Inspirational Woman Interview: Anna Haotanto

Anna Haotanto is the CEO of The New Savvy, a financial and career guide for women, and Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Anna has been featured on CNBCForbesThe Straits Times, Reuters Money, Business InsiderThe Peak Magazine, INC, The New Paper, The Edge Singapore & MalaysiaAsiaOneSingapore Computer SocietyVulcan Post, e27eFinancialCareers Asian Entrepreneur and Singapore Management University. Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University with a major in Finance and Quantitative Finance.

 

Can you tell us about how you first became interested in various areas of business and how did they influence you as a Founder?

Anna Haotanto: First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.  I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.

As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.

I am lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learnt financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21. While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.

Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities. That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.

If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me, it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.

How did you come to found The New Savvy?

Anna Haotanto: There are a few reasons for launching The New Savvy.

  1. I couldn’t ignore the desire to do this. I’ve wanted to do it since 2010. It is an itch that cannot be ignored.
  2. I’ve always wanted to help people and finance is the best way I know how to. Women and children are my pet causes.
  3. I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives. This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible, I am happier than before.

Can you tell us what the process was like?

Anna Haotanto: In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing, and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and had to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

I did everything from scratch myself. I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learnt about how websites are arranged and how they worked. I did a short market survey on what is lacking regarding women’s financial education and what women will like to learn more.

I took up a Digital Marketing course and learnt how to utilize tools like Google Analytics, search console and understood the terms.

We focused on having original content that are engaging, fun and relevant. I was very sure that we didn’t want to be another financial site which teaches you to make 20x in a week. I wanted The New Savvy to be relatable to women, so they won’t be intimidated by finance.

In your opinion, what are some key trends and challenges related to financial education?

Anna Haotanto: The New Savvy recently conducted a survey on financial awareness for women. The results are very interesting.  I think most women are afraid to take the first steps to expand their financial education.

There are a variety of reasons:

  • Lack of income resources; no disposable income
  • No time to spend on financial planning
  • Don’t want to understand financial jargon; cannot understand financial products
  • No idea what their options are
  • Think investing is gambling

I believe most women are looking to learn about earning a passive income and making their money work for them. They want to be aware of investment strategies and opportunities that are easy to understand, uncomplicated, not overly risky and something they can afford. I think if there are financial institutions that simplify the process, use less jargon and look after their interests, this will spur women to manage their money more.

Can you tell us about your work with the Singapore FinTech Association and Singapore Management University Women Alumni?

Anna Haotanto: We have a clear objective of increasing the visibility of women in fintech, whether they’re entrepreneurs, or work for banks or regulators. For SMU Women Alumni, we want to foster and encourage the alumni to reconnect and help each other out.

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted you?

Anna Haotanto: My mom is the kindest person I know, and love her deeply! She has always taught me always to be humble and be willing to learn. Exercise often and take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun!

What advice do you have for individuals as they are in the process of seeking financial independence?

Anna Haotanto: You should start saving as early as possible to enjoy the power of compounding. Compounding has the power to convert a small concerted amount of savings effort into a bigger and more comfortable retirement value. By putting aside money sooner rather than later, you will generate greater returns on your money – at an accelerated rate.

Look into supplementing your earnings with a passive income.

For investments, you can look for income yielding investments. Some investment vehicles that can give you income are:

  • Bonds
  • Dividend Stocks
  • Dividend paying Mutual Funds
  • Rental Income

If you are just beginning to invest, don’t worry about having to invest a huge portion of your savings. No amount is too small! The idea is to start early, learn and get comfortable with investing. Many people tend to overthink or procrastinate by saying that they will invest when they have a certain sum of money.

As a starter, you can consider buying an exchange-traded fund (ETF). ETF is an investment product that is traded on stock exchanges in similar way stocks. By purchasing an ETF, you can invest in some different investments in one go – without having to manage each investment yourself.

One of the ETF you can consider as your first investment is The Straits Times Index (STI) is a blue chip (major companies) Index of the top 30 companies listed on SGX (Singapore Stock Exchange). One of the key reasons why people buy STI ETF is due to its lower cost of owning the top 30 stocks in SGX as compared to buying individual stocks.

What are your favorite books, websites, films and/or resources?

Anna Haotanto: I have a favorite list of 6 Personal Finance Books Women Must Read here that I think every woman should read to jumpstart a good personal finance plan:

  • The Women’s Guide to Successful Investing by Nancy Tengler
  • Rich Woman: A Book on Investing for Women – Because I Hate Being Told What to Do by Kim Kiyosaki
  • Every Woman Should Know Her Options: Invest Your Way to Financial Empowerment by Laurie Itkin
  • I’m On My Own and So Are You: Financial Security for Women by Judy Reisnick
  • Property is a Girl’s Best Friend by Various Authors
  • Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl and Why You Should, Too by LouAnn Lofton
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