When Covid-19 struck Singapore in February, Veronica Shim was just three months into her new role as CEO of Envysion, which specialises in family office solutions.
While the pandemic hasn’t affected long-term investment objectives, the former private banker — with more than 16 years’ experience at banks like Julius Baer Group and EFG Bank AG — had her hands full trying to weather business uncertainties during the circuit breaker period. It led to the launch of Envysion’s first Variable Capital Company to power multiple sub-funds with investment strategies for its high-net-worth clients.
“It turned out to be quite productive, and that kept us quite busy,” she says with a chuckle. “And the crisis has brought about interesting opportunities. For example, we are working with a venture capitalist about investment for a local company working on a Covid-19 vaccine.”
In comparing Envysion with banks, Shim highlights the former’s independence through an analogy: “If you fall sick and go to a pharmacy, you will be prescribed medication based on what’s available there. But you don’t know if that’s the best medication or the best price. That’s going to the bank,” she explains.
“We are like the GP. If you fall sick, the GP diagnoses your illness but doesn’t necessarily stock the most suitable medicine. Instead, we can recommend the best options by tapping on our partnerships with pharmacies. Sometimes, we can even suggest an alternative remedy. The possibilities are endless. Being independent allows us to better analyse opportunities for clients.”
Shim’s passion for helping others also inspired her to give back through Wise Enterprise. The social enterprise designs, produces and sells leather handbags, offers employment opportunities to members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore, Singapore Cheshire Home and The New Charis Mission. She says: “My Wise handbag is one of my favourite bags because it tells the story of grit and courage… Our work will empower the socially disadvantaged to become self-reliant and live with dignity.”
What’s an essential trait to excelling at what you do?
Empathy. Clients come to us for many wealth management matters because of our extensive network and knowledge, which often spill over into children’s education and succession planning. And our goal is to find out, for example, how they want their kids to be taken care of and how their wealth is to be transferred to the next generation. Being able to put myself in my clients’ shoes helps me better understand concerns that are important to them. That allows me to suggest solutions to tackle these concerns. I enjoy the sense of satisfaction whenever I manage to diagnose a problem and offer the right solutions.
What I’ve observed among Asian clients is that they don’t start succession planning early enough. Many times, their focus is on making money — after all, no one expects to be gone the next day — but the right succession planning will determine how the money made is used to take care of the family.
How does succession planning benefit from philanthropy and ESG (environmental, social and governance)?
Philanthropy has always been integral to succession planning by family offices because the patriarch or matriarch feels it’s a good way to school the next generation in giving back. But philanthropy requires a constant flow of resources and ESG helps generate returns to keep these activities sustainable. They are not mutually exclusive; they must be done together.
What money lessons do you want to impart to your kids?
I was just nagging my daughter, who is 18, and son, 15, about money this morning. She asked if she could visit a cat cafe, which charges $16 for two hours. I felt so indignant! I told her there’s a stray cat outside our house, and she could play with it for free all day. I want my children to consider carefully if they could spend the same amount of money on something better; $16 can buy enough chicken rice for a family of four. They kept very quiet. I feel that kids in Singapore are lucky because they enjoy many opportunities.
For example, my clients shared with me that they’d allow their kids to explore their passions because they don’t need to worry about putting food on the table. While I will encourage my children to explore their passions, I also want them to be able to empathise with the less fortunate.
Your best investment ever?
Myself. I was born in Ipoh but at 17, I came to Singapore after landing a job with Singapore Airlines. After eight years, I quit to pursue degree studies in banking. That led me to become a private banker. When the opportunity came to set up Envysion, I asked myself, would I regret letting it slip by? I consider every decision I make as an investment, and I will stand to gain something from every experience, even failure. Life is more than just about money.
This is part of our series on Grit Before Glitter. For the full story, click here.
The story first appeared in our September 2020 issue of A Magazine.