Together with a friend, I finally got the chance to attend the last day of the Money Summit and Wealth Expo 2016 last Saturday. Since we weren’t able to attend the talks, we just looked around the Expo and decided to talk to people and explore the latest financial investment instruments available to the Philippine market.
We were at the COL Financial booth speaking with the two lovely ladies at the desk when an elderly man wearing eyeglasses and a red shirt approached, saying he was quite surprised to find a COL Financial booth at the Expo. Turned out it was no less than Edward Lee, the Founder and Chairman of COL Financial which is the largest online stock trading brokerage firm in the Philippines. Of course I didn’t want to pass on the opportunity to talk to the one and only, especially since I have a COL Financial account myself, so I asked one of the ladies if I can go ahead and approach him. “Mabait yan" (he’s nice) said one of them, referring to him as if he’s just one of the others. So we rushed to introduce ourselves to him and asked if we could interview him for the blog. He agreed to do the interview but politely declined to be recorded on video – I guess he’s a shy guy just like me. He really is nice and approachable, and he expounds much on his answers, making sure that he properly delivers his point.
The ambush interview
It was an impromptu (more like an ambush) interview and we weren’t able to record the whole 45-minute-or-so interview, so I’m unable to type in here word-by-word whatever he said. Instead, I’m gonna list down all the points he’s made (and some nice to know facts about him and COL Financial) during our interview:
- Rarely do they advertise nowadays. They instead rely on free advertisement which is word of mouth of satisfied clients, with most of their clients belonging to the Class C, D, and E (middle or working class) markets. However, it was a different picture when they first started. The company spent some serious money on marketing and advertising before gaining traction with the working class market which now serves as their living testimonials spewing out free advertisement. I’m not surprised, because most of my colleagues I see looking at their COL Financial accounts on their laptop screens during breaks.
- Their edge against the rest: When asked about what their edge is compared with their other competitors, Mr. Lee mentioned that they were the first movers and were the first to start offering stock exchange investments to the middle class in 1999. They were also one of the first companies to see the bigger picture and innovate by allowing clients to conveniently trade online. They have been in the business for 17 years now which is commendable, to think some of their competitors are starting out just a couple of years ago. It just made sense that they no longer need to frequently advertise; since they were the first movers in the industry, it is their brand that made customer recall (think the Coca-Cola or Colgate of the PSE stock trading industry) and now have a dominating share of the market.
- Aside from being the first movers in the industry, he mentioned that another edge of theirs is that COL Financial’s focus is on educating clients. The more they know, the more likely they are to succeed in COL Financial. This is the reason why they offer free seminars to the public, to encourage investing among the Filipino working class, and also to allow them to thrive in stock trading.
- Does he have an active COL Financial account of his own? “Yes, of course! I am the founder and chairman (after all).", said Mr. Lee.
- He doesn’t believe in investing in the short term, especially for the newbies. Short term trading is very risky, and a very high percentage (more than 50%) of newbies suffer from losses by trading in the short term, especially day trading. Long term is key when investing in the stock market.
- The juiciest part of the interview: which PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange) stocks should we invest on in the long term? Mr. Lee states that investing on one of the following families would be beneficial: Ayala, Gokongwei, Sy (SM, BDO), Megaworld, and Metrobank. He also stressed one stock to invest on that I am unaware of but he highly recommends: DNL (D&L Industries Inc.), a Filipino company that customizes raw materials for the food, plastics, chemicals, and aerosol industries.
- It is a general rule to diversify one’s assets and investments. For individual traders, Mr. Lee mentioned that investing on 5 stocks will do.
So there it was! We were so lucky to find a gem in the expo. Having the chance to speak with the Chairman and Founder of the Philippines’ largest online stock trading company was indeed a pleasure, and it was a great learning opportunity as well, especially from the words of an experienced founder. Can’t wait for next year’s run!
Hope you learned from Mr. Lee as much as we did. Thanks Mr. Lee!
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