Two top women in investment banking, CIMB Investment Bank Bhd CEO Datuk Kong Sooi Lin and Hong Leong Investment Bank Group CEO and managing director Lee Jim Leng, share their insights on investing and how women can build their wealth.

What do you think are the smartest financial strategies women can adopt?

Kong: There is no one-size-fits-all investment strategy, but perhaps the smartest principle is to only invest in something that you understand fully. As in all investments, discipline is the key to maximising gains and minimising losses.

However, there are available choices of investments from financial institutions which offers holistic financial planning solutions, including investment advisories, private banking services, and insurance solutions that women could leverage off to create guided and secured financial investment portfolios.

But “there is no such thing as a free lunch”, so women must be quick to recognise the potential risks associated with quick gain opportunities. Another popular adage, “never put all your eggs in one basket”, also rings true in everyday investment.

What was the best financial advice you got growing up?

Lee: The best advice I received from my dad was to inculcate the habit of saving. We need to save enough to make any form of investment. Buying a house requires equity as no bank will give us 100% financing. Investing in shares too needs capital.

The Chinese have a saying that we should always strive to achieve our first “pot of gold”, defined as the first substantially achievable amount of wealth in one’s life. We all have different perspectives of what our first “pot of gold” is. For some, it is owning your own home or the first RM10,000 in their savings. The list is endless.

So, if one can only make money with money, saving enough in order to make sound investments is the best advice I had as a child.

What are the principles that guide your financial/investment decisions?

Kong: Discipline, knowledge and understanding are the key principles in investment. Every woman must take ownership of her own financial planning. I am conscious of what my investment goals are and I ensure that I have a good understanding my own risk appetite.

Reading up on the available choices of investment opportunities for my risk appetite also helps to keep my investment exposure to acceptable limits, which I am comfortable with. Learning from astute and experienced investment professionals is also a good guide to making sound investments.

Lee: On asset allocation, my guiding principle is to plan your financial needs ahead. Know what your commitments are and set an investment plan that will help meet those financial commitments, while at the same time generate a better return against those constraints.

Lee Jim Leng. Photo: The Star/Chan Tak Kong

When is the best time for a woman to start building her wealth?

Kong: There is no better time to start building financial wealth than the moment a woman becomes gainfully employed. The younger they start, the better, so that they can make time work for them.

Women must learn to save and invest a portion of their disposable income first before spending, rather than spending first and saving the balance. This discipline will allow their nest egg to build up consistently, thus offering them opportunities to make more significant or sizeable investment for higher returns rather than small-sized investments which bears very much lower returns.

What are your views on property investment?

Kong: Investment in real estate is always a prudent choice and a likely starting point for most young investors. The primary safe strategy for real estate investment is buying in a good location, amongst other criteria such as buying from a reputable developer, and investing in a property supported by availability of good facilities, accessibility and transport amenities.

Positive real estate investment can generate significant capital gains over mid-term or be deployed as passive income generators for the later years.

Lee: Property investment if undertaken with the right discipline offers one of the best return on investment to investors across all segments. But like any investment, the caution is never to overinvest and overborrow.

One may have made a good investment in a choice property but could end up losing money due to the need to exit in times of emergency. Property should not be viewed as a short term investment strategy. There must be power to hold and await for capital appreciation.

Smart investing

It is never too early to learn about investing. These women executives share how they started their financial planning journey. Women need to learn to make guided financial decisions and refrain from impulse buying and emotional shopping. I’ve deposits in Principal Protected Investment instrument such as Amanah Saham Berhad and Tabung Haji. I’ve also, from time to time, placed my funds in riskier options like equities in Bursa Malaysia. – Nur Adlina Izuddin, 33, Corporate Communication Manager

It is important to be well informed. Financial seminars or talks are helpful. Understand our financial capability, market trend, what to buy and when is the right time to sell to maximise profit. I have invested in a residential property that will be completed this year. I plan to rent it out to cover my loan. Generally, property prices tend to increase overtime, but any form of investment comes with a risk. – Lim May Kwoon, 28, assistant manager

Raise women’s awareness that investing isn’t only men’s domain. Have seminars to boost women’s confidence in investing and overcome their fear of making wrong decisions. I bought my first home under the Rumahwip programme because I believe that it is safer to go for affordable properties and it’s easier to get financing. – Renee Chan, 30, senior finance executive

I am starting to learn about investing. I am working in the property development industry, so it is easier for me to get the first-hand information. I visit project launches to collect data, so it is easier for me to invest in properties than buy and sell shares. – Jessica Hon, 24, business development executive


This article is brought to you by Mah Sing. AirAsia and Mah Sing are the main partners of The Star’s WOW-Women do Wonders campaign, with SASA as co-sponsor.