Friday, March 25, 2022

Thoughts #27: Scams and Counterparty Risks

Human civilization has progressed so far that we sometimes give a lot of the benefit of the doubt to be trusting. We buy bottled water, packaged food trusting it is all good. We buy things off the internet like nobody's business today, trusting that our purchased goods will arrive at our doorsteps tomorrow or at worst, in a few days. 

It was not always like this. We have become too trusting and there are scammers out there who are getting really good at scamming in this unique era of ours. Scammers existed throughout history and we simply must always be vigilant. Our parents and older friends and relatives are also usually more vulnerable.

This post is a reminder that sometimes the most important risk is simply the other party or platform across the table. It could also be people we are supposedly working together with. If we have a counterparty who is helping to transact, can we trust him or her? Are we using a reputable broker? Is the Bitcoin exchange setup certified by the MAS? Can we trust the property agent, or the supposed seller/owner of the property? These are simple things that we should make sure that we do not overlook. 

Scams are also everywhere. Some are easy to spot but others may not be so. Bernie Madoff structured his Ponzi Scheme for almost 40 years and no one found out because he was so good at covering his tracks. Jho Low pulled off the 1MDB by registering similar sounding company names. Internet scams are everywhere, so it's better to just buy from the big platforms rather than to try to save 20%.

Needless to say, when we are buying big ticket items, like a luxury watch, a car, or a house, then it makes even more sense to be beware of scams and counterparty risks. We need to double and triple check that everything is in order. A good friend shared this with me some time back:

"When you are about the part with your money, think again and double check. Pay half or 1/3 first if necessary. Things will change when money has been transferred"

Caveat Emptor!

Friday, March 11, 2022

Books #17: Value Investors by Ronald Chan

I read an interesting book in 2021 simply called, "The Value Investors" by Ronald Chan. Well the full title is apparently - The Value Investors: Lessons from the World's Top Fund Managers

This book is unique as it introduced the many value investors that we may know but had never been featured prominently. People like Irving Kahn, Walter Schloss and a few Asian value investors including Singapore's own Teng Ngiek Leng, founder of Target Asset Management. 

There were many snippets and many lessons. I find the Asian lessons particularly useful as I could relate better.

Teng shared the importance to be flexible and be contrarian. This was echoed by Howard Marks who famously coined Second Level Thinking, which needs to be different but better. But Teng was able to connect that with his Asian experience, which brings the point home in a unique perspective for me. Another Asian value shared about the importance of knowledge and focus. We can only capture opportunities with knowledge which we have gained with a lot of experience and focus which is required because the opportunity will pass quickly in the markets. Otherwise, opportunities are simply easily missed.

One of the best quotes was from another Asian investor:

I believe that every human being has an artistic gene and in his or her lifetime can create at least one masterpiece that is globally competitive. However, to become a professional, you need to replicate your talent again and again if you are to have more than one masterpiece. It is the same as investing. You can be passionate about it but if you want to become a professional investor, you need to develop a system and have the talent to find good investments repeatedly.

Overall, a great read, do pick it up in 2022!