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Willie Keng: It's a Long Story, But...

I am Willie Keng and I help business owners and boutique investment firms do one thing:

I build practical, effective investment processes that grow their AUM than their business can practically handle…

As a passionate investor, I also built DividendTitan.com in the pursuit of investment education. I felt that sound investment knowledge and adequate financial literacy were key ingredients to achieve personal freedom, which allows you to lead better lives for yourself and your loved ones.

The background story I’m about to share is a little lengthy, but I hope by the time you are done, you will get to know a little more about me…

This is important, especially nowadays. So, let me tell you how it all started…

To: Friends Who Are Walking the Same Journey

Re: It All Started with a Machine Called the Commodore PC

As a kid, I’d run toward the corner of the house where my dad’s Commodore PC was, and started playing it. Often, after he was done working on graphic designs for clients, he would let me play Pacman on it.

Played my first game on this machine

My growing up years were revolved around games and all-things fantasy. I played almost everything from the Lone Wolf Series gamebook by Joe Dever (I still recalled a teacher telling me to stop reading because it was satanic!), to Magic: The Gathering card game, and later on to computer games like Command & Conquer, StarCraft: Brood Wars, Diablo II and WarCraft III.

At 11 years, I was so crazy about games that I even designed my own game books for my classmates to play!

Yeah… reminiscing the sweet 90s…

The Number-One Most Powerful Personal Discipline in The World

If there was one thing I learnt from gaming, that was FOCUS. Though I was an avid gamer, I was dead serious at it. Sure, call me an addict but I had fun and it motivated me to be the best.

I’d dial into the Supra Fax Modem 28.8K, hopped onto the internet and crawled through forums, websites, video streams… consuming anything to improve myself when I got hooked in a particular game.

But it also brought out my ugly side. I used to have a serious temper issue, and remembered frequently barging into my sister’s room to use her computer to play games. Why? Because dad bought her a better performance PC and obviously, I needed that. I was very competitive, and every time I lost a match in WarCraft, I’d slammed the keyboard hard.

I wished I could jump back in time and punch that bloody kid that was me.

Anyway, when you are truly dedicated to something, nothing stops you. 

From Gaming to Investing

2008-2009 was a tough time because of the global financial crisis. Mom told us we had to tighten our finances. Somehow when she said that, her words pierced through to my mind, shaking the guy who is always aloof with money. I got frightened at the thought of being broke.

So, I started to ponder more about what making money meant. One fine day, I happened to have a conversation with a friend in a car, and he was just talking about how he made good money trading stocks.

Strange how thoughts sometimes steered you to certain people in life?

That conversation planted a seed of thought – the stock market.

I subconsciously started ticking the checkboxes on stock trading – There was an element of fun, checked; element of research, checked; decision-making and control, checked.

The idea of creating money using money grew into a forest of reality.

I started trading with my own money and made some money. I felt confident about it, and started borrowing some money from my family and a relative. I invested in a stock… and immediately lost half my money. Oops.

That’s when I decided to learn how investing really worked.

I remembered reading, writing and studying late into the night. I tore through all the investing and finance books I could find. Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, Howard Marks, Seth Klarman, John Burr Williams, Phillip Fisher, Joel Greenblatt, Ray Dalio, David Einhorn, Michael Burry, Bruce Greenwald, George Soros, and many more!

My passion drove me to complete the CFA program, though I sacrificed sleepless nights and also had frequent arguments with my girlfriend (now wife). It was a painful experience as I had to endure more than 2,500 hours of studying.

When I finally passed my CFA exams!

I remembered almost giving it up because I failed the exams not once, but twice!

Oh… the agony!

I experimented various strategies with both successes and failures, from special situations, growth at reasonable price (GARP), to small caps investing etc – mostly looking at beaten down stocks.

Investing was an obsession, and I worked hard to improve my skills in every way possible. I loved the creative process of surgically deconstructing a business, dig deep into what made good businesses last, and communicating these ideas to an audience.

My desire also drove me to pick a job in the financial industry, first as a junior analyst then later on as an investment advisor for wealthy clients.

I thought I was set for life…

From Investing to Wall Street

Couple of years into my career, I realized that the big banking world wasn’t a place for me. I felt uncomfortable with the rigid structure and the politics. Because of my personality as a quiet worker, I was ill-equipped to handle either, even if I had been comfortable with it.

You were constantly either “churning” or pushing new financial products to the clients’ portfolios. It was all about hitting revenue numbers for your bankers. I was in conflict.

I remembered writing a research report to tell clients to stay away from a new deal. Clearly, the senior banker who was in charge of the deal wasn’t happy, and decided to abuse her authority to get me to retract my report. I vehemently refused and almost got into trouble.

I never felt even more crappy that day, because I felt I somehow lost my voice in the deep recesses of finance.

For me, I loved the challenge of identifying and investing in a good idea, and owning that stock over the long run. That was how I thought about investing.

Benjamin Graham said in Security Analysis: “Investing is about thorough analysis, with a promise in the safety of principal and an adequate return.”

But “Through analysis” was never in the bankers’ dictionary, and many of them were running their clients’ portfolios to the ground just to hit their revenues. It makes no sense.

Many of the clients were either retirees or business owners looking to accumulate their wealth. Yet since most clients knew nothing about investing, all they could do was believed a guy or lady confidently dressed, and pitching on unsuitable financial products.

All I knew was, this game wasn’t for me.

The One Powerful Strategy Which Changed My Life

Along the way, I continued my personal investment journey and discovered one powerful strategy which was long forgotten in the broader investing community. I observed how clients who were successful with their investments had an element of consistency in their investments. I realized it wasn’t just about chasing the highest returns on a stock, but consistency of returns from the investment mattered more.

As these clients reinvested their dividends or coupons, their portfolio value grew over time.

Growth investing – buying Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, was all the rage, but I decided to look the other way and achieved some success in a traditional, long-forgotten concept called dividend growth.

Again, I experimented. My mom gave me another chance to invest her nest egg. It took a while but I noticed the portfolio started bearing fruit…

Then I helped my wife build her income portfolio, it was okay at first, but after a while, I began seeing results! Dividends started coming in, and the quality of businesses I picked improved. Rather than chasing badly beaten companies, I focused on businesses which were growing their dividends. My returns improved!

Thinking about it, this was the thing I was STARVING for, all along! A stream of passive income…

Here were some of the recent winning stock investments I have made as an investor (of course, I had my fair share of losses!):

  • American Express – 68.5% in 2 years
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  • Moody’s Inc – 72.4% in 2 years
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  • IBM – 43.9% in 3 years
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  • Apple Inc – 143% in 1.5 years
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  • Tencent Holdings – 57% in 1.5 years
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  • Food Empire Holdings – 60.8% in 3 years
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  • Select Comfort Corp – 43.9% in 1 year
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  • Texhong Textile – 44.9% in 5 months
  •  

I became obsess with this strategy, and applied it in every way I could.

I knew friends, clients, acquaintances or just about anyone who wants to retire early, to accumulate their capital could actually use this.

The Pursuit of Personal Freedom at The Age of 31

While I found my sweet spot in investing, I dreaded banking life.

You know an old Chinese saying: “How events happen for a reason?”

I inquired deeply whether my job resonated with my values, which went against the incentive-driven banking model.

I felt that sound investment knowledge and adequate financial literacy were key ingredients to achieve personal freedom, and lead more fulfilling lives for themselves and loved ones.

In October 2018, I quit my job. I wanted to do two things here –

  1. 1. Gain control of my personal freedom, and get away from the evils of banking.
  2. 2. Do what I am passionate about – investing.
  3. 3. Help people achieve their own personal freedom through investing.
  4.  

I set up my business consulting and training practice, where I brought my values and philosophy of business and investing to help others achieve their life goals.

A lot of people I met said that I’m too young for a consultant. So far, I haven’t had a single failure yet.

My wife and myself in Iceland 2017

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I hope what you read allowed you to understand a little more about me.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to read this, and hopefully you and I will get to chat some time.

I wish you great health and loads of profits ahead, always.

Willie Keng, CFA

CEO

P.S. If you are ready to embark on your journey of personal freedom, you can get started with our FREE training here.

P.P.S I live in an island-city called Singapore, many calls it the tiny little red dot of Asia. It’s also the country which canes people for trafficking chewing gum and also one of the most expensive cities to live in. If I can invest with success in this part of the world, so can you.