Wealth management isn’t just about investments. Noor Quek, Founder and CEO of NQ International shares how millennials in Singapore can carve a niche for themselves as financially-savvy entrepreneurs and grow their wealth with the changing times.
“The most important is cash flow management. One can feel very empowered when there is cash. You must always try to keep enough to last you. If the inevitable happens, cash gets you far.”
Noor is one vivacious character. Before meeting at the Singapore Cricket Club, our emails were dotted by witty exchanges and boisterous exclamation marks, suggesting her warm reception towards an unusual interview request by a new e-magazine.
When we finally met, Noor was decked in a bright floral blouse, light trousers and Tory Burch wedge sandals. Looking sprightly, one would not have thought that she had been fasting during Ramadan.
After a courteous round of handshakes and greetings, we adjourned to the Main Lounge and sat down at the couch area. “Are you getting anything to drink?” I asked. Noor gently declined. Not a sip is allowed till it is time to break fast, she said.
Changing with the times
At first sight, Noor is technologically savvy for a woman of her age. “It is out of necessity. I have my gadgets to check emails and take calls in between minding the grandchildren, travelling, spending time with my parents and meeting people.
With technology, I can manage my clients anywhere. It’s amazing, you become very self-sufficient. Even travelling, you can just go online and book flights, change it and know what is happening,” she enthuses.
“For me, there must be a solution to everything,” Noor continues. “I cannot stand hanging around inefficiencies. Thinking in terms of processes and systems is a trait I got from my father. At home and at work, he was strict and a stickler for regime.”
But the driving force for everything Noor does is happiness. “There isn’t a way to happiness, happiness is a way. When change comes, go with the flow. Fill yourself in that situation and make the best of it! Be positive as change adds light to life. It is wasteful when people lose themselves in drugs and alcohol,” adds Noor, clasping her hands firmly together.
While her father had wanted Noor to study medicine, embracing change eventually landed her in wealth management. When Noor was 14, she actively participated in oratorical contests at school and won a national competition. At a formal celebratory luncheon, serendipity led to an early encounter with the financial services industry.
“I found myself sitting beside the chief of an audit firm. Years later when I got into university, I contacted him for an internship and started getting familiar with the business world.
Today, I sit on the dental council as a layperson and make sure there is a fair hearing of the public’s complaints. That’s the irony of it. See how change happens and eventually, I found my way back to my father’s dream?” explains Noor, who is also a founding member and president of the Breast Cancer Foundation, as her face broke into a big smile.
“Sit on the streets and watch people, it hones you into a wholesome person. Having EQ (emotional quotient), IQ (intelligent quotient), SQ (street-smart quotient) and CQ (cultural quotient) is important.”
Wealth management for millennials
With decades of private and investment banking experience under her belt, Noor states plainly that wealth management is not just about investments. One has to think about how to house these investments. Are you buying for dividends or capital gains? What is your portfolio like? How do you adapt rapidly for cash, children’s education, housing and such?
Truth is, everything is expensive. And these days, worldly millennials are high earners, not rich yet. Smart, ambitious and talented, their parents have high hopes for them to achieve the five Cs and beyond. So what can millennials do to accumulate wealth?
“The most important is cash flow management. One can feel very empowered when there is cash. You must always try to keep enough to last you. If the inevitable happens, cash gets you far,” says Noor matter-of-factly.
“I have seen secretaries with Hermès bags, just because of materialism. We tend to acquire, and I am equally guilty of this. But less is more,” she adds.
Noor highlights that capital protection should be the priority in one’s early years. When pay cheques get larger, take on more investment risks if that feels right. With adjustable annual payments, insurance could also come in handy when one grows older.
Most importantly, travel and see the world. “Sit on the streets and watch people, it hones you into a wholesome person. Having EQ (emotional quotient), IQ (intelligent quotient), SQ (street-smart quotient) and CQ (cultural quotient) is important. If you are creative and entrepreneurial, there is a good chance to make it in life,” urges Noor.
“There isn’t a way to happiness, happiness is a way. When change comes, go with the flow. Fill yourself in that situation and make the best of it! Be positive as change adds light to life.”
Singapore’s distinct advantage
Looking at the tycoons in Singapore, Noor attributes their wealth to the modern city’s meritocratic system. In all fairness, Singapore offers education and a chance to progress if one does well.
“There are so many people here from very poor families, including some of our ministers. And when others come from poor families and make good, they help others too. It’s about your own willingness to work hard, take challenges and make sacrifices,” says Noor, highlighting that Singapore offers a lot of opportunities for anyone to be successful.
Looking back at her younger days, Noor recollects reading voraciously. “I used to take my history book and behind it would be Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. There was a girl Georgina who called herself George. They always thought she couldn’t do it because she was a girl. So she cut her hair and behaved like a boy. I think a little bit of that was in me. I didn’t plan to get into a man’s world. I didn’t even feel I was different in a man’s world. And that’s the beauty about Singapore.”
Fast forward to the 21st century, Noor observes that the new generation of Singaporeans are entrepreneurial, and the opportunities to become one are there, as is the competition.
“This is the value of living here, Singapore gives you the opportunity to be international. To live as good a life as you can, it’s all up to you,” she assures.
To ignite that fire, Noor firmly believes that every child should be given the opportunity to dream. “When Singapore Dance Theatre asked me to be a fundraiser on their committee, I said yes, because I wanted to watch Swan Lake with 500 children. If only one child could say ‘I want to have this’, we have achieved something.”
Images by Noor Quek, stock free images
Founded in October 2007, NQ International initiates, negotiates and facilitates wealth advisory and financial transactions across countries and multi-generational Asian family offices. NQ International also identifies talent and emphasises gender, age and ethnic diversities in the boardroom.