Dear Mr Tan,
Many of our readers and those who have invested in structured products are appreciative of your help in recent weeks but unfortunately quite a lot of them do not understand english and have not been able to act promptly.
In order for our readers to understand what actions they should be taking and to understand you as a person better, would you be able to grant us an exclusive interview.
On the current structured products saga
1. Congratulations Mr Tan, we understand from your blog that your granddaughter was born at 6pm on 11 October when you were speaking at the Speaker's Corner. You've said you'll like to nickname her "Speaker". Out of curiousity, is her chinese name going to be the Fang Lin (chinese for Hong Lim?)
Reply: My grand daughter's name is Nadya Zagarodnova. My son-in-law comes from Russia and now works in Nanyang Technological University. I like to give her the nickname of "Speaker" but this is between her and me. She has a Chinese name, but it is not Fang Lin.
2. Many of our readers only know you as the former CEO of NTUC Income. Could you share with us your recent work related engagements? What have you been involved in lately aside from helping distressed investors?
Reply: I am now a consultant to two insurance companies, one in Singapore and another in Indonesia. I also teach Risk Management & Insurance at Singapore Management University. I spend time to write a blog www.tankinlian.blogspot.com to educate the public about financial planning and insurance.
3. You are well known in the insurance industry and have always been giving consumers insurance advice. When did you start giving financial advice as well? Do you take an interest in consumer finance? Where do you get your financial information from?
Reply: I educate the general public about financial planning and insurance. I get my financial information through my own research, and the research of a few financial experts. I usually educate people about the basic tips on financial planning. This is general knowledge, but I am able to put them in a form that is easy for the public to understand.
4. What have you been doing for the investors in relation to this crisis? When did you start helping them? What made you do so?
Reply: I organise a Petition to ask the Singapore Government to investigate if there were any wrong doing or breach of the law by the financial institutions that created and marketed the structured products that has caused unexpected large losses to several thousand of risk adverse investors. The specific laws involved are the Financial Advisers Act (section 27), Securities and Futures Act (section 199) and the Trustees Act. Many investors said that they were misled by the advertisements, brochures and other materials and by the explanations and assurances given by the representatives of the financial institutions.
5. Although many Singaporeans were victimised by structured products, but there seems to be no one that would to take the leadership role in gathering fellow victims to take collective action, especially someone with a strong leadership background as yours. Do you see this as a problem with Singaporeans?
Reply: The proper people to provide the leadership should be the regulator, i.e. the Monetary Authority of Singapore, or the Consumer Association.
In the case of Hong Kong, the Monetary Authority has been pro-active in receiving the complaints of the retail investors and in investigating these complaints. This is a more satisfactory approach in addressing the concerns and complaints of the retail investors who have lose substantial amounts of their hard earned savings.
6. You're not an investor of the affected structured products. There are some who have queried your motivations and intentions for helping affected investors. They've also queried what you stand to gain from this. What is your response to these people?
Reply: I hope that more people can come forward to help other people who are weak and have suffered greatly from alleged misconduct by the financial institutions. Many of these investors felt strongly that they were "cheated" of their hard earned savings. I sympathise with their plight and help to articulate their anguish. I will also help them to find some redress. I have the assistance of a few other people who have come forward to help. Some are investors caught in these structured products. Others are non-investors but are willing to give their time to help the victims.
7. A year ago, you've started advising investors against structured products. Why so? How many structured product related emails do you receive in a day in the last one month?
Reply: I find these structured products to be unsatisfactory. The advertisements, marketing materials and prospectus are unsatisfactory. They are not transparent and cannot be understood by financial experts, like me. How can these products be approved to be sold to the general public in this form? As the risks cannot be clearly assessed and could lead to a loss of the entire principal, I strongly advised the general public to avoid these products. A few people have read my blog and took my advice. They now sent e-mails to thank me for saving them from making big losses of their savings.
8. What other products do you see to be at risk (eg. Dual currency deposits?)
Reply: I advise against Dual Currency Investments as well. I do not like products where the investors suffer the risk of large losses but are not given the benefit of large gains (as the major portion of the gains are taken by the financial institution). I find these products to be unfair to the investors. They are taken advatange of, due to their ignorance.
9. In your petition to MAS, you've requested for an independent inquiry to be set up. What results do you hope to achieve?
Reply: If there are wrong doings and breach of the regulations, e.g. misrepresentation, dishonesty or fraud, the authority can charge these alleged offenders to court. Alternatively, the alleged offenders can agree to give appropriate compensation to the victims who have suffered large financial losses due to the wrong doings.
10. What made you decide to organise a gathering at the Speaker's Corner? You plan to make weekly speeches for the next four Saturdays. What will you be talking about? Would you carry out the gathering differently from last Saturday considering many people were just clumped in groups, sharing about their grieviences but did not achieve the objective of taking collective action. Also, there were many elderly present who do not understand english. Do you plan to have a translator?
Reply: I feel it my responsibilty to meet with the people who signed the Petition to give them an update of the progress of the Petition. I also wanted them to have the chance to meet other investors who are in the same situation. This allows them to know each other and to discuss their collective response. They can keep in contact with the other investors in the future, until the issues are fully resolved.
I decided to hold weekly meetings at Speakers Corner to update the investors and allow them to meet with other investors in their sub-groups (according to the structured products or the distributors).
11. Besides setting up a new online petition to collect names of affected individuals, what are your other follow up plans?
Reply: I encourage the investors to visit the lawyer to prepare a statutory declaration. This will strengthen their case when they lodge he complaint against the financial institution or to the Financial Industry Dispute Resolution Center or FiDREC (www.fidrec.com.sg) Some investors want to engage a lawyer to take collective legal action against the distributor. I will help them to find a good lawyer. I hope that the dispute can be settled through other means, but legal recourse will be the last resort.
12. There were some political figures who appeared at your speech at the Speaker's Corner last Saturday. Did it worry you that they might capitalise on your gathering for their own political agenda?
Reply: I hope that the elected Members of Parliament will attend the future meeting at Speaker's Corner to meet their constituents, hear their anguish and help them to seek appropriate redress. As this is a public meeting, it is within their rights for anyone (including political figures) who are interested in the matter to attend, especially if they are investors who are affected by the failure of the structured products.
13. Are worried that you might become a political figure?
Reply: I think that there is nothing to be ashamed about being a political figure. I do not have any wish to be involved in politics at this time.
14. Do you have any political aspirations? Some investors and members of the public have been encouraging you would to run for our next Presidential elections. Would you consider running for President of Singapore?
Reply: My wife does not like me to run as President of Singapore. She thinks that it is a foolhardy idea. I have to respect her wishes.
15. Some of our colleagues have commented that you remind them of Mr Ngiam Tong Dow. You were seen to be a supporter of government policies when you were helming NTUC Income. However, ever since you've retired, you've adopted an active role in voicing the grieviences of common folk. How do you see this?
Reply: I support policies that are good for the long term interest of Singaporeans and speak against policies that, in my view, are bad for Singaporeans. While I was head of NTUC Income, I have to avoid being involved in social or political issues as they may have a negative impact on the business interests of NTUC Income. After retiring from NTUC Income, I do not have this constraint. I am honoured to be compared with Mr Ngiam Tong Dow, as I respect him greatly.
16. You seem to enjoy advising people. You've advised Singaporeans on a variety of things, ranging from the 3-day Diet that you've researched while you were at NTUC Income, to annuities, to insurance, to financial planning. Why so?
Reply: I like to share my knowledge and experience with the common people. I hope that they find my views to be useful to their lives, especially on their financial security. I like to educate the public about financial planning and insurance. I want them to make the right decision, so that they get good value for their savings, and are not given a poor deal.
17. What are your hobbies? You've created logic9 2 years ago and it was very popular then. Do you plan to create more of such games in future?
Reply: I will be publishing new books on Sudoku and Intelligence Quiz. I hope that people like them. I will also create simulation games on the internet to teach people about investing, financial trading and business strategy. I hope that people will find them to be educational, interesting and fun.
18. How many hours of sleep do you get? With so many committments, do you get to spend time with your family?
Reply: I have enough sleep each night. If not enough, I catch up during the weekends. I find time to spend with my family.
19. When did you start your blog? What are the most common questions that you've received? What is the weirdest question or comment you've received so far?
Reply: I started my blog 18 months ago. The cumulative visitors have now exceeded 500,000. It now receives 5,000 unique visitors a day. This is a temporary situation, due to the structured product crisis, Prior to the crisis, the average was 1,000 visitors a day. My blog is www.tankinlian.blogspot.com
20. You give people advise on financial planning. Do you mind sharing with us your personal investment portfolio? What do you invest in (stocks/commodities/bonds/fixed deposits)? What is your best investment so far? What was the worst?
Reply: I invest most of my money in shares and REITS. I believe that they will give the best return over the long term. So far, my share investments are showing a paper loss, but it is all right. I will keep them for 5, 10 or 20 years. The values will recover.
韩咏梅 Han Yong May
Digital Media Editor / Asscoiate Local News Editor
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10/12 - 10/19
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- Fall outside "vulnerable investors"
- Statutory declaration - Glenn Knight
- Lost the sense of bonding and togetherness
- Today: Man with a Mission
- TV news on MAS conference
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- Interview with Zaobao
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- MAS Media Release on Structured Products
- Meeting at Speaker's Corner 18 Oct, 6-7 pm
- Ray of light and hope
- Act with honour and integrity
- HKMA refers Lehman cases to regulator
- Dow Jones: Hong Kong banks will buy back mini-bond...
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- To the victims - be strong
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- Effort to help the victims
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- DBS to settle case by case: Rebecca Lee
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