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Editorial Board Spotlight: What drives Shiuan Ting van Vuuren's passion for investing

Some CIOs like investing because it's exciting, while others enjoy figuring out the market ahead of others. Some just take pleasure in dabbling in finance. For the CIO of Sun Life International HuBS, investment is about satisfying curiosity.
Editorial Board Spotlight: What drives Shiuan Ting van Vuuren's passion for investing

Insurance asset management may not sound like the most exciting arena for investment professionals, constrained as it is by stringent regulations.

But for Shiuan Ting van Vuuren, being the chief investment officer for an insurance franchise is a role she fully embraces and enjoys.

For her, it’s not about the ups and downs in the market or the excitement of soaring charts and figures. Instead, it's the variety in the job that keeps her fascinated.

Shiuan Ting van Vuuren,
Sun Life International HuBS

“I like the great variety I get from working in investment,” said van Vuuren, CIO of Sun Life International HuBS, who is also a member of AsianInvestor's Editorial Advisory Board.

Van Vuuren runs a globally diversified investment portfolio for the high-net-worth life insurance operations in Hong Kong, Bermuda and Singapore under Sun Life Financial.

To make the right investment calls and ensure the portfolio is resilient for decades, she has to understand everything that touches markets – from macro economic changes and politics to culture and societal trends.

“I enjoy reading and having to learn about macro, political and geopolitical issues – all these can impact our investment decisions,” van Vuuren told AsianInvestor.

These topics can range from current affairs and history of the Middle East and Taiwan to the US presidential election system.  

“I find reading about these topics very interesting. I love debating and discussing these issues with other people and hearing other perspectives,” she said.

It also fascinates her when an investment project emerges in a country or region that she’s unfamiliar with.

“I enjoy learning about the history and cultures of different places – there are some investments in very specific and fascinating areas that I don’t think I would have learned about if I was not in this role,” she said.

“I am in a privileged position to be able to make meaningful decisions which can have an impact, however small.”

ROLE MODELS

While she has worked in the financial industry across London, Singapore and Hong Kong for 20 years, van Vuuren said she didn’t fully figure out what she wanted to do when she started her career.

Her first role was as an actuary, which she majored in at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She stayed in related roles for about six years until opportunity landed her in the investment world.

“You just go for it,” she said, even if the outcome is unknown. It's a phrase she repeated several times during the interview, adding that it also echoed a speech given by one of her favourite tennis players, Roger Federer, to Darthmouth graduates recently.

“I know what it’s like when people keep asking what your plan is for the rest of your life. They ask me: ‘Now that you are not a professional tennis player, what do you do?’ I don’t know… and it’s OK not to know,” Federer said in his speech.

In general, she finds inspiration from various people rather than having just one or two role models.

For example, she agrees with Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma's thoughts on career development. Ma had earlier said people in their 20s should follow a good boss, think about entrepreneurship in their 30s, and focus on things they are good at in their 40s.

She also picked up reading and learning techniques from JP Morgan Chase chief executive officer Jamie Dimon – “very fast, fast, very slow”.

Other people she has found nuggets of wisdom and inspiration from include investment legend Warren Buffet and British royal family member Kate Middleton.

“I prefer to take what resonates with me from different people to learn from and apply to different parts of my life,” she said.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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