Keynote Address by
Datuk Ranjit Ajit Singh
Chairman, Securities Commission Malaysia
2015 IFIE-IOSCO Global Investor Education Conference
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
19 May 2015

Mr Paul Andrews, Chairman, International Forum for Investor Education;
Mr David Wright, Secretary-General, International Organisation of Securities Commissions;
Distinguished speakers;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning.

1 It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to the 2015 IFIE-IOSCO Global Investor Education Conference.  This is the 7th Global Investor Education Conference organised by IFIE and IOSCO, and the first time that Malaysia is hosting the event, here in Kuala Lumpur. I would like to congratulate the organisers, IFIE and IOSCO, on what appears to be an outstanding programme on very topical issues and an impressive line-up of speakers.
2 I am also delighted to see delegates from all parts of the world in this hall today, from our colleagues within the region to those from more distant countries. This reinforces the global nature of this conference, and demonstrates that the commitment towards investor education is indeed universal.  I hope that you will find some time during your stay here to get better acquainted with our city: sample our wide variety of cuisine, see our sights, shop at our stores while helping to tilt the country’s balance of payments in our favour!
Ladies and gentlemen,
3 Today’s Conference is taking place during a time of an increasingly challenging external landscape, where uncertainties surrounding the global economy is impacting overall investor confidence. Volatile conditions in commodity and financial markets coupled with asynchronous monetary policies pursued by major economies amidst soft global growth expectations have resulted in investor exuberance for yields and heightened market risk indicators.
4 As regulators, we continue to focus on building resilient markets and managing risks, as well as maintaining investor trust and confidence. Investors in this environment can also be said to be more vulnerable and more prone to making irrational investment decisions, and therefore more likely to suffer harm. Investor education and empowerment are therefore critical to ensure investors are equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of the market and to make informed investment choices – irrespective of the environment in which they operate in.
5 As the Vice Chair of the Board of IOSCO, I am very mindful of the priority that IOSCO places on investor education. IOSCO has recently established a dedicated policy committee on retail investors, whose primary mandate is to develop standards on investor education and financial literacy. Led by the Ontario Securities Commission and CVM Brazil, the agenda of the Committee includes policy work relating to anti-fraud messaging and investment risk education, including identifying methods of investor education that resonate with investors and offer the most potential for behavioral change.
Ladies and gentlemen,
6 Digitisation and financial innovation are starting to have a profound impact in global financial markets. These developments provide for greater democratisation of markets by disrupting traditional channels of intermediation enabling investors to benefit from greater access and cost savings. Particularly in emerging markets which do not have legacy structures in place, technology leapfrogging allows many of these markets to embrace technology and digital media at a more rapid pace.
7 Asset management firms globally, for example, are increasingly integrating automated investment tools such as robo-advisors into their business models. Digital wealth-management assets, which include those managed by robo-advisers as well as traditional firms with online offerings, are projected to reach between USD55 – USD60 billion this year, up from USD16 billion at the end of 20141.
8 The lower costs and convenience of these online tools are clearly reinventing the way investment advice is being delivered. There are however some concerns that the different algorithms used by robo-advisers can result in significant differences in portfolio recommendations for the same investor. This therefore places greater responsibility on investors to ensure they are appropriately equipped to engage in these platforms, including discerning between the different recommendations and assessing the risks involved.
Ladies and gentlemen,
9 In designing investor education efforts, it is imperative that the human element be considered. Many of the investor education efforts tend to be based on the premise of the typical investor, and what that typical investor might expect and understand or how they might behave.  Increasingly however, this traditional notion of the average or rational investor has been challenged by the field of behavioral economics.
10 It is widely accepted that individuals often make decisions that are subject to behavioral biases that can result in unwise or irrational investment choices. Importantly, such biases can be predicted and exploited by others in ways that do not necessarily serve the investors’ best interests. Investors who are prone to overconfidence or over-exuberance, for example, may be influenced by financial service providers to take on greater risks, or invest in products whose characteristics they do not truly understand.
11 The challenge for us is to design and deliver investor education that encourages informed participation in a way that makes investing during challenging times easier. In this regard, we must be better guided by investor psyche and behavior and adopt a much more analytical approach in data and intelligence-gathering of investment preferences through mystery shopping, investor engagement and surveys, and other means.
12 This applies equally to the industry as there are clearly benefits to financial intermediaries who stand to gain from better wealth maximisation and overall customer satisfaction. Clear and simplified disclosure and communication, design and marketing of products tailored to meet investors’ needs and risk-reward profiles, and ethical sales practices will generate better overall outcomes. Further, it is critical that this be applied throughout the life cycle of the product, and not just at the point of sale.
13 To ensure investor education remains relevant and effective, we also need to be able to measure the impact and success of our efforts. The development of a more granular approach involving assessment of behavioral changes will seek to provide meaningful guidance in taking our investor education strategy forward. The results will allow us to design approaches to better reach a diverse demography, improve ways to target and stratify delivery and leverage off stakeholder participation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
14 In Malaysia, our diverse investor base has led us to develop various modalities to raise the investment literacy and capabilities of the investing public. Very early on, the Securities Commission recognised the need to develop a holistic yet flexible investor education strategy – targeting the youth, working adults, the rural populace, among others.
15 Given our relatively young population, our focus includes increasing the level of financial literacy of youths. In the last 12 months, we have engaged with more than 10 universities in our outreach efforts involving close to 2000 students throughout the country. In addition, other demographic segments were targeted through programmes such as Teens & Cash, Money@Work and BMW (which incidentally is not a German car, but is the acronym for Be Money Wise!)
16 InvestSmart, our investor empowerment initiative launched last year, is the latest iteration of our efforts to promote broader and more informed retail investor participation based on the delivery of easy-to-understand information via multiple platforms including Facebook, Twitter and a mobile app. The adoption of this multi-modal strategy enables the Securities Commission to reach a wider segment of the investing public, particularly the younger and increasingly tech-savvy generation of investors.
Ladies and gentlemen,
17 The storyboard has to change. The welfare of investors is paramount, and it must be recognised that it is investors who make the market. Without them, it is a zero sum game. Industry must therefore prioritise the best interests of investors and ensure fair treatment.
18 There also has to be better alignment of resources and expertise among all stakeholders to ensure we are able to build investor confidence and increase informed investor participation. Investors must have the confidence and knowledge to participate safely in the capital market.
19 In this regard, all cogs of the wheel must work in tandem. Strong collaboration between regulators and the industry, supported by international organisations such as IOSCO and IFIE will ensure an alignment of objectives and the pooling of expertise to propel the investor education agenda forward.
20 Thank you. I hope you enjoy the Conference.

1 Digital Wealth Management Market Update: A Mosaic of Models Emerges, Aite Group, March 2015