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Clive Tan, Executive Director of 8I Holdings

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“From teaching children to teaching investors how to find value, Clive Tan and 8I Holdings are finding growth in giving back”

What’s your story?
In 2008 the stock market bore a mass exodus during the collapse of Lehman Brothers, prompting the members to seize the opportunity and buy into an undervalued market. Whilst people around us were losing significant sums of money by selling their investments, both Ken and I, from the mastermind group, identified a strong need in the market for an education in value investing in Singapore – it was then that 8 Investment was born.

Personally, I started my career as a secondary school teacher, and during the time that I was teaching, I was also investing as much as I could in the stock market with my limited salary. It was then that I learnt and reaped the benefits of value investing. With that foundation, I left my education career after four years and started a childcare business with my wife from the profits of our equity investments and our savings.

During my time at the childcare business, I participated in an entrepreneurship programme where I met Ken Chee, my business partner and co-founder of 8I Holdings. Our mutual interest in value investing grew into a investing interest group aimed at realizing our shared fascination. We got together every month, either in my office or Ken’s office, to evaluate investment opportunities.

With minimal initial start-up capital, we’ve worked on all aspects of the the 8I Group. From designing training programs, marketing, finances, operations, training, business planning and recruiting to growing the business. This saw the company expand to a team of over 50 people, taking it from a start-up to being listed on the ASX as 8I Holdings Limited (8IH) in 2014.

For more information:
https://8iholdings.com/our-people/clive-tan/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/clivetan8i/

What excites you most about your industry?
Contrary to the common mass, I’m always excited about dynamism of the industry, no two days have been the same ever since we started 8I. We are always growing and learning about things and that has helped us in either making great business decisions or improving our knowledge. It’s common to underestimate humanity’s ability to innovate and achieve progress. Human beings are, by nature, very linear thinkers – we tend to think in a direct cause-and-effect way – and miss the potential for trends to bring about exponential change. In 8I, we embrace changes and aim to empower our people with that change. Moving forward, there will be more disruptions in all aspects of business and to be part of that empowerment, excites me the most.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was originally born in Malaysia but was raised and educated in Singapore. 8I started from Singapore but has ventured into Malaysia and now Asia Pacific. A big portion of my time is dedicated in growing and enhancing our business operations in the Asia Pacific region. This is the natural market that we focus on, particularly for our private investment arm. From a macro view, the Asia Pacific region still comprises the majority of the population of the world, a region in which many are still living below an acceptable standard of living. Many of them, both businesses and people, are hungry and driven, especially in developing countries, so they have enormous growth potential.

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Although I am based in Singapore, our current business and investment interests (both private and public) spans across the Asia Pacific region, including Malaysia, Australia, Japan, India, China, Taiwan and Thailand, and we continue to adopt an Asia-centric directive in growing our business.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It has got to be Singapore because this is where 8I was born and also a country that I have regarded as my home. Singapore has consistently been the ranked the top country to do business in given its developed business infrastructure in terms of finance, investment, governments and the likes, as well as its business buoyancy and large talent pool. It’s also strategic as a gateway to the South East Asian markets that are booming and developing. It’s only natural to be in Singapore where the best of east meets the best of west.

On a personal level, as much as I am excited about the dynamism of our industry, I still find comfort in indulging in the familiarity and certainty that Singapore gives me and that has helped me stay rooted to cope with all the changes happening around.

Apart from Singapore, I think it would be any of the Australian cities, such as Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne, especially having spent a short stint during my University days in an exchange programme there. I think Australia has an enviable quality of life, educated professionals and a good legal framework for businesses, which is quite similar to Singapore. This is also one of the reasons why 8I is listed on the ASX.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice that I have received personally is “stay ahead of the curve”

This encourages me to always look and work forward, despite the mistakes that we have made. Life is not a linear progressive chart upwards, there are bound to be ups and downs along the way. But in spite of concentrating on the hurdles and fluctuations, we should focus on the long-term trend moving forward and upwards.

Who inspires you?
Warren Buffett – he inspires me for his investing acumen and for what he has created with Charlie Munger in Berkshire Hathaway. As a company, we are especially inspired by Berkshire Hathaway because they took on a much more active role in terms of private investments, as well as how they structure their deal making. We also look at how they run their businesses, the letters to shareholders by Buffett, the values he advocates, and adopt those practices which we think are relevant to our company

In Asia, I also personally look up to Li Ka-Shing. His energy in every investment and business never cease to amaze me. I also have great respect for his business acumen in a variety of fields.

What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
I have recently learned about China’s history (which is probably very basic at this stage)on how the different dynasties and empires rise and fall and that fascinates me. History repeats itself in different shapes and forms and I am still blown away by great strategists like Sun Tzu, whose ideologies and strategies still remain very much relevant in this day and age.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe you are what you choose to be so to be honest, I wouldn’t choose to do anything differently. Without those experiences that resulted from my choices, it would be hard for me to internalize the life lessons that come with any decisions made.

But taking into accord the lessons that I have learned, I believe I could do a much better job in people management, of which I am still learning how to manage it better every single day. For example, looking back, there are instances where I realised I could have better managed the expectations of partners as well as team members in terms of their growth and future plans. Constant alignment to ensure that we are on the same page will facilitate fulfilment for all parties.

How do you unwind?
When I am not in 8I or looking at investments, I like to treat my body to either a good workout such as cycling or hiking or to a nice massage, and treat my mind via leisure reading.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It most probably has to be Phuket, Thailand due to it’s proximity to Singapore. Phuket is close enough allow people to catch a quick breather and to recharge ourselves with island life.

If Australia is considered as an Asian destination, it would be Melbourne given the quality of life and the similarity it has with Singapore as well.

Everyone in business should read this book:
How to be Rich by J Paul Getty.

Shameless plug for your business:
8I is the ultimate value investor that invests in the value of people, knowledge and businesses, and developing those values to their greatest potential is what we do best. We always aim to inspire people with our knowledge, experiences and resources when we believe in their value, and that has so far been rewarding for both ourselves and all of our investments.

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For more information, visit https://8iholdings.com

How can people connect with you?
I love connecting with people at our our 8I events. Although I have taken on more responsibilities since 8I got listed, I still love to give workshops and classes personally as often as I can. You can also connect with me via LinkedIn or follow me and 8I Holdings on Facebook. Otherwise, you can call our office at +65 6225 8480 or email [email protected] and my colleague will direct your email to me.

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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