Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cryptocurrency – An Introduction

If you have been reading the financial news lately, one word keeps popping up almost everyday, and that word is “cryptocurrency”. Whether people are talking about Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, etc., they are members of the same cryptocurrency family.

What Is Cryptocurrency?

“Cryptocurrency” is a portmanteau of the words “cryptography” and “currency”. As the name suggested, cryptocurrency (crypto for short) is a digital currency that uses encryption technologies with regards to its creation and regulation of its use. Most, if not all, cryptos are non-regulatory and decentralised; in other words there is no central regulatory body (such as governments and central banks) or any-body overseeing it.

Crypto is an early example on the use of blockchain technology, in which each record and/or transaction is stored as a block, from the creation of the crypto coin right up to the latest transaction. It is secured in a way as the makeup of data in a block is dependent on the one before, and that one before is in turn dependent on the one before, and so on. Right now the use of blockchain is instrumental in financial technology, or fintech.

The first crypto was Bitcoin, created back in 2009 in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. As of now there are more than 1,000 types of cryptocurrencies.

A Whole New Asset Class?

In my ebook, I had mentioned briefly that each asset class is different from one another in terms of their characteristics.1 Asset classes occupy the highest degree and order of all the financial instruments due to their different correlation.

So for the case of crypto, it could be viewed as cash on the surface, since it shared similar characteristics such as liquidity. Crypto is border-neutral, meaning I could use it anywhere in the world without considering the forex rate, provided the goods and services are priced uniformly across the globe.

It could also be seen as a commodity since it is mined (digitally) and some coins (e.g. Bitcoin and Litecoin) have a planned final total number in the future, much like the finite resources of gold, silver and oil on this planet.

To make things more exotic, there is even a corporate bond denominated in Bitcoin.2 And, as I was writing this post, an oil-backed cryptocurrency is coming up.3

So how crypto fits in the overall scheme of things in terms of asset classes would probably depend on how each investor views it. If an investor thinks crypto is the way things are going for currencies, then he/she may put it in the Cash component, while if another investor view it as a store of value given the limited circulation of some cryptos, then it could be under Commodities. Or some may not view crypto as an asset class at all; it is just for speculation and trading. More so, others may think these are all fads and bubbles, and would die off or burst someday.

So Are Cryptos Suitable for The Bedokian Portfolio?

I have to admit that it is still a little bit early for me to answer this question. At the moment there is no right or wrong answer, just different perspectives. If you share some of the viewpoints as I had described in the previous paragraph, then by all means treat them accordingly.

If you really wish to play safe, then bring it out of your Bedokian Portfolio and invest/trade in them separately.

1 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p11

2 – Nakamichi , Takashi. Bitcoin Bond Debuted By Japan’s Fisco. Bloomberg. 17 Aug 2017. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-16/bitcoin-bond-debuted-by-japan-s-fisco-after-cryptocurrency-laws (accessed 4 Dec 2017)

3 – Ulmer, Alexandra & Buitrago, Deisy. Enter the ‘petro’: Venezuela to launch oil-backed cryptocurrency. Reuters. 4 Dec 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-economy/enter-the-petro-venezuela-to-launch-oil-backed-cryptocurrency-idUSKBN1DX0SQ (accessed 5 Dec 2017)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Singles Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday

And the common theme among them? Yes they are retail related, and billions of dollars of retail sales were reported from these days. For the active Bedokian Portfolio investor, this would be an interesting sector to look into.

So what do we have? Directly related would be the retail stores themselves and online retail platforms, and indirectly we have REITs with retail malls, logistics and delivery companies, payment solution companies and the hot products that people will buy during these days, among others. In fact, you could use the associative investing method that I had mentioned here to plot one big chart to see the whole picture.

And retailers are not reactive as well. They would want to know the behaviour and mannerisms of their customers. Big data comes into mind, so this is another branch of the chart to look into.

Looking from another perspective, with the advent of online shopping comes the risk of hacking and compromising of sensitive personal information. While many viewed this as a threat, an investor must look at it opportunistically, legitimately of course. Cybersecurity firms come into play, as well as the infrastructure that supports cybersecurity.

It seems that I have gone off topic. If I go on and on, I guess the even an A0-sized paper would not cover the whole chart. As you can see, everything is inter-related with one another. The challenge would be the find the right companies to invest in for dividends, and a proper fundamental analysis would be a good tool for that.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mental Accounting

What is mental accounting? According to Investopedia, mental accounting is “…individuals divide their current and future assets into separate, non-transferable portions. The theory purports individuals assign different levels of utility to each asset group, which affects their consumption decisions and other behaviors.”1 In other words, it is a form of thinking where an individual allocates his/her resources into different, mutually exclusive categories, even though the resource (usually money) is the same thing and from the same source. It is applied commonly to personal budgets (e.g. meal budget, transport budget, etc.) and investments (e.g. The Bedokian Portfolio, trading portfolio, etc.). This concept was first mentioned by economist Richard Thaler, who had just won a Nobel Prize in Economics

Mental accounting is a form of bias, and it is one of the biases discussed in the field of behavioural economics and finance. Due to the segregation nature of how one places his/her resources, it could have a profound effect on investment and/or trading decisions.

The main reason why I brought this topic up is because I have mental accounting bias. If you have noticed from my ebook and some other writings, I espoused segregating cash into cash for The Bedokian Portfolio, emergency funds and savings. Although it is a form of bias (and “bias” is a not-so-good word, I reckoned), there are some advantages in having it.

Advantage #1 – Accounts and Budgets

Since the term “mental accounting” contains the word “accounting”, you will associate this word with accounts and budgets (and accountants). Almost all businesses and companies have some form of account budgeting in place in order to control and monitor the expenditure. A runaway account or budget is a definite no-no as this would mean uncontrolled spending. Translating this to your personal or family context, it is a good form of controlling your expenses.

Advantage #2 – A Clearer Picture

This is what I think separates good and bad mental accounting bias: the ability to see a clearer picture. Those with bad mental accounting tend to see their capital and resources as parts only, while a good one will see the parts and how they all fit together. By seeing it on a whole, we tend to be more flexible and willing in moving the capital across the various parts. Breaking down the mutually exclusive thinking is key.

An Example

A family man on payday segregates his income into expenditure and his kid’s tuition budget diligently, among others. One day his fridge broke down and this meant buying a new one immediately.

A case of bad mental accounting would see the man lamenting that this fridge purchase is going to eat into his expenditure, and start thinking of having instant noodles for the rest of the month. A good case of mental accounting would see the man looking at other budgets, including his kid’s tuition account. Realising that the tuition account had ballooned to an amount that could cover a couple of months’ worth, he would transfer some of the excess to cover the cost of the new fridge.

1 – Investopedia. Mental Accounting. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mentalaccounting.asp (accessed 1 Nov 2017)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Specialist Diploma In Fund Management And Administration

First and foremost, this is not an advertorial nor am I representing the institute that offered this specialist diploma. I am writing this since I had graduated from this course and would like to share my experiences with you. I felt this course is suitable in understanding how the financial markets, the fund industry and their related functions work.

Overview Of The Course

This one-year program is offered on a part time basis by Nanyang Polytechnic. There are a total of six modules, three each in one semester. The first semester covers the fund management aspect and the second one covers the fund administration part. Being an academic course, there are tests and examinations, and each successful semester would give you a post-diploma certificate, and the completion of the entire course would grant you the specialist diploma.

Most of the lecturers who taught us had a day job in the industry, meaning their teaching stint was on a part-time basis, which was good as they could relate their real life experiences from the topics in the modules.

I shall not describe each module in detail (you could read up more about it in the link below under Reference).

My Eye Openers From The Course

There were a few “A-Ha!” moments for me during the course. One of which was the calculation of a fund’s net asset value (or NAV) and the accompanying fund management fees. Being an “outsider” of the industry, this gave me an eye opener. Another was the securities settlement process, which gave me a “behind the scenes” peek on what transpired between the filling of an order to the actual delivery of the securities from one party to another.

Bedokian’s Take

If you are well-versed in some of the modules described above, I would say this is a walk in the park for you. Although it is basic, you could develop further on the topics taught and discussed, and this in turn could lead to another set of knowledge and opportunities in your investment and trading journey (I am a proponent of continuous learning). However, before you go into it, I would recommend you to start familiarising and understanding some financial terms and jargons from online resources (e.g. Investopedia).

Besides the academic part, you could take this chance to network with your lecturers and classmates as well. For my cohort, about 70% of us are in the accounting/banking/financial/fund industries, with the remaining 30% (like myself) coming in just to learn more.


The course details may have changed since my last attendance, so there could be some differences in my post above. You are encouraged to contact the institute directly and/or attend their preview talks, which are typically held near the end of the year, to find out more.

Special thanks to my ex-classmate ‘M’ who provided additional material.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Three REIT ETFs and The Bedokian Portfolio

When my ebook was launched in July 2016, there was no local REIT ETF available to speak of. Fast forward to the present day, there are now two REIT ETFs listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), and one coming up soon. From an index investor’s perspective, this meant more choices in selecting one or a few suitable for his/her investment objectives and methodologies.

By now there are quite a number of articles written about these three REIT ETFs on other investment sites and blogs. For my post today, I will analyse them from a Bedokian Portfolio investor’s point of view.

The three REIT ETFs, in chronological order of their listing (with my given short form in brackets), are the Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders REIT ETF (Phillip APAC), the Nikko AM-Straits Trading Asia Ex-Japan REIT ETF (Nikko-Straits Trading) and the Lion-Phillip S-REIT ETF (Lion-Phillip). I had covered the former two briefly in my previous blog posts (here and here), but I will delve a little bit deeper.

It’s All About The Indices

Each REIT ETF tracks a different index; The Phillip APAC follows the SGX APAC Ex-Japan Dividend Leaders REIT Index; The Nikko-Straits Trading tracks the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT ex-Japan Net Total Return REIT Index; The Lion-Phillip’s benchmark is the Morningstar Singapore REIT Yield Focus Index.

Diving in further, we now look at the indices themselves. The SGX APAC Ex-Japan Dividend Leaders REIT Index is a dividend-weighted index that measures the performance of REITs that pay the largest dividends in the Asia Pacific region excluding Japan.1 The FTSE EPRA/NAREIT ex-Japan Net Total Return REIT Index, on the other hand, tracks the performance of listed real estate companies and REITs in developed and emerging markets, and they are screened for their free-float adjusted, liquidity, size and revenue.2 As for the Morningstar Singapore REIT Yield Focus Index, the REITs are from Singapore and they are screened based on the dividend yield, economic moat and distance to default.3

If the above paragraph confuses you, it is OK. You may go on to the next section to find out more on how to choose your REIT ETF. However, if you are concerned on the basis of the derivation of the indices (and subsequently the REIT ETF’s following of them), then you could include them in your consideration on the choice of REIT ETF.

The Underlying Allocation and Holdings

The next question would be: what is the make-up of the REIT ETFs? There is a strong implication pertaining to this query, and that is of diversification, which is one of the paramount factors in The Bedokian Portfolio. We are actually looking out for the types of REITs, their geographical locations and their respective allocations.

The Phillip APAC is made up of REITs from mainly Australia (50.4%), Singapore (27.9%) and Hong Kong (14.4%), with their percentages based on dividend weight. With the same weight basis, 42% came from retail REITs, 25.7% from diversified REITs and 14.7% from industrial ones, with the remaining from office, hotel, residential, etc.4

The two largest country allocation for the Nikko-Straits Trading are Singapore (60.5%) and Hong Kong (23%), with industrial and office REITs taking up 44.7%, and retail REITs at 39.7%.5

Lastly, the Lion-Phillip’s REITs are all listed on the Singapore Exchange6 and they are well diversified in terms of property types.

Back to diversification, the Phillip APAC is viewed as a foreign component of the Bedokian Portfolio7, since more than 50% of the dividends is from overseas. For both the Nikko-Straits Trading and Lion-Phillip, with S-REITs being the majority, you could safely treat them as local. If you want to really go into the specifics, however, you could drill down to each individual S-REIT and find out their local-foreign property and payout proportions, and decide from there.

Sector wise each REIT ETF has its own majority, with retail the highest in Phillip APAC, industrials and office for Nikko-Straits Trading, and office for Lion-Phillip.

Is it OK that we buy two or all three ETFs to achieve a better balance? Sure, why not? But I have to stress that there are some REITs which are common among the three, e.g. Ascendas REIT, Capitaland Mall Trust, etc. You could adopt a core-satellite approach8, where you could go for individual REITs whose regions/sectors that the REIT ETF did not cover or emphasize much, but that meant deviating a bit from pure index investing.

Another issue is whether they are physical or synthetic. Based on their prospectuses, all three REIT ETFs use replication (meaning physical) as the main strategy, though both Phillip APAC and Lion-Phillip may use representative sampling strategy.9,10,11 In representative sampling strategy, the ETF may include securities that are not part of the original index, but share similar characteristics as that of the actual index securities. To me, as long as the objective of the ETF is met and it closely tracks the index, I am alright with it.

The Nitty-Gritty

Next we look at the management fee. The Phillip APAC is 0.3% per annum, while both the Nikko-Straits Trading and Lion-Phillip is 0.5% per year, so the latter two’s “maintenance” costs are higher. My advice is not to focus on costs alone and look at them from a bigger picture to see which is/are suitable for you.

Another little known issue would be taxes. According to the prospectuses, there is a mention of the 17% income tax rate, in which the dividend income issued by local REITs to the ETFs are subjected to it, but not to the typical individual investor. Hence, in preferring the ETF to the individual REIT, the compromise would be a lower yield due to taxation.

Further Considerations and The Bedokian’s Take

There are a few more considerations in choosing which REIT ETF, like perhaps their liquidity and bid/ask spread in the financial markets, or your macro viewpoints on properties in general, or country-specific. The factors in choosing which REIT ETF is non-exhaustive, but at least I had pointed out, in my opinion, the more important ones in the above sections.

1 – SGX News & Updates. SGX launches SGX APAC ex Japan Dividend Leaders REIT Index. 29 Aug 2016. http://www.sgx.com/wps/wcm/connect/sgx_en/home/higlights/news_releases/sgx_launches_sgx_apac_ex_japan_dividend_leaders_reit_index+ (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

2 – FTSE Russell. FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Asia Pacific ex Japan Index. 29 Sep 2017. www.ftse.com/Analytics/FactSheets/Home/DownloadSingleIssue?issueName=ENAA (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

3 – Morningstar. Morningstar Singapore REIT Yield Focus Index. 2017. https://corporate.morningstar.com/us/documents/Indexes/Singapore_REIT_Yield_Focus_Fact_Sheet.pdf (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

4 – Phillip Capital Management. Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders REIT ETF. Product Info Sheet (Aug 2017). http://www.phillipfunds.com/uploads/funds_file/201708_Phillip_SGX_APAC_Dividend_Leaders_REIT_ETF_Product_Sheet.pdf (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

5 – Nikko Asset Management. NikkoAM-Straits Trading Asia Ex-Japan REIT ETF. March 2017. http://www.nikkoam.com.sg/files/sp/reit/documents/nikkoam-straitstrading-asia-ex-japan-reit-etf_product-info-sheet.pdf?v20170317 (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

6 – Lion-Phillip S-REIT ETF Fund Information. October 2017. https://www.poems.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Lion-Phillip-S-REIT-ETF-Fund-Information-Oct-2017.pdf (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

7 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p111

8 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p122-123

9 – Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders REIT ETF Prospectus. 29 Sep 2016. http://www.phillipfunds.com/uploads/funds_file/Phillip_SGX_APAC_Dividend_Leaders_REIT_ETF_Prospectus_Final.pdf (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

10 – NikkoAM-Straits Trading Asia Ex Japan REIT ETF Prospectus. 27 Feb 2017. http://www.nikkoam.com.sg/files/documents/funds/prospectus/prospectus_axj-reit-etf.pdf?v20170317 (accessed 9 Oct 2017)

11 – Lion-Phillip S-REIT ETF Prospectus. 28 Sep 2017. https://www.poems.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/LionPhillip-S-Reit_ETF_-28-Sept-2017-Prospectus.pdf (accessed 9 Oct 2017)