best Countries To Be Female Entrepreneurs.

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What is your definition of success?

I define success loosely in 3 areas – personal, interpersonal and financial.
Personal – to live authentically and lead a balanced life.
Interpersonal – relationships are very important to me so I always ask myself, if I am giving enough to my loved ones and how I can help others.
Financial – Being financially successful to me is having the choice and security to live the life I seek meaning in. And by extension, giving the people I love the lives they desire.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

There are a few reasons –
I couldn’t ignore the desire to do this. I’ve wanted to do it since 2010. It’s an itch that can’t be ignored.
I’ve always wanted to help people and finance is the best way I know how to. Women and children are my pet causes.
I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives. This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible, I am happier than before.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

A clear focus and direction on what you want to achieve. A detailed plan on how you are going to achieve those goals. Focus on important objectives instead of glorified achievements. Don’t compare yourself with others. Only do it to improve your offering.

Be very tight on finances, spend lesser than you budgeted because you always need more money.

Sometimes, you also have to depend on timing and luck.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Have resilience and grit to keep going when the world crashes. Always be humble and be willing to learn. Receive criticisms openly, constantly improve and pivot.

Don’t dwell on unconstructive thoughts or wallow in self-pity. Exercise often and take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun!

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Connect

Website: http://thenewsavvy.com/anna-haotanto/
LinkedIn:  https://sg.linkedin.com/in/annahaotanto
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annahaotanto/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annahaotanto/

Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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