Monday, July 30, 2018

The Bedokian Portfolio Has Turned Two! And Some Smart Tips For You!

Two years ago today, I had launched The Bedokian Portfolio ebook and blog. A lot of things happened between then and now in the financial markets, to name a few: the bull run of 2017, the trade war, the introduction of local REITs ETFs, disruptive technology, etc.

Despite these good and bad things happened around us, as investors we have to keep the course and stay invested, but we have to stay invested smartly against an unknown future. Here are some smart tips for you.

Smart Tip #1: Stay Diversified

Diversification is one of the key underlying principles of The Bedokian Portfolio. It is the simplest form of hedging against most types of investment risks and scenarios. From asset class types to different companies, diversification must be practiced along the entire spectrum.

While I understand there are some disagreements to diversification, with reasons such as potential missing out on huge returns and it is meant for the clueless, I find it is OK not to diversify, if you know what you are doing. If concentrating on some financial securities or only on one company, one must have the absolute conviction and foresight to do so, which unfortunately most of us do not have. The question is, even with confidence and almost complete information, what if one is wrong?

In the weeks leading to the 2016 United States presidential elections, a lot of analysts had predicted a Trump win would tank the markets; however the reverse happened and it started a bull run of 2017. Imagine what would happen if you had selected a bear market scenario and placed almost or all of your capital during that time?

With diversification, you may win some or lose some, but at least you don’t lose all.

Smart Tip #2: Stay Analysed

It would be foolhardy to go into any investment without first knowing what it is about. This is why I had included a chapter on fundamental analysis (FA), which is another key principle, in The Bedokian Portfolio.

If you have noticed by now, the Bedokian Portfolio caters to value, growth and a little bit of both. From my ebook and blog posts, I advocated getting company equities and REITs cheap (value), and I also provided some insights on looking out for the next big thing (growth; for more info read here).

You can use a myriad of FA techniques out there, or you could use the tiered Company-Environmental Factors-Economic Conditions model in the ebook. With FA, it is at least better to have a gauge and basis, which I called it “guesstimate”, rather than having nothing at all.

For passive Bedokian Portfolio investors who go the ETF way, it is advisable to do some basic analysis on the ETFs as to their structure and holdings, and see if any particular ETF is suited for your investment style and objectives.

Smart Tip #3: Stay Rational

We have rational investors and traders, but we also have irrational ones as well. Together, they form the participants of the financial markets. Irrationality stems from emotions taking over logic in the decision making process, and if there is enough irrationality it would move the markets in one direction or another.

Euphoria and panic are the two most common emotions displayed in the financial markets; the former would bring the markets up to a high, and the latter would bring it down to a low. Along the way, they bring collateral damage to your portfolio, at least on paper.

If you are a passive Bedokian Portfolio investor, that’s good. Just stick to your rebalancing plan and continue to enjoy life.

For the active ones, there are two ways to deal with market irrationality. First would be to ignore it, once you know the highs and lows are not results of real fundamental reasons. Second would be to capitalise on it; you could start doing a rebalance by selling the extreme winners and buying up the false losers in an up market (read up here) or treat it as a sale in a down market (read up here).

Emotional control is key to be a rational investor. Next time when the markets go awry, take a step back, calm down and think of the next logical step to do.

Well, that’s all I have to say in my second anniversary post. May all of us live long and prosper!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Another Bond ETF is Coming

Nikko Asset Management (Nikko AM) had just announced it would list an ETF on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on 27 Aug 2018. The new ETF, called the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (which I will shorten it to “the Fund”), tracks the iBoxx SGD Non-Sovereigns Large Cap Investment Grade Index.


This is a bond fund, similar to Nikko AM’s other offering, the ABF Singapore Bond Index Fund, which holds Singapore government and quasi-sovereign/supranational bonds. 

The Fund is Singapore dollar denominated, meaning all of the underlying assets are in SGD, although 74.8% of them are issued in Singapore. Being corporate bonds, the maturity date is shorter than that of government ones, averaging 4.7 years.

As the Fund’s name imply, it holds investment grade bonds ranging from AAA to BBB- under the Standard & Poor’s credit ratings. Also, the total expense ratio is about 0.2%, and the Fund intends to cap this ratio at a maximum of 0.3%.

The Bedokian’s Take

Given the fact that we only have a few locally listed bond ETFs, the introduction of this Fund is a refresher, especially for passive Bedokian Portfolio investors. Holding investment grade bonds, this would be a huge assurance as such bonds are deemed to be very less prone to default.

Though the Fund included the term “corporate bond”, it does contain some bonds from Singapore statutory boards such as the Housing Development Board and the Land Transport Authority, which I viewed them as quasi-government bonds.

Some may not like the fact that the distribution for this Fund is only once a year, unlike other securities that mostly pay out twice or four times annually. In my opinion, as long as it pays out regularly and timely, I am OK with it. 

If you are risk averse and want to take a step up to corporate bonds, this Fund would be a good consideration.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Straits Times Index

By now a few people had pointed out something about the Straits Times Index (STI), viewed as the representative of the local equities market; there is not enough diversification and it is overweight on certain sectors.

Let us take a look, shall we?

Fig. 1 - Weightage of the STI1

The three main sectors of the STI are banks, industrial goods and services, and real estate, which constituted a total of 71.61%, quite a heavy concentration there. Banks, which consisted of the big three (DBS, UOB and OCBC), stood at 41.62% of the index, almost half!

Extrapolating this onto the balanced Bedokian Portfolio2, with the 35% equity portion invested only with the STI, 14.57% (35% x 41.62%) of your entire Bedokian Portfolio would be on banks. And if you remembered, this would contravene my 12% limit rule

Relooking at the link in footnote 1, there are other indices around, such as the FTSE ST Maritime and the FTSE ST Small Cap. If you have read investment portfolio books from the United States (U.S.), they encouraged diversifying into sub categories of equity based on market capitalization, such as large cap, mid cap and small cap, and/or by sector play, and they have related financial instruments for investors to go into. Just look at Vanguard(a U.S. ETF provider) alone and they have a slew of ETFs for the U.S. market indices.

While we do have these equity cap and sector indices locally, there is no ETF based on them, hence there is a limitation on what to invest for our local markets.

So how to go about it?

Alternative #1 – Core-Satellite Approach4

My oft-harped-about approach, this involves using ETFs and individual securities (in this case, individual company equities) to form the core and satellite, respectively. Using back the balanced Bedokian Portfolio, if the STI forms half of your 35% portion (meaning 17.5%), your bank weightage would be reduced to about 7.28% (17.5% x 41.62%), assuming that you have no local banks in your individual holdings.

But this alternative may not sit well for passive and index Bedokian Portfolio investors, so let us go to the next alternative.

Alternative #2 – Going Glocal

The second alternative is to go glocal (I had written about this here), where you could diversify into overseas equities ETFs. According to the Bedokian Portfolio, the order of diversification of region/country comes first before sector, so taking back the bank example, if your overseas ETF has a banking component, this would not count together with the ones in the STI.

It is up to you how you want to assign your equities between local and overseas, using the 10%-30% guidelinefor your Bedokian Portfolio.

1 – FTSE Russell. FTSE ST Index Series. 29 June 2018 (accessed 14 July 2018)

2 – 35% equities, 35% REITs, 20% bonds, 5% commodities and 5% cash

3 – Vanguard. Vanguard ETFs. (accessed 14 July 2018)

4 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p122-123

5 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p109-110

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Going Local, Global or Glocal

A number of investors I know of started their investment journey from the local financial markets, like equities and bonds listed in the Singapore Exchange (SGX), Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB) and the local bank fixed deposits. Some had ventured on to overseas markets while others stayed put.

Coming from another angle, I know of a handful who began with foreign financial markets, in particular the United States (U.S.) markets. Again, some had “returned” with SSB and a mix of securities from SGX, while others just remained vested overseas.

There are many reasons why the above preferences happen. Some say it is due to familiarity, while others say one side provided more returns than the other. Whatever the rationale, it is up to the individual to decide, but for The Bedokian Portfolio investor, it is good to go glocal, i.e. local and global, due to the following reasons.


I have constantly rambled on diversification, and besides doing it at the asset class level (the highest order), we could also do it at the regional/country level (the next lower order). Take for instance equities; at any given time, the stocks and shares of a region/country may perform better or worse than their counterparts in another region/country, even though they belong to the same asset class.

A good example would be the Asian Financial Crisis back in 1997-1998. The markets that were affected, like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, got hit at various degrees, while the U.S. and European markets remained business as usual.

Foreign Exchange

Foreign exchange (forex) is a double-edged sword; it could amplify your gains if your overseas investment appreciates in price and the forex rate goes up, but it could be a real bummer if both the price and forex go downwards. This is the main risk of investing overseas, but if you look the other way it could present higher potential returns.

Both the price and forex going up is a good textbook example of a gain, but it does not work in the real world all of the time. As long as this equation (share price gain > forex loss) holds true, then it is a worthwhile investment. For example, on 2 Jan 2009, the closing price of Berkshire Hathaway Class A (BRK-A) shares was USD 99,990and the USD/SGD exchange rate was USD 1 to SGD 1.45252. Fast forward to 29 June 2018, the USD/SGD exchange rate went down to USD 1 to SGD 1.36215but the price of BRK-A shot up to USD 282, 0404

Imported Inflation

This was brought up by an acquaintance and was not featured in my ebook. Imported inflation is defined as “inflation due to an increase in the price of imports”5. As most of our raw materials and consumer products are imported, an increase in the foreign price and/or the depreciation of our forex rate might cause imported inflation.

This is somewhat related to the forex section above. Imagine a factory here required a widget from the U.S. to make a gizmo, and assuming a fixed USD/SGD forex rate, an increase in the price of the widget in the U.S. would naturally increase the manufacturing cost of the gizmo. Similarly, if there is a change in forex rate and more SGD is required to change for USD, the cost of the widget and subsequently the gizmo go up, too. Viewing it on a macro scale, all these price increases may contribute to the overall inflation of the economy, ceteris paribus.

Local-Global Proportion

I had stated in The Bedokian Portfolio that the global portion would be between 10% and 30%, spread across the equities, REITs, bonds and cash asset classes6. If you decide to retire locally, it is good to have a portfolio that is based on local monetary terms, but investing overseas will bring about the advantages of diversification and forex, as well as to mitigate against the potential effects of imported inflation.

And do not forget, due diligence and analysis are still required when you venture overseas.

1 – Nasdaq. BRK-A Historical Stock Prices. (accessed 1 July 2018)

2 – Monetary Authority of Singapore. MAS Exchange Rates (accessed 1 July 2018)

3 – Singapore Dollars (SGD) per US Dollar (USD). (accessed 1 July 2018)

4 – Yahoo Finance. BRK-A. (accessed 30 June 2018)

5 – Investor Words. Imported Inflation. (accessed 1 July 2018)

6 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p109-110