fund-industry-should-return-to-basics-says-cheah

Fund industry should return to basics, says Cheah

Cheah Cheng Hye, chief investment officer and chairman of fund management firm Value Partners, received FinanceAsia's Capital Markets Person of the Year Award at our awards dinner on January 24. This is his acceptance speech.
It is a great honour to receive this award from FinanceAsia, a well-established and highly reputable publication. I hope this honour doesnÆt go to my head, for in my job, the key to success is to stay humble. In my profession as a fund manager, the killer disease is ego.

ItÆs very clear to me that whatever professional success I have enjoyed is due not only to my efforts, but also the help of many people, including colleagues and family.

And there is the luck factor. I recognise that I and my firm, Value Partners, have been just plain lucky to be in the right place at the right time; like so many people I know, we grew up with the Asian economic miracle and gained confidence with the Chinese economic miracle.

If you ask what I am thinking about these days, one thing I can say is that I am concerned about a political backlash against our industry. The products and services provided by the worldÆs financial services industry have served society well û but even good things can be carried to excess. Here I would just mention a few points:

* In America, irresponsible lending of societyÆs savings, such that people who couldnÆt afford homes ended up buying one anyway, hurting the stability of the entire financial system;

* Globally, huge imbalances, partly involving the use of the savings of the Chinese people to finance the American consumer, allowing the American consumer to enjoy an unrealistically high standard of living while creating unacceptable pollution, among other problems, on the Chinese mainland as every effort is made to produce goods at low cost for shipment across the Pacific;

* A financial system serviced by people whose behaviour tends to produce dangerous bubbles;

* Unhealthy social trends, as the best and brightest people are attracted to join the financial services sector, depriving other sectors, including the civil service, of the best talent. Social priorities can get badly distorted.

I think we in the industry have to go back to old-fashioned values. Here I am talking about the basic values that I learnt when I first entered this industry û integrity, prudence, putting clientsÆ interest first, and carrying out intensive fundamental research before investing money or recommending things to our clients.

Perhaps the financial industry merely reflects the society that it serves. But now, I have this feeling that the communities that we serve, and the political leaders they elect, have some very serious questions about what kind of job we are doing. We need to do some soul-searching. Thank you very much indeed.
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