How To Be A 1st Class Investor

Dr Ansgar Cheng shares his thoughts

How To Be A 1st Class Investor

It is hard to write about a person you have never met. There are some things about Dr Ansgar Cheng that are obvious: he is bright and successful. His credentials are impressive. Born in Hong Kong, Dr Cheng completed dental school there before going to the US for his specialist training, then settling down in Canada for 11 years. There, Dr Cheng juggled a thriving private practice and appointments at the largest cancer hospital in Canada and at the University of Toronto. In 2004, Dr Cheng and wife, Moonlake, herself an accomplished professional, moved to Singapore with their two young daughters, where he and a partner own and run a successful and thriving specialist dental practice.


That much is obvious. But what about the man and what he stands for?  As I scoured information about him online and read his responses to the email interview with IMPACT, my mind kept returning to one word, steward. Steward is an old fashioned word. In today’s terms, he might be called an asset manager. He is a shrewd, prudent, self-controlled investor. Here are some investment tips from Dr Cheng in his own words:


INVESTMENT TIP 1: Education

When I was newly married, I worried about what would happen to my wife if I were to meet with an untimely end.


We concluded that she should invest in her education, so she became a highly educated person with a few post-graduate degrees in business and law.


With those qualifications and her exceptional talent and energy, I know she has the best insurance that no money can buy.


My most valuable asset in life is my education.


Not only did my professional training allow me to have a day job, but it also allowed me to associate with many teachers, highly intelligent individuals, colleagues and interesting people from whom I can learn.


INVESTMENT TIP 2: Stay in your area of competence

We are generally conservative in our investments, preferring to look long-term, and we adopt a buy-and-hold strategy.


We stick with blue chip shares locally and internationally. We also have a three-bedroom condominium in the city area here, which we rent out. We bought it a couple of years ago and the value has risen, but we have no plans to sell. We have no plans to buy another property now, as prices are very high.


Most of our money is in the bank. The interest is not high but the money is liquid.


We stay within our area of competence.


INVESTMENT TIP 3: Choose the long-term

Anything of value usually has the character of being everlasting (such as diamonds versus iron), and ideally, being better with time (for example, wine versus juice). However, as our lifetime is limited and we really do not have time to pursue values that get ‘better’ over time at too slow a rate, we end up being subconsciously pushed to ‘choose’ the path of instant gratification.


We all have choices at any moment in our life. The interesting fact of choices is that we have to give up other choices at the moment we decide to choose any one particular choice. A better choice may not be the one that comes the fastest and easiest. Those who have more patience usually make better choices.


INVESTMENT TIP 4: Money is a great teaching tool

Pocket money serves as a tool for children to learn some daily common sense such as purchasing items and getting the correct change back – these are real life applications of elementary mathematics.


We tell our children that pocket money is for them to buy food during recess but since they usually bring a lunchbox from home, there is no need for them to use the money in this way. We do, however, give them a token sum of money for chores and for writing in their school handbook. If they do not spend the amount, we match that amount and put it into their bank account. My wife keeps an accounts book for them and we go through that each weekend.


INVESTMENT TIP 5: There will be a time of accounting

My wife and I view the money in our life on earth as a matter of stewardship. We did not come into the world with it, and no one can hold onto it beyond death. Stewardship is related to performance, and performance is very well taught in the parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew. We certainly don’t want to be servant number 3!


This principle applies to many things, including how we treat our financial assets, our professional work and our children. For example, when we go to a food court, our kids are encouraged to make their own decision of food choice based on taste, nutritional value, and price.


INVESTMENT TIP 6: Remember the balanced life

The biggest challenge is bringing children up with a balanced recipe of formal school education and non-academic, out-of-school education.


It is absolutely important to acquire a solid education, which forms the base of our human common sense and a core of life skills. However, children should not be trained as specialized examination takers alone. My former Hong Kong high school principal, Father Patrick Dean of the St Louis School, used to remind us: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”


Thus, we should also expose our children to non-academic activities such as sports and other types of play, which make their experiences richer and reinforce other aspects of their character.

A person’s excellence on the academic and sporting front alone would not have as great an impact on society as a person who can also demonstrate strong values that can contribute positively to his or her community.


We are delighted that at St Margaret’s Primary School, where our two girls attend, there is a strong emphasis on developing values in the students – classes have names such as Kindness, Charity, Patience, and so on, and the school also recognizes and reinforces these values in the girls by awarding them “character badges” for demonstrating traits like diligence, responsibility, politeness, and kindness.


INVESTMENT TIP 7: Don’t leave an inheritance...maybe...

Even though it is sweet for parents to leave a significant financial inheritance to the coming generation(s), too much of it would weaken the younger generation. One of the challenges facing families that are well-to-do is that many times, the children grow up in an environment where they lack nothing.


Parents, naturally, want to give the best to their children and spare them the hardships that they themselves faced while growing up. However, this well-meaning intent can sometimes backfire – we end up over-protecting our children from failures and/or raise children with a sense of entitlement. The end result is children who cannot stand on their own two feet.


We believe that good kids don’t need a financial inheritance. They should be able to make it on their own independently. However, if we educate our children early on about principles of stewardship, and they are able to prove that they can manage finances wisely, leaving a financial inheritance to them will not be ruled out.


More importantly is the spiritual or philosophical passing on of values from one generation to another - this would be one type of inheritance we would like to leave for our family.


INVESTMENT TIP 8: If you forget the rest, remember this...

· Know who God is and why you believe Jesus is God.

· Love your family and those around you.

· Have a healthy fear of (i.e. respect) for God and desire to bring honour to His name.

There is really nothing more that I would like to leave behind for family or friends at the end of my life except that I have, during my interaction with them, managed to influence some of them in a positive manner and they have, in turn, gone on to change others’ lives for the better.


Dr Ansgar Cheng is a Dental Specialist in Prosthodontics with Specialist Dental Group He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor with the National University of Singapore, an Examiner (Prosthodontics) with the Royal College of Dentists of Canada and an Honorary Clinical Associate Professor with the University of Hong Kong