Saturday, November 14, 2020

Singapore's problem is encouraging Lifelong learning for "Green" personalities

This week I did something unthinkable in my 20s - I switched universities just before completing a course specialization. 

As it turned out, I no longer wish to pursue my studies in Digital Marketing. The University of Illinois has a decent program on Coursera but the material was too macro and high-level for me. I just wanted to bring more readers to this blog and then figure out how to start a better social media campaign. To continue this agenda, I will continue by reading some technical texts on content marketing. As I dislike marketing and prefer Dr.Wealth to handle the bulk of it for me, I prefer to keep this kind of selling to a minimum.

EDHEC Business School, however, has a program that is just designed for my skill level in Investment Management Python. The program dives deep into financial programming and expects students to be proficient in programming. This program is designed to be just challenging enough for me. 

For a Dominant RED personality like me, I take charge of my learning and will jettison any project that no longer gives me any ROI. My current course allows me to develop insights and improve my web app with new features every day, so my product grows in functionality and I grow in developing market insights on local stocks. If you study under a MOOC under Coursera, you should be familiar with thousands of ambitious RED and super smart BLUE personalities hustling to get their scripts marked, many from India and Sri Lanka. 

Singapore's policy-making cannot about REDs unless it is to get REDs to create jobs - something we'd like to do because it gives us some minions to boss around. 

I think Singapore's lifelong learning problem deals with GREENs. The steady, warm and accepting citizens that are the majority in Singapore. How can you convince unambitious GREEN folks who are contented into becoming unhappy, discontented, or worried enough to sign up for a program. 

There are many dimensions to the problem that is not within my pay grade to solve :

a) The first problem is that the majority of human beings hate programming which is where the best paying jobs are at the moment. Some startup guys can even know when someone gives up on Computer Science - at the point recursion or pointers is being taught. During my JC days when computer science was an A level subject across all JCs, the dropout rate for the first three months of JC ( even in a top JC ) is about 50%. 

b) GREENs may take the easy way out even if they come from the right industry. You hardly hear of 40-something guys talk about Tensor Flow or Keras, but there's always a way to escape via project management, AGILE, Enterprise Architecture or Scrum qualifications. Stuff that does not involve copious amounts of mathematics that is in high demand today. Mickey Mouse bullshit that does not add value to the world today. 

c) The only time a GREEN gets desperate to upgrade is when he gets retrenched, then all the years to pick up foundations for harder skills are lost. Government struggles with this group because they cannot fit into the jobs available in the market at the moment. 

So here's the thing : If the government fails or sees it as something beyond their pay grade, the private sector picks up the slack. 

Here is one thing I know: My course has a very BLUE/RED dominance.  It is, after all, fairly rigorous for a fun weekend that could have been spent in a zoo. I know my constituency -  ambitious RED guys want more money to push their ambitious into the investment and business realm, they are here to improve their own investment models, not to pick a new one up from me. The analytical BLUE guys want the tools to secure their portfolio so they can sleep better or sound more intelligent in their analysis. 

RED wants FIRE to kick ass. BLUE wants FIRE so they can stop their asses from getting kicked by REDs in the office.

If I follow the industry, I think I can make myself 2x richer if I shift my focus to GREENs. Just water down the course and promise a tool to generate a portfolio at the press of a button. Just teach folks how to press the button, then triple the price and focus on legal disclaimers. Focus on motivation, creating a subjective feeling, and engender a ruinous desire for money. Any simple TA strategy will do, the important thing is that you feel good about yourself. 

I know - I can rent a Lambourgini and stop wearing bermuda on weekends replacing it with suspenders and a bow tie. My motto should have been "Shake Leg your way to Retirement". 

Does that sound familiar?

You know what prevents me? 

I'm not a saint, so it's not my conscience. 

What stops me is the fact that my community will then be full of GREENs Jonesing for stock tips every day without really develop the wisdom to disagree with me every now and then. 

It's not a community. It's a cult. It's the reason why you guys hate all these Youtube guru videos. 

If you think about it, what the fuck is the discipline of marketing all about?

Having slogged painfully at my Digital Marketing Certificate, I think that marketing is all about getting  data from GREENs over and over again using cookies, so you can fuck GREENs by making them unhappy and inadequate because they are too lazy to know any better. 

We know that the majority of humankind is bogged down by personal inertia, they are agreeable and naive, why don't we track their movements on the web and hit them when they are most vulnerable? 

Let's show them a sportscar and make them feel bad for not having one!

I actually think it started with Procter & Gamble, where I learnt how to be a loyal employee. How to make housewives envious so they buy detergent. Hence Soap Operas! 

Now bloody copywriters are telling me to tell the angry customer that the reason they fail is that they're not diligent in following my formula. I think this disclaimer works if the customer is GREEN, the argument that they are not diligent will almost be universally true. You did not do enough qualitative research or read 10 years of financial reports, that is why you lose money.

I can't do that because my customers are smart. They know that they may lose money. But their only guarantee is that their trainer is leveraged so he stands to lose more, so he has tried his best.

So, maybe instead of listening to a copywriter ( who probably imbibed the same drivel from the 1990s Internet Marketers ), maybe you can bet on the portfolio customers have built and try to make a living out of that.  


  1. Hi Chris,

    I am primarily a Yellow and a Red by secondary. Trying to find how I fit into this as a yellow?
    I am an avid investor myself and work in the IT industry too.
    Just reach a critical mass of 100K portfolio 2-3 months before my 32th birthday. Currently, going into 130K now. Once one hit the 100K mark. Everything seem to go faster!
    TBH, I think the green folks will one day realize that they have made a huge mistake in life by just choosing to believe that their job will give them all they need financially.

  2. I skipped yellow because yellow is a people person and will do quite well in sales and any interfacing role. Just avoid the drama that comes from being an extreme Yellow.
    I suspect in your case, the secondary color plays a more important role.

  3. Hi Chris

    I was a Blue analytical-as-hell person who would painstakingly download years of annual reports to update my excel spreadsheet for those STI counters I am tracking. Think ST, SGX, SPH, M1, Starhub etc. as well as the Ascendas, Capital, Frasers and Mapletree Reits. It was a fun exercise at best as my investment results turned out to be lacklustre. Honestly, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble by simply buying SPY, QQQ, 2800 or 3169.HK (can pick any time series over last 10 years). The voices to convert completely to US and HK markets are growing by the day.

    Let me ask you this question. Despite all the research efforts you have put in (quite admirable to use Python, R and programming tools), are you sure whatever STI portfolios you and your students have assembled can beat S&P or even HK over the last 1/3/5/10 years? One of your earlier blog posts mentioned the REDs would have bought and levered to the max, leaving the the diligent BLUEs in the dust and laughed at their analysis paralysis (I am just paraphrasing here).

    Not to break your rice bowl, but if results are tilted towards foreign markets across all time series, why should we attend investment classes that only focus on local markets? In fact, I would buy and DRIP into SPY or QQQ even at its all time high now because I know it will be at least 4x in 20 years (rule of 72) as an education fund for a new-born. Not much faith in our STI doing the same over next 5/10/20 years. My Kepcorp (averaged ~$8), Sembcorp (average ~$4), SPH (averaged ~$4) are still treading below water after a decade (heart pain whenever I think of the opportunity cost over the years)

    Btw, I am completing a Digital marketing program. Fascinating how all online activities are tracked by the Internet giants (UTM code, FB Pixel?) and they can deliver personalised curated advertising content to anyone. Seems like movies I watched growing up like Minority report, State of the enemy, Terminator are becoming more and more real by the day. The machines will rise and revolt one day!

  4. Additionally, It is well known that STI is a dividend not growth market. But US also has their own Dividend Aristocrat, Dividend King counters etc. XOM gives 10% yield (though that is suspect now), AT&T ~7% yield, Altria/British Tobacco ~8% yield etc. Even if you factor in 30% withholding tax, those stocks would deliver a net 5ish yield (not too shabby when compared against local banks and even some Reits). Plus these stocks have increased their dividends gradually over decades (compounding effect). The beauty is you get some amount of capital appreciation plus growing dividends at the same time ... so why don't explore those instead of Reits?

  5. Unknown,

    Singapore is currently one of the worst performing markets in SE Asia, so you are right regarding the possibility that the market performance of even an optimized local portfolio underperforming the US or HK markets.

    I don't teach individual investments. That's what my students do when they conduct research during my full day practice session. I teach a methodology and the use of a few online tools to build portfolios that have a risk-return profile that can eventually be leveraged to juice more income. It just happens that my dataset is Singapore data, hence the STI as my benchmark.

    If my students desire investing in the US or HK, they need to rinse and repeat the same methods taught to the US and HK dataset to cherry pick a portfolio that works within that jurisdiction, we are just able to back-test these markets very recently on The benchmarking should be done only then with those indices.

    I don't see a conflict if DRIPing into QQQ or SPY as being antithetical to my training, I would be careful of high PEs in the US and political risk in HK.

    That being said, I actually believe that folks underestimating the worst market in SE Asia is a good reason to pump more money into local markets. This I have done for the past year during the pandemic at x1.8 leverage.

    I also like the US dividends stocks you mentioned and might even put a position or two on them in 2021. ( I have a thing for PM and MO )

  6. Hi Chris, the EDHEC Business School course looks interesting. Do they provide historical fundamental data? Reliable fundamental data is pretty expensive for small investors. Even when I tried quantopian 2 years ago on US stocks, a simple EV/EBITDA backtest was rendered meaningless by data errors.

    For US dividend stocks, checkout KMI and WMB. Both provide a critical service (keeping the lights on), have a 7-8% yield (bef tax), which is covered by CFO at least 1.8X. Its a judgement call if oil prices or Biden affect their business.

    Would be good to be able to screen "payout ratio" (dividends as a percentage of recurring income or recurring CFO).

  7. The course provides fundamental data but it comes in CSV and XLS form. The data is very clean though. The algorithms work with dirty Yahoo Finance data. Part of the joy is repurposing the code for local market data.