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Hong Kong's 'young stock market whizz'
Publication Date : 17-09-2012
Standing at a gangly 1.8m, Simon Siu Fai looks like a typical undergraduate who enjoys playing basketball and fiddling around on his computer.
But it is not computer games that he is playing as his fingers flash across the keyboard.
The 24-year-old is managing his family's money on the Hong Kong stock exchange - to the tune of HK$1 million (US$129,000).
Asked how he feels about doing that, he says with a shrug: "People feel that it is exciting, like gambling. But if you follow strict rules on how one should trade, investment is actually very boring."
Not quite the kind of answer one expects from a "young stock market whizz", as Siu has been called since he triumphed over 1,000 other university students in an investment contest in March. It won him HK$13,000 in prize money as well as accolades in this city that runs on the adrenalin of moneymaking and deal-cutting.
Siu, who studied financial engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, used software he had developed to calculate market trends and time trades during the competition.
The top 10 finalists were each allocated HK$20,000 and given two months to grow that money. Siu finished at the top when he increased that sum to HK$32,624.
He's had plenty of practice at investing.
He was only 13 and studying in Fuhua Secondary in Singapore - where his parents had sent him to get a bilingual education - when he began reading up on investment, his interest piqued by the Robert Kiyosaki bestseller, "Rich Dad Poor Dad".
At 16, he opened an account on Fundsupermart.com, an online trading platform, with his mother's help as he was underage.
He started with S$20,000 from his parents - Dad is an engineer and Mum owns a trading company. He doubled it to S$40,000 by the time he was in Jurong Junior College, but the 2007 financial crisis left him with just S$10,000.
After his JC studies, he returned to Hong Kong but did not stop investing. Today, that pool is worth HK$1 million.
The lesson he has taken away from his early setbacks is a simple one.
"Always follow the trend. It doesn't matter if you're not ahead but you must be in the right direction," he says.
"And if it's not big enough, don't go in. If you go in, hoping it will go in the direction you want it to, that's gambling, not investing."
It harks back to his basic philosophy about investing: that it's a mathematical puzzle that can be solved using a formula based on historical performance data of stocks and market trends.
This underpins the computer software he designed as part of his university thesis, and which he monitors every day to analyse the market.
His dream is to perfect it so that one day, he can be a Warren Buffett reaping the fruit of his investments.
He is not interested in starting and managing profitable companies and becoming a business tycoon like Li Ka Shing, and has turned down job offers since he graduated in June, preferring to focus on his investments in a study room at his family's apartment in Lantau, and getting a master's degree in finance.
"I don't want to work at a job until I retire. I want to have the time and financial freedom to do what I like. I want to give something to society."
And that "something" is to start a social enterprise, a business with a heart.
His idea is to create what he calls "wealth management classes" aimed at students between the ages of 11 and 16.
"Many parents know how to invest, but they don't teach their children how to," he explains.
Some may wonder if such classes will end up teaching impressionable teenagers the wrong values and to be fixated on money.
It cuts both ways, says Siu, who points to the trend of bankruptcy among young working adults who overspend and max out their credit cards because they are ignorant about managing money.
The classes will teach young people "about the importance of saving and investments", he says, as well as an understanding of money flows and the role of governments and banks.
He intends to start wealth management classes after completing his master's programme next year. Such classes are already being taught in Taiwan.
"We are a major financial centre. We should be better at this."
US$1 = HK7.75