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Sunday, 14 February 2010

Be bold but agile, just like the Tiger

Learn from the predator before going on the prowl for stocks

By Lorna Tan, Senior Correspondent

The Tiger year that starts today can be a double-edged sword for investors: For all the optimism, power and determination it symbolises, there is also a tinge of fear.
 
Investors have plenty to learn from both the animal's attributes and how they can enhance investment styles before embarking on the new year.

Financial experts note that tigers often live dangerously but are admired for their bravery and courage. Their patience, agility and ability to take advantage of tough situations are handy qualities as well.

Mr Vasu Menon, OCBC Bank's vice- president of wealth management Singapore, said: 'For investors with strong pockets and brave hearts, the Tiger year may prove to be a rewarding experience provided they have the courage to embrace risk and buy into markets gradually during sharp pullbacks and periods of turbulence.'

Here are some of the desirable attributes of the tiger:

Mentally and physically powerful. Tigers have a strong mindset and are physically powerful. Experts believe that investors who trade shares should also possess these attributes.

'This is true especially when the market is in a bear phase. You need mental strength to make the decision to go against the fear of investing in bear markets,' said Mr Ben Fok, chief executive of Grandtag Financial Consultancy.

It is also important to keep healthy through a disciplined lifestyle of balanced diet and exercise. Doing so will help investors maintain their composure in times of market stress, too.

Agility. Unlike last year when the stock markets rallied due to the concerted efforts of central banks, excess liquidity and low interest rates, this year will be marked by bouts of market volatility.

During such times, investors can learn from the tiger to 'prey at the right opportunity' and enter the market during a correction, said Mr Albert Lam, investment director of IPP Financial Advisers.

Just as the nimble-footed tiger has the ability and willingness to take advantage of any situation, volatile and uncertain times can also translate to good trading and investment opportunities, added Mr Menon.

Short-term investors may want to buy on weakness and sell on strength. So if you achieve a gain of 10 per cent to 20 per cent, you may want to sell and enter the market again during another pullback.

Boldness. A tiger will wait for the precise moment before pouncing on its prey. It knows it may get hurt in the attack but it takes the calculated risk.

In the same vein, if an investor has done his research and is making an informed investment decision, he should be bold enough to invest and not do so half-heartedly.

Investors often understand the product or strategy well but still hesitate to invest. 'We tell our clients if you don't understand then don't invest, but if you understand the product well then, you should invest,' said Mr Fok.

For example, when the markets were down early last year, investors knew it was the best time to invest more, but many were hesitant and did not commit to any investment. Worse still, some panicked and pulled out their investments.

'Some clients were investing on a monthly basis, and during the first half of last year they stopped investing completely,' recalled Mr Fok.

'Investors understand the concept of dollar-cost averaging, that the best time to buy is when markets are down, but they choose to stay on the sidelines perhaps because they couldn't overcome their fears.'

Independent. Tigers usually prowl individually and make decisions independently. Once they identify a target, they typically pursue it alone.

Likewise, Mr Lam encourages investors to make the effort to upgrade their knowledge by understanding the investments they are buying. This will complement the advice from financial advisers.

Mr Fok warned that investors who follow blindly the 'noises' in the market, without first doing their own research may make the wrong investments.

Courage. Tigers are brave animals even in situations, which are not to their advantage. And when they attack, they zoom in for the kill. Often, they flourish under power and attention and strive to take advantage of the circumstances they are in.

Courage is an important element when it comes to investing but it does not mean grabbing every opportunity that comes along.

Mr Lam suggests that investors hone their ability to take risk as well as their need to take it. That will allow them to invest in assets that are commensurate with the level of risk they can live with.

Graciousness. Even though tigers are portrayed as fierce animals, they can be capable of kindness, particularly when they take on the role of a protector.

Likewise, investors should not be thinking about how to make money all the time, said Mr Fok. 'They should also learn to cushion their losses and ensure they have emergency cash for use in times of need.'

Increasingly, individuals are finding it desirable to give back to society as a way to lead a more meaningful life. This is because the happiness generated from the continual pursuit of acquiring more material goods is often short-lived.

True contentment and meaning in life comes from being able to make a positive difference to issues that you feel passionately about. These can include the needs of a group of people or issues like global warming, poverty and ageing.

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