Head of Investor Relations & Research at Frasers Centrepoint Asset Management (Manager of Frasers Centrepoint Trust), Chen Fung Leng, shares with us his work as an investor relations officer and his passion for cycling.
1. We hear that you are an avid cyclist – what do you love about cycling?
I’ve been doing road cycling for the last five years.
I started as a leisure cyclist on the Park Connector (PCN) with my like-minded friends on very basic bikes and even foldable bikes. However, very soon, we caught the bug and started an “arms race”. We started upgrading our bikes to something more “professional looking”.
It soon became a passion for all of us and we started to explore new routes on weekends. Our distance travelled stretched from a mere 20-30 kilometres (km) to over 100km, as our endurance and physical fitness improved.
I think cycling makes us feel young again and it also acts as a great chat starter for bonding and a way to make new friends.
We also started to venture overseas on cycling vacations to Japan and Taiwan.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” We truly appreciated those words when we cycled up mountains in Japan and Taiwan, which are more than 900 meters in elevation (Mount Faber is only 80 meters in comparison) – it was painful but the sense of achievement was sweet when we reached the top of the climb. The exhilarating experience of coasting down the tarmac with no cars was an experience we will never get in Singapore. It was one of a kind of vacation for us!
2. Why do you think it is so popular among working professionals now?
The great thing about cycling is that it is a non-impact sport, so it is “knee-friendly”. Since taking up cycling, my fitness and stamina have improved – a great way to keep yourself in good shape physically.
Another reason why it’s so popular is because it’s a great way to socialise. In my cycling group, there are people from different professions like banking, real estate, law and entrepreneurs. After a good ride, we chat with a good dose of coffee, sharing insights from work and life with each other. That’s why a lot of people say that cycling is the new golf!
3. What do you do in Frasers Centrepoint Trust (FCT), Singapore?
I’m responsible for investor relations (IR) at FCT. Essentially, I am the liaison between the investing community and FCT. As the IR Officer (IRO), I help the team to ensure timely and transparent disclosure of corporate and financial information to the public, for investors to make informed investment decisions. Ultimately, this helps in enhancing the market capitalisation value of FCT, to compete in the global capital market for lower cost of capital to deliver better total returns to our unitholders.
Good IROs need an impactful corporate pitch – highlighting the company’s strengths, risks and its investment merits. To deliver that pitch, the IRO needs to have an excellent grasp of knowledge on the macro-economic environment, the industry, the competition, the operations and assets of FCT as well as the industry and technology trends. These are some relevant consideration factors for investors when they invest in FCT.
Investor Relations is a relatively less known job description to many people. Out of nearly 800 public companies listed on the Singapore Exchange, there are probably less than 20% of them which have full-time IR roles, so it is not surprising many people are not familiar with the job description.
4. How has your passion for cycling improved your work personally?
Cycling requires some discipline and passion for the sport. Otherwise, it would be tough to wake up as early as 4.30am on weekends to ride. Our weekend rides are between four and five hours, over a distance ranging from 120 to 140km around Singapore. The biggest reward at the end of the weekend rides is a good hearty chat over breakfast with my riding buddies. We also do shorter rides during the weekday evenings around 50 to 60km, usually along Changi Coastal Road, which is a popular cycling route in the East. These rides are usually about two hours.
Over time, besides improving my fitness and well-being, cycling has also strengthened my self-discipline, my positive attitude towards life and it has given me a “never give up” mentality that extends into my personal life and work.
Cycling also broadened my network of contacts as I have made new friends from diverse backgrounds and professions.
Fung Leng practices key values like focus, endurance and discipline in life and at work.
5. We hear that your work brings you to many different places around the world. Tell us more.
Part of the IR job requires us to reach out to overseas investors.
We would attend non-deal roadshows, or NDR, in the region including Hong Kong and Japan, and as far as Europe to meet investors and unitholders. The main objectives are to raise the profile of FCT and to apprise investors of the development and prospects of FCT.
In recent years, we have also “ventured” to Seoul, Bangkok and Taipei. In 2015, FCT became the first Singapore REIT to do a NDR in Seoul, which made us the trailblazer. We had very positive feedback from Seoul investors and some of them became our unitholders!
Soon after, several Singapore REITs, including our sister REITs, Frasers Commercial Trust (FCOT) and Frasers Hospitality Trust (FHT), became interested in Seoul and went on to do their NDRs there.
In March this year, the SGX and the REIT Association of Singapore also organised a roadshow to Seoul to market the Singapore REIT investment story, with nine Singapore REITs (including FCT, FCOT and FHT) joining them. Hopefully, this will help to bring more inflow of capital to our REIT market.
6. What do you love about your job?
I am constantly learning about new trends in the investment world, new perspectives of how investors look at us, and meeting new people. It is also great to meet happy unitholders who appreciate how FCT has grown and continue to give their support. The knowledge, the people and experience gained in this job is also applicable for my own investment endeavours. For example, you get insights on how REITs work and how analysts and investors look at REITs as investment.
7. What is your vision of the Mall of the Future?
While brick and mortar stores are not likely to go away anytime soon, the challenge from online purchases or e-commerce is putting a lot of pressure on both retailers and mall owners. Many retailers have adopted the omni-channel strategy to adapt and manage the change in shopping behaviour, in order to stay relevant and competitive. This is a big challenge for many retailers.
From the mall owners’ perspective, the malls have to evolve to be more than just a market place to shop and dine. It should also be a destination for shoppers to enjoy the experience of leisure and entertainment, to spend social and family time effectively, on top of fulfilling the convenience and needs for shopping and dining.
In essence, malls have to increase their experiential appeal. Ultimately, the objective for mall owners is to continue to make malls vibrant and attractive in order to grow shopper traffic. This way, malls continue to be lucrative for tenants.
Retailers can also get creative. For example, a Lego retail shop in London has a booth that captures the portrait of the shopper and produces Lego blocks (in different shades) that can be constructed to reproduce the portrait. This injects a fun and a unique experience that will attract customers to a shop.
In the next 5 to 10 years, the biggest group of shoppers will be millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000s). These shoppers may prefer to do their research online to compare prices and review products, before making a purchase decision. They also have a choice to buy online or go to the shop. Our malls and tenant-mix need to adapt to their preferred way of shopping.