The Covid-19 period was a period of change for many. This included local brokerage OCBC Securities: It led the company to move towards a new era of digitalisation, and at this time, it also welcomed a new man at the helm — Wilson He.
He joined OCBC Securities in April 2020, just as Singapore went into its “circuit breaker”. Bringing over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, including expertise in online trading and digitalising securities trading, he was previously the Regional Head of Online Trading at CGS-CIMB Securities. Before that, he was the Head of E-Business at Phillip Securities.
His affinity with the local bank Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) has been long-standing. The first stock he bought was OCBC shares, and his first home loan was with OCBC as well. While OCBC has supported He through pivotal moments of his financial journey, he is now giving back and intending to help people find that support with OCBC Securities, OCBC Group’s wholly-owned stockbroking subsidiary.
Steering the company through the pandemic when he first joined the company as the managing director was a trying period, even with He’s years of experience. “The pandemic environment was quite challenging. During that time, everything was uncertain, but the ‘relax, then lock down’ back-and-forth made OCBC Securities resilient and good at adapting to different situations,” says He in an interview with The Edge Singapore.
The pandemic undeniably sped up digitalisation efforts which led the company to turn its focus to its online trading platform iOCBC, and with that shift, it saw an increase in business volume as customers started to trade online more. “Online trading surged from 50% of OCBC Securities’ total trade transactions in 2019 to more than 70% at our peak.”
Apart from the online trading surge, OCBC Securities also achieved several accolades under He’s leadership, including Top 5 Trading Member (Securities) at the Singapore Exchange (SGX) Annual Awards in 2020 and 2021 and Best Mobile Trading Platform and Most Innovative Trading Platform at the Global Banking and Finance Award last year.
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These awards can be attributed to the revamp of iOCBC, which was redesigned after extensive customer studies to create an intuitive trading platform that met customers’ needs. The company also enhanced the integration of the iOCBC trading platform with OCBC Bank’s digital banking platform, allowing users to seamlessly conduct their banking and investing needs in a single app.
The trusted partner
“As OCBC Securities is part of the OCBC Group, the One Bank approach has always been our competitive advantage,” says He, adding that this comes with the advantage of OCBC Securities being able to tap onto the group’s valuable resources, such as its strong cybersecurity team, lower funding costs, as well as fund management expertise from Lion Global Investors (LGI).
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“By trading equities with OCBC Securities, which is part of the bigger OCBC Group, customers will have one view across assets classes and also be able to access more investment opportunities”, says He, explaining that it is the group’s overall mission to provide customers with a seamless financial journey with the OCBC Group, be it for their banking needs or investment objectives.
Due to this synergy with the OCBC Group, customers can enjoy a wider suite of privileged benefits, including having their assets with OCBC Securities recognised as bankable assets. This gives customers additional buying power, making the assets “work harder” for them. He adds that his vision for OCBC Securities at large is to transform the company’s model from being transaction-focused to an asset-gathering model that helps customers capture more market opportunities.
While customers can now comfortably perform trading transactions in the comfort of their homes or simply through their mobile phones, He emphasises that OCBC Securities maintains a good balance between its digital and human services offered to investors.
Algorithms in automated trading platforms may be able to provide timely updates, but a machine is still not able to draw connections between market data and an investor’s portfolio the way a human can.
Be it seasoned traders or beginners, “it is always good to have someone there to provide guidance on entering the market,” says He. And this is where the human touch of OCBC Securities plays a vital role, as they have a team of trading representatives dedicated to assisting their customers in doing “homework” on the market.
He elaborated on how Trading Representatives can hand-hold customers on their trading journey. “With today’s dynamic market, retail investors may not be able to ride on current trends fully. Our brokers have the expertise and knowledge to guide investors on how to read capital market elements and can share the right market sentiments. Suppose you’re not sure where to start your investment research. In that case, we have our team of trusted trading representatives that can share great insights from their training experience.” He adds that the Trading Representative is just a simple call away.
The benefit of seeking professional advice is further proven in OCBC’s Financial Wellness Index 2022, which studies Singaporeans’ financial wellness. The Nov 22, 2022, publication shows that people who sought advice from financial institutions had a higher investment index score of 62, whilst those who did not have a lower score of 51. This means that those with a higher score are more on track to achieve their investment goals.
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Navigating the ever-changing market landscape
Investors’ investment objectives constantly change in today’s volatile and uncertain markets. With its customer-centric focus, OCBC Securities hosts experiential labs to study its customers’ evolving needs.
These experiential lab sessions are conducted frequently with different customer groups to understand customer behaviours across various segments better. OCBC Securities then uses the insights and feedback collected from the lab sessions to update the iOCBC mobile app and introduce new features constantly.
In their latest update in late 2022, OCBC Securities offered loyal customers complementary live price feeds for the London and Australian markets. It is one of the few brokers in Singapore to offer this feature, allowing customers to capture their investing opportunities promptly. He shares that the company plans to extend the US market trading hours this year.
“We will also be rolling out advanced orders for both US and Hong Kong markets, which allows customers to capture their investing opportunities promptly without having to resubmit orders repetitively,” says He.
Furthermore, OCBC Securities plans to develop artificial intelligence-powered trading insights with personalised reports and push notifications that anticipate customers’ trading objectives and enable them to make more informed trading decisions. “When news related to your stock portfolio happens, you can get alerts. Today, people lack time to find news that affects their portfolio, digest, and act on it,” explains He.
Apart from enhancing its mobile app and training Trading Representatives to support customers, the firm has also launched several products and services that are relevant to current market conditions to allow investors to capture timely opportunities.
For instance, He spearheaded the launch of OCBC Securities’ first exchange-traded fund (ETF) – Lion-OCBC Securities Hang Seng Tech ETF – in collaboration with Lion Global Investors. The partnership between the two went on to launch the Lion-OCBC Securities China Leaders ETF and Lion-OCBC Securities Singapore Low Carbon ETF, allowing investors to capitalise on some of the biggest trends in the market today, such as the booming tech industry, growth in China market and environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing.
Alongside identifying some of the big trends in the market today, He has also researched how to navigate through the uncertainty and volatility, which he sees largely stem from current inflationary pressures, recession talks, geopolitical tensions, and Covid-19-related matters.
Taking a historical approach to viewing the market, He highlighted that there had been 13 interest rate hiking cycles from 1954 till now. In 11 of those cycles, the S&P500 went up instead of down, suggesting that interest rate hikes are good for the stock market. “Based on past seven fast cycles, the S&P500 market recovered within 24 months from the first rate hike”.
Investors should not invest based on fear and instead lean on available resources to help them make more informed decisions. While this year is expected to be uncertain, OCBC Securities has shed some light on navigating this fragile situation in its annual Market Outlook. Featuring several market leaders and experts within OCBC Securities and OCBC Group, the Market Outlook, now available for viewing on the OCBC Securities YouTube channel, highlighted trends and focuses for investors to consider for their portfolios.
Clearly, the market environment is challenging, but He remains unfazed. “We are still doing better than most of our peers,” says He, adding that OCBC Securities strives to continue steadfastly.
Trading in capital markets products and borrowing to finance the trading transactions (including, but not limited to leveraged trading or gearing) can be very risky, and you may lose all or more than the amount invested or deposited. Where necessary, please seek advice from an independent financial adviser regarding the suitability of any trade or capital markets product taking into account your investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs before making a commitment to trade or purchase the capital markets product. In the event that you choose not to seek advice from a financial adviser, you should consider whether the capital markets product is suitable for you. You should consider carefully and exercise caution in making any trading decision whether or not you have received advice from any financial adviser. All views or information expressed or provided in relation to the article belong to and are that of the interviewer and are for information purposes only. They do not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any particular person. You should not make any decisions without independently verifying or assessing the contents.
Photo: Albert Chua/ The Edge Singapore