5 Questions With…Chong Ser Jing, Co-Founder & Portfolio Manager Of The Compounder Fund

Chong Ser Jing knows a lot about investing. A former full-timer writer and analyst at The Motley Fool Singapore, a stock-centric website that previously had a strong presence in Singapore, Ser Jing and his colleague Jeremy Chia at The Motley Fool Singapore went on to start their own investment blog – The Good Investor – after the closure of The Motley Fool Singapore. Similar to The Motley Fool Singapore, The Good Investor has proven to be a popular hit among investors in Singapore.

Due to the investment articles that he writes, Ser Jing is well-known in Singapore’s investment space. However, fewer people know that Ser Jing and Jeremy also started their own investment fund for accredited investors in Singapore called Compounder Fund. This makes them somewhat unique because while many fund managers are usually employed by financial institutions, Ser Jing is not just a fund manager, but can also be thought of as an entrepreneur.  

In this edition of 5 Questions With…, we talk to Ser Jing on how it’s being responsible for investing on behalf of other investors, how he got started in this extremely competitive industry, and how his daily routine is like as a fund manager.

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Timothy Ho (Timothy): Many people are always curious about how it’s like being a fund manager. How much time do you spend analysing stocks before investing in them? Also, how are the hours like working as a fund manager, and when you meet your clients, is it similar to what we see in The Wolf of Wall Street?

Chong Ser Jing (Ser Jing): The time I spend to analyse a company before I make an investment decision on its shares varies widely. It can be a few days to a few months, depending on the complexity of the business and how much prior-knowledge I already have about the type of business that the company is in. In fact, even for the ones where I can make a decision in only a few days, it’s because of the knowledge I’ve accumulated through all the years I’ve been investing. This is one of the beautiful things about long-term investing– the compounding of knowledge.

A regular day for me involves a short meditation session, a quick workout, and a lot of reading and writing (the writing is for the investment theses for the companies Compounder Fund holds, or for The Good Investors). Interspersed throughout a typical week are coffees/meals with friends, family, and prospective/current investors of my fund.

I’ve never watched The Wolf of Wall Street (I don’t enjoy movies about conmen deriving joy from conning people), but I think you’re probably referring to meetings with investors over expensive drinks and fancy dinners. No, my meetings with investors are the entire opposite! We hold a lot of video-calls. For in-person meetings, it’s typically over a quiet coffee. During the meetings, Jeremy (my co-founder) and I spend time sharing our mission for the fund – why we built it, and what we want to accomplish. We also spend time sharing exactly how the fund invests, and understanding the investor as a person. We do so to increase the odds that the investors we do take on are well-aligned with what we aim to accomplish for the fund. Investing is one of my passions and I consider it a hobby I love deeply. I invest for the intellectual challenge, and simply because I can help improve the financial health of others. My hours involved in investing in a day are long, but not because I’m glued to the trading screen – I don’t check prices often. It’s long because my mind is constantly thinking about investing-related topics, and about what makes certain companies tick.

I also enjoy reading books and I often read books that are closely related to my professional work as a fund manager – is that considered work, or is that enjoyment? I find that to be enjoyment! But if someone thinks of it as work, then they can add those long reading hours to my “working” hours too!

Timothy: Most funds are usually created and operated by financial institutions. This is also because as a financial institution, it’s easier to attract investors. How did you manage to get the investors needed when you first start this fund?

Ser Jing: Jeremy and I are incredibly blessed. We had set a modest target for ourselves when Compounder Fund did its first-ever fund-raising, and we exceeded the target by 3x!

The early investors in the fund came from four groups: Family; friends; members of The Motley Fool Singapore’s investment newsletter services; and individuals who heard about us through word of mouth.

Many people helped us along the way and we’re grateful for their tremendous support. Jeremy and I are also thankful that we’ve had exposure to the investing community in Singapore due to our work with Fool Singapore in the past.

Timothy: Share with us a couple of common misconceptions that you think people have about how it’s like being a fund manager?

Ser Jing: I can think of 2.

Firstly, that I have to stay up late at night monitoring the US markets since my fund has US-listed shares. I don’t monitor the markets at all. Because we’re long-term investors that aim to find great companies and hold their shares for the long run, I spend my time thinking about business developments and the quality of a company’s management teams. I can do these things during the day so there’s no need for me to stay up late at night monitoring the markets.

Secondly, that I have to know about political developments and the state of the global economy. I don’t spend any time at all thinking about such things because I know that I don’t know these issues well, and that they don’t matter at all for the way I invest. I’m just interested in finding great companies, so that’s where I focus my knowledge-gathering on.

Tim: What are 2 investment books (only!) that you think anyone who wants to get started on investing needs to read?

Ser Jing: The first is“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. This is a book on behavioural psychology, which is a field of study on how our minds often engage in non-rational behavior. I believe that having the right behaviour while investing in stocks is far more important than knowing how to analyse a company. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” helps us to understand how our minds can trip us up and cause us to exhibit bad investing behaviour.

Book 2: The second book is “One Up on Wall Street” by Peter Lynch. Lynch is one of my investing heroes and the book is about his experience running the Fidelity Magellan Fund during his tenure (1977-1990). It’s a fantastic book on how one of the most successful fund managers of all time did it, how he analyses companies, what he pays attention to, and most importantly, the investing behaviours he exhibited.

Tim: Many finance undergraduates that I talk to always dream about wanting to be a fund manager. What is 1 career advice that you would share with these students who aspire to be a fund manager when they grow up?

Ser Jing: There are many, many different ways to profit in the financial markets. Find out what works for you. And don’t try to be a version of somebody else – just be yourself. And lastly, do it because you genuinely enjoy it and can help others, and not for selfish monetary reasons – life will be so much more meaningful and fulfilling this way.

And lastly, do it because you genuinely enjoy it and can help others, and not for selfish monetary reasons – life will be so much more meaningful and fulfilling this way.

Chong Ser Jing

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