EQ counts for top number cruncher

EQ counts for top number cruncher

SINGAPORE - First an auditor. Then an accountant. After switching to investor relations, Lim Siew Khee then became an equity analyst in what proved to be a winning move - not just once but twice.

The vice-president of research at CIMB had been ranked second for earnings estimates by Starmine in 2009, and this year climbed one spot to emerge as the top analyst in Singapore for accurate earnings estimates.

The experience at each of her previous jobs helped her tremendously, she said.

"The numbers that I learnt from accounting helped to set the very basic - learning to read financial statements," she said. "And having been in investor relations, you know how analysts work because you deal with them, what sort of questions they ask ... So it all just came together."

But despite having a career path predominantly dealing with numbers, for Ms Lim, the most important skill an analyst must have is not dealing with numbers but people.

Having high EQ is important, she said.

"Your stakeholders are your sales team and your clients ... So it's a relationship thing."

"If you can't get along well with your sales team, they won't push you as a good analyst. If you know that your clients are not interested in talking to you, then you quickly put down the phone. Then you won't rub people the wrong way."

Similarly, having a strong relationship with the companies gives her a headstart in sensing the companies' outlook.

Knowing them well helps her to "sense whether they are uncomfortable with their orders, or very comfortable with their outlook," she said. "You can sense in their body language I suppose, or in their tone."

That relationship will have to be built up with time, said Ms Lim, who has been in the line for six years.

Compared to when she first joined the industry, the market has become quieter and cycles are shorter, which presents certain challenges.

"People tend to have a shorter horizon," she said. "It is harder, because you can't just write a research report and say don't worry, a year later the stock will do well. You have to constantly think of what will happen three months or four months down the road, although our target price is based on a 12-month horizon."

But even though work is getting tougher, there is at least a bright spot in improving technology.

"Now that I have an iPhone, if there's any news it'll just pop up. Otherwise, last time before I sleep I'll have to turn on the computer, check SGX and see if I got bombed."

"So technology has helped a lot."

 

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