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Kelvin Tan (1974–2023)

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 4 min read
Kelvin Tan (1974–2023)
Kelvin Tan, seen at a dinner in 2011 marking The Edge Singapore’s 500th issue, helped cover the asset management industry for this paper for 15 years / Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua
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Isaac Kelvin Tan was part of the founding team that helped launch The Edge Singapore back in 2002. For the next 15 years, his perch was to cover the fast-growing wealth and asset management industry here. With both a broad perspective and an eye for interesting details, he was always on top of trends, describing the latest investment themes and hot sectors for our readers.

Tan, a diehard fan of Newcastle United Football Club, was an active and sporty fellow — a passion shared with his two boys Ryan and Ian. He was known for peppering his stories with sporting analogies, seamlessly drawing his interviewees into sharing how sports and investments go well together.

For example, in a 2015 story, William Low, head of global equities at Nikko Asset Management, told Tan how he pushes his body to extreme limits by taking part in quadrathlons and other gruelling “mid-life crisis” exercises. As a fund manager, Low was equally focused and does not invest like many of his peers who hedge by “owning a bit of everything”.

Over the years, Tan sat across numerous big names in the global wealth industry, such as UBS CEO Peter Wuffli, Marc “Dr Doom” Faber, Mark Mobius of Templeton Asset Management and Hugh Young of Aberdeen Asset Management.

Tan gave a fair share of the coverage to smaller, less well-known local players too. He helped explain the fee-only model used by Providend, Singapore’s first independent financial advisory firm; he made the trek up to the shophouse office of Aggregate Asset Management along Joo Chiat Road to tell the story of the performance-fee-only upstart.

“He was unassuming, despite having great depth of knowledge of personal finance. He doggedly pursued difficult stories and had a strong sense of what was right and wrong,” says former associate editor Sunita Sue Leng.

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Another ex-colleague, Frankie Ho, recalls Tan as an extremely dedicated and prolific personal finance writer, arguably one of the best in town. “His dedication was palpable, second only to his devotion to his family and, as far as I know, soccer.”

Tan’s other passion — shared with his wife Serene — was wine. Knowing this wasn’t exactly the most accessible hobby, he would gush about his collection only when asked. Meanwhile, a $1 cup of kopi o would do nicely for him.

Among colleagues, Tan was the easiest-going dude around. Never mind the pressing, weary deadlines, he had a ready smile to help lighten the mood and was always happy to find time to have lunch (and a quick dinner) with colleagues before hitting the keyboard again.

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The Amoy Street hawker centre was a regular haunt. Over simple fare, Tan would generously share the latest investment trends he picked up from his interviewees. Or he would explain the intricacies of personal finance planning, such as ways to make better use of one’s CPF savings.

Ah Seng (Hai Nam) Coffee was a stall he regularly patronised. Always the generous soul, Tan would fight to pay for everybody. By doing so, he inadvertently ignited most others to do a one-up and pre-pay for the following day’s drinks, and the subsequent day’s. That was how the regular lunch group was able to enjoy the special service of William of Ah Seng, who would amble over to take drinks orders and deliver instead of queuing up like everyone else within the overflowing hawker centre.

When Tan left the company after 15 years in late 2016 for greener pastures, he was given a farewell mock-up of The Edge Singapore according to newsroom tradition. As a mark of what he had achieved over the years, the headline was “Good yield hunting”. No one realised how much his work meant to him, until at his wake last week, we were told he had kept the mock-up in his safe all this while and that he had told his family his years at The Edge Singapore were the best times of his life.

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