Singapore fund manager Lai Yeu Huan, of Nikko Asset Management Asia, talks about his hunger for success, watching every calorie and the moral of The Shawshank Redemption.
Name: Lai Yeu Huan
Company and job title: Senior portfolio manager, Nikko Asset Management Asia
Previous company and job title: Associate director, Lion Global Investors.
How many years in the region: Ever since I was born, apart from three years studying in the UK.
What do you consider to be your home town? Johor Bahru in Malaysia. I was born there, but have spent most of my life in Singapore.
Educational background: Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science.
First job in the funds industry: At Lion Global Investors. I was an equities analyst covering the real estate sector.
What is the toughest challenge you’ve faced in your professional life and what made it so challenging?
My corner of Nikko Asset Management has seen a number of changes. I joined DBS Asset Management in 2008, which was acquired by Nikko in 2011. After that, there was the integration with our acquisition of Treasury Asia Asset Management in 2013. Periods of integration are challenging. There was a lot of business-as-usual work to handle, process and management changes, and clients and people to hold on to. The integration went well and we came out the stronger for it.
What achievement in your job are you most proud of?
I’m proud to be part of the small team managing our Singapore equity strategy, which has won multiple awards over the last year for our performance.
What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their career in the funds industry?
Be hungry. Start anywhere that you can. Get the CFA [chartered financial analyst] charter. Always give more than is expected of you. That’s how you build a reputation which will open doors for you.
If you could change one thing about the funds industry, what would it be? To see fund sales in Asia moving away from the sales charge and trailer fee model. And to see Asian investors allocating their savings to funds strategically, i.e. not for quick short-term gains.
What is your greatest ambition in life and why?
It comes back to family. To provide well and to raise my two girls well.
What’s the best investment you’ve made and why?
I was a sell-side analyst for five years before joining the funds industry. I consider those years to be my most formative. The hard work was probably the best investment I’ve ever made.
Tell us something about you that most people don’t know:
I count every calorie that I eat and burn, except on holidays. It’s helped me gain great control over how much I weigh.
Favourite country to visit for a holiday and why:
I love holidaying in South East Asia. It’s rich, diverse and authentic, and it’s my backyard. Bali and Yangon are my favourites so far
Favourite type of food and why:
South East Asian of course. The complexity of the cuisine is incredible, and the influences from cultures throughout Asia is mind-boggling.
Favourite book or film and why:
The Shawshank Redemption. It reminds us that anything can be achieved with determination and meticulous planning.
Your house is burning. Your family is safe. You have time to rescue one object. What would it be and why:
My hard disk. It has all my data inside, including my family photos.
©2016 funds global asia