Ow Tai Zhi is the Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer at AutoWealth Singapore, which provides an investment platform for investors in Asia to achieve low-cost stable market returns. Tai Zhi shares on on his entrepreneurial journey and also how AutoWealth can help to address the pain points of relatively high upfront and recurring fees of traditional unit trusts.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am the Chief Executive Officer of AutoWealth, a digital financial advisor that help retail and institutional investors achieve better investment returns in a cost-efficient and hassle-free way. Prior to AutoWealth, I spent the last ten years working for Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, hedge funds and family investment funds. Besides my role at AutoWealth, I am also appointed to the SAFRA Investment Committee which manages over US$100 million of assets.
What is your vision at the outset?
AutoWealth’s vision is to bring good investing to the masses.
For a very long time, we saw people around us failing to achieve their financial goals due to inadequate financial planning and/or the lack of good low-cost investment offerings. The traditional dominant way to invest through mutual funds (also known as unit trusts) typically comes with excessive sales charges, annual management fees and other hidden charges that adds to about 2% per annum on average. Well-established research by Standard & Poor’s Dow Jones analysing more than 15 years of data concludes that 80% to 90% of mutual funds consistently underperformed their respective market benchmarks over the short, medium and long run after factoring the excessive fees charged by these mutual funds.
AutoWealth was established in 2015 to address these pain points.
What is your business venture about?
AutoWealth’s value proposition is to deliver better investment returns in a cost-efficient and hassle-free way. Through the AutoWealth platform (www.autowealth.sg), users can achieve their financial goals in 4 simple steps.
First, users tell AutoWealth information about themselves through a concise online questionnaire. Secondly, users review their profile and the recommended investment portfolio that AutoWealth’s high-tech algorithm has tailored for them. Thirdly, users open an account with AutoWealth at their convenience. Lastly, AutoWealth takes care of all the execution hassle while users can access their investment portfolio anywhere anytime 24/7 to watch their investments grow over time.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Emerging popularity of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as a low-cost investment instrument and advancement of technological solutions for the financial industry in the late 2000s open the door to achieving better returns in a cost-efficient and hassle-free way. ETFs charge a relatively small management fee, with some as low as 0.04% per annum! Technology & innovations in the financial advisory & investment processes further eliminate costly financial intermediaries like salespeople, analysts & fund managers.
In 2015, our team creatively combine the two emerging trends to establish the AutoWealth platform.
What is unique about your business?
AutoWealth is able to deliver significantly better returns than most traditional mutual funds and charge a fee as low as ¼ that of investing in a typical mutual fund. We believe our unique selling points appeal strongly to retail and institutional investors.
Who do you sell to?
For as low as S$3,000, AutoWealth can construct a robust investment portfolio that diversifies across asset classes, across major geographical regions in the world and across all industries with exposures to over 5,000 stocks and over 500 bonds. This means retail investors can now look forward to better investment returns, lower cost and a hassle-free experience. We have also received interest from institutional investors, who found our value proposition appealing.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
AutoWealth have consistently delivered what it promises. We listen attentively to clients’ needs and constantly innovate to delight them. It is this dedication and track record that motivate clients to continue investing with and to refer their family and friends to AutoWealth.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Always call upon your entrepreneurial spirit when the going gets tough. It is common to live and breathe setbacks along the entrepreneurial journey!
What’s next for you and for AutoWealth?
AutoWealth is very excited, having received in-principle approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for a financial advisor license. We will be rolling out our soft launch soon with attractive perks so please like our Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/autowealthsg/) to stay updated!
Hock Lai has 17 years of experience in the financial sector, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
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