Written by Tho Li Ming of theedgemalaysia.com
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 18:43
Passionate” is the word to describe how Nicholas Ng feels about work. During holidays, he takes time to visit companies that pique his interest. “I do it at my own expense. It’s a crazy thing to do but you’ll do it if you have the passion. By meeting people, I also get new information and new ideas,” he explains.
Ng spearheads the management of the MAAKL Al-Umran Fund, which won the Best Mixed Asset MYR Balanced Malaysia Islamic Fund Award at The Edge-Lipper Awards 2011. The fund, which seeks to produce medium- to long-term capital appreciation and income for investors, made 22.32% for the three-year period ended Dec 31, 2010.
Ng attributes the success of the fund to its core holdings. “We went for blended growth or value stocks and covered nine countries. The fund is skewed towards the larger-cap stocks but about 20% of the fund is tilted towards alpha stocks to gain higher returns. The fund has done well because our core holdings have done well even during bad times. In good times, they do well, while in bad times, they still outperform the market.”
The major contributions for the fund came from Tan Chong, IJM Land and Top Glove Corp.
“I bought Tan Chong five years ago at RM1.66 and it has made RM4.87. Top Glove was at RM1.81 at the end of 2008 and it is now RM4.90.”
An economics graduate from the University of Surrey, UK, Ng was interested in investing at an early age. “I was buying Hong Kong, Singapore and UK stocks when I was at university.”
He began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1985 and worked there for a year before realising that auditing was not his cup of tea. “I didn’t like stock taking although it did stand me in good stead later when I started evaluating companies to invest in.”
He then went into investment management, joining Hong Kong Bank Asset Management (formerly known as Wardley Investment Services Singapore Ltd) as an analyst.
By always going the extra mile, he quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior fund manager. “Those days, if you needed information on a listed company, you either went directly to them and asked for their annual reports, or used Extel cards. These cards summarised each listed company (380 in total) by giving brief data snapshots and were usually used in developed markets.”
“My audit training then came in handy as I was able to go through the companies’ annual reports and familiarise myself with their numbers. I wasn’t asked to do this and it was hard work but it gave me a much better footing. During meetings, I was able to contribute a fair bit as a junior fund manager, and this helped me become senior fund manager in less than three years, instead of the usual five to six years.”
After Wardley, he spent another two years at Merrill Lynch Mercury Asset Management (formerly known as Warburg Asset Management) in London before moving to the Singapore office as assistant director. In 1994, Ng returned to Malaysia to start Meridian Asset Management Sdn Bhd. Since then, Ng has developed what he calls an entrepreneurial approach to investing.
“I always tell my junior analysts that when they analyse a company [to invest in, they have] to think of themselves as running it and check whether it is a viable business model with attractive margins, and the available competition.”
To Ng, the best part about being a fund manager is meeting government officials and top industry personalities from different countries. The most rewarding aspect of his job still is finding a great investment.
After 25 years in the industry, Ng wishes to have more time, especially to manage his own personal investments.
“I was a momentum-driven investor when I was younger but over time, when you’re managing a lot more money, it’s difficult to use this approach. You find that you’re so bogged down with work and your clients’ portfolios take precedence over your own investments. What I tend to do now is find blue chips and lock them in instead of actively managing them.”
In the little time that he does have to himself, Ng enjoys travelling. “I like skiing and golfing, and have gone around the world to do both. On weekends, I meet with friends for drinks.”