Youths hope to invest early in genuine, sustainable brands: 4 takeaways from ASEAN Investment Challenge dialogue

Local students from 11 Institutes of Higher Learning will participate in the ASEAN Investment Challenge.

Han Xinyi

Still doesn’t understand how the kopi c, o, kosong system works.

Published: 18 August 2023, 6:19 PM

The ASEAN Investment Challenge (AIC) was officially launched in Singapore on Tuesday (Aug 15), with students from 11 local Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) participating to learn more about financial literacy and investments.

Organised by CGS-CIMB Securities Singapore in collaboration with the Singapore Exchange (SGX), the AIC will span over six months. 

Over 3,000 youth participants from more than 500 IHLs across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand will receive guidance from industry experts in the local investment and finance scene, as well as exclusive access to the e-learning platform CGS Academy.

This year’s edition focuses on how youths can take better ownership of their personal finances and “invest in a sustainable future”. According to CGS-CIMB, the Challenge aims to not only foster financially literate Singaporean youths in a growing economic scene, but also to provide them with “relevant tools to handle their finances effectively and make sound financial decisions”.

The launch event saw a dialogue session which included panellists Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development Eric Chua, CGS-CIMB Securities Group CEO Carol Fong, SGX Managing Director & Head of Research and FinLit, Equities Chan Kum Kong and NUS Board of Trustees member and Chairman & Non-Executive Director of SeaTown Holdings Lee Ming San.

Among the questions raised during the dialogue were those related to rising costs of living, financial goals and how to take the first step into the market.

Here are four takeaways from from the dialogue:

1. Slowly introduce your parents to finance-related topics through brief personal anecdotes

One of the questions asked by youth participants was how to broach topics like stocks and investments with their parents. They shared how such subjects are deemed as “taboo” in their households, and their parents would often avoid talking about anything finance-related around them.

Mr Chan pointed out that one reason why parents may perceive such topics poorly may be due to their “get rich quick” stereotype. He suggested that youths can try dissolving this by sharing more about their personal experiences with investing, while briefly explaining how certain financial systems work.


Youths can also tell their parents investment success stories, particularly those related to their friends or originated in Singapore. PHOTO CREDITS: STEPHEN DAWSON VIA UNSPLASH


This would not only introduce parents to such topics but also keep them up-to-date with their children’s investing journey, he added.

Ms Fong chimed in and shared that should they still not be convinced, youths can try taking them to outreach programmes and have industry experts explain and divulge more about finance-related topics to them.

2. Retail investors should be cautious when differentiating between sustainable and “greenwashing” companies

A youth participant from Ngee Ann Polytechnic commented on how sustainability is becoming more prevalent among companies, with some even beginning to shift their branding to appear as such. He questioned how youths looking to invest in retail are supposed to differentiate between “truly green” companies and those that are greenwashing.

Greenwashing refers to organisations falsely marketing themselves or their products and services to be environmentally friendly. It misleads consumers into thinking that the organisation upholds environmentally sound practices when the reality is not that case.

In response to this query, Mr Chan agrees that this is an issue that SGX has tried tackling by recommending a consistent set list of metrics when publishing sustainability reports.

“Currently, companies report on whatever they deem as material to their business, and therefore every one of them reports on slightly different things. But as a consumer of that information, you are going to have a little bit of a headache,” he said.

SGX’s tactic is one step into ensuring that companies are consistent and comprehensive in their metric reporting, while also being honest in their sustainability efforts.

Mr Lee added that youths should also do their part in ensuring they avoid investing in greenwashed companies, be it through doing their own research or encouraging society and the Government to implement measures focused on sustainability. Some examples he listed out included the disposable carrier bag charge, Nutri-Grade labelling and carbon taxes.

3. Paper qualifications do not determine one’s capacity in entering the financial sector

Among the AIC youth participants at the launch event on Tuesday were a selected few from non-finance related courses of study, such as engineering and medicine. Although their studies do not focus on finance and investments, some still took up interest in stocks and considered pursuing a career in the financial sector in the future.

Despite this, some are concerned about the job competition should they decide to join the sector, and wondered if there were any other ways to gain experience in this desired sector.


Some youth participants also asked whether IHLs were collaborating with financial industry partners to construct financial literacy curricula to students regardless of course or degree. PHOTO CREDITS: CGS-CIM SECURITIES SINGAPORE


Mr Chua encouraged participants to not base their qualifications on what is written on paper and in their education certificates. 

“I think what is most important is your attitude that you carry in life. This is how we continue to make sure that we are upgrading and upskilling,” he said.

He added that youths should make use of government resources like SkillsFuture to explore more career opportunities outside of their chosen education pathways. This would push lifelong learning among Singapore’s younger generation, regardless of their course of study.

4. Those who wish to invest early should carefully evaluate their risk profile and goals before purchasing stocks

Before the youth dialogue came to a close, one participant shared his experience of seeking investment advice from family members and online sources, only to receive mixed feedback. He wished to know how young and inexperienced to-be investors should know “which advice to follow and make safe, sound and rational investment decisions”.

Ms Fong answered that this really depends on youths’ risk profile, income and investment goals. She also shared how some investing trends among youths are their preference for “fast money” and cryptocurrency, despite how both have potential to “crash very badly”.

“Since you are still young though, you have to go for the long game instead of making a quick buck. You can make a quick buck today, but you can lose a lot more tomorrow,” she added.

The CGS-CIMB Group CEO added that youth investors should look up companies’ credibility and how well each one suits their individual risk profiles by doing online research.

AIC will take place from now to Jan 31, 2024, with a cash prize of up to $3,000 to be won locally. While the Challenge has officially launched, it is still open for sign-ups until Sep 15.

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