Robb Report Singapore Thought Leader: Kelvin Tay, chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, South Asia Pacific

Meet Kelvin Tay, chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, South Asia Pacific, and member of the Robb Report Singapore Thought Leaders community

If you’ve read Principles by Ray Dalio, you’ll know that one of the greatest talents one can have is the capacity to learn—a single-minded resolve to soak up different forms of knowledge like a sponge. That tenacity has carried Kelvin Tay through his lengthy career thus far.

Despite graduating with an art degree, Tay chose to pursue a master’s degree in finance at London’s Imperial College, right in the middle of the Asian Financial Crisis. He then made the switch from being a telecoms analyst to join the private wealth management arm at Deutsche Bank, simply because “it seemed a lot more interesting with more things to learn.”

When Tay eventually took over the reins as UBS Wealth Management’s chief investment officer (CIO) for South Asia Pacific in 2012, the significant milestone was made all the more impressive by the fact that he was the youngest CIO in the private banking sector at the time, as well as the only locally appointed one. Tay says that his journey has always been marked by the same fundamental “curiosity to find out why and how things work.”

What are you passionate about?

I have a deep love for learning and teaching. While it might seem like they sit at opposite ends of the spectrum, the two couldn’t be more intricately linked. In teaching you will learn, and in learning you will teach.

What’s a common misconception about your line of work?

That the finance industry is filled with reckless, overpaid individuals. When you consider the amount of stress, work pressure and the long hours, it would be difficult to attract and retain talent if the renumeration was not attractive. We’re expected to drive profitability despite extreme volatility in the markets. Not many industries are as unforgiving when it comes to the bottom line.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Being awarded the ‘Best Teacher Award’ as an adjunct associate professor at the Nanyang Technological University, where I teach the ‘Master of Science in Asset & Wealth Management’ postgraduate degree programme. It meant that I’d effectively imparted my knowledge and experience to course participants, most of whom are fellow professionals and regulators in the finance industry across Asia. It was both humbling and richly rewarding.

What’s your greatest fear?

The loss of my mental faculties, as that would mean losing the ability to think, rationalise, empathise and enjoy being in the company of loved ones.

What do you enjoy learning about outside of work?

As an audiophile with a particular obsession with speakers, I enjoy putting hi-fi systems together. I have 32 speakers at home—please don’t ask me why—three turntables and an extensive vinyl collection. I also enjoy gardening, so every nook and cranny in my house is filled with plants, including two vertical gardens. Badminton, muay thai and football are some of the ways I keep myself fit and trim.

UBS Wealth Management

Photography by Eugene Lee, Enfinite Studio

Hair & Makeup by Sophia and Victoria, Suburbs Studio