“The world sees nature through the eyes of the artist. Why, for centuries….it saw shadows black until Monet discovered they were coloured…“
W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
Investment is often associated with numbers, facts, and a subtle hint of boredom. I can still remember the confusion in my mother’s eyes when I told her that I was pursuing a career in investing. I guess it’s hard for an art lover to appreciate the fascination in business when she finds magic in the pen of a poet.
But to me, innovative products, insightful business leaders, and their adventure stories are so captivating. I feel compelled to figure out the driving force behind great companies. Someone who is curious about what I do can think of me as a detective – observing human behavior, investigating numbers, and correlating seemingly irrelevant facts to search for the hidden gems in the business jungle.
I can still recall when I first discovered a small business called Tencent seven years ago that offered an instant messenger service in China. At the time, the company had transformed their users’ social network into a platform and was in the process of building an ecosystem of services on top of it. Tencent was relatively unknown back then, but I was dazzled by the enormous value created by their business model. Today, Tencent is among the most valuable companies in the world.
This is where I get my satisfaction – to spot a great business early on. And for a long time, I believed my work had little to do with the arts until two years ago.
To celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary, the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibited 38 paintings of Claude Monet in 2017, and my mother recommended that I pay a visit. Monet had an unusual sensitivity to colour and avoided using black. I was enchanted by the fact that for centuries, people believed shadows were black until the artist saw it was coloured, and then so did the rest of the world. Artists, through their unique perspective, explored the depth of nature, pushed the frontier of cognition, and enlightened the mankind through their arts.
That moment, I began to re-examine the nature of my work. Perhaps investors are like artists – we explore, we think, and we express. Through the dots we connect, the puzzles we solve, the hidden gems we discover, we are crafting works of art. By investing in great companies like Tencent and communicating it with our clients, we are telling a story about the value we believe in and the world we envision.
That’s how I started to really emphasize with artists. Because investing, like any creative process, is not all pleasant. It can be painful and lonely. There were times when I felt stuck in the jungle when all the treasures seemed to have been found, and times when the gem I held onto was not appreciated by others. But it was during those times that I expanded my knowledge and honed my skills, learned the virtue of patience and the strength of resilience.
Today investing to me has gone way beyond a means for a living. It is my journey to see the world, explore the unknown, and find my own truth in life.