5 minutes with Aquaint Capital

Aquaint Capital is a Singaporean based asset management and property investment firm that recently listed on the ASX with the help of William Buck.

We caught up with Group CEO Yang Po Tan to find out what it takes list a business across borders and how Aquaint maintains an engaged multi-national team.

Aquaint has a unique structure. Why did you start the business and how has it evolved?

Today the company has three distinct business areas; education, asset management and investment.

This three pronged approach has been our goal since the outset. However, when we started out in 2009, we provided only education. We ran seminars focussed on property investment and asset management. Over time we found that many of our seminar attendees were looking to us for specific investment advice and as a result the other two areas of the business grew organically.

For me, education is still the most critical part of the business. It is important that investors are well informed and are aware of the risks. Throughout my career, I have seen too many people get hurt.

We see trends where property gets really ‘hot’, all too often uneducated investors get into the market when it’s at its peak and then get burnt. We teach people to spot investments before they become saturated and to review opportunities objectively.

You recently listed on the ASX. Why did you choose to list in Australia rather than your native, Singapore?

Aquaint has three distinct business arms, which is a foreign concept in Singapore. In Asia, most companies have only one business nature. We wanted to list in a country where both the regulators and the investors understood how our business operates.

Did you face any challenges listing your company overseas?

We were very comfortable with the process. Due to its position, culture and economy, multinational business is very common in Singapore.

With that said, there were some challenges. I would advise anyone listing overseas to seek the advice of professionals on the ground. When hiccups arise (which they always do) you need a local team that can adapt quickly and keep the process moving.

For Aquaint, engaging William Buck was invaluable. They understand how the local regulators and Australian markets work and are on top of any changes in legislation as they happen.

What would your advice be for other mid-market businesses planning to conduct an IPO?

Hang in there! There are times when it will gets tough and you may want to give up. The level of detail required is astonishing and it can really drag you down. Being prepared for this and planning in advance will help a lot. You need to be on top of everything. Your team and advisors will need to be precise and accurate, but also fast.

You brought your whole team to Australia to celebrate your listing, why was this important to you?

I wanted them to know that their effort is recognised – a business is not one person. To me, the team is everything. We’re a family.

We teach our staff that the growth of the company is only limited by the growth of its people. We encourage each individual to strive for growth professionally and personally. With each employee working towards growth anything is possible.

Our people work exceptionally hard and when you work hard, you get tired. We try to ensure that we have fun at work – when you have fun, you feel re-energised. We play pranks on each other, and make sure all the small wins are celebrated.

How do you maintain this positive culture across your remote teams?

I don’t call them ‘remote’ offices. Our overseas employees are as important to the business as those in Singapore. When we opened our offices in Taiwan and Malaysia it was important to ensure that our values were at their foundations. We sent senior staff to open these offices as we believe that a positive attitude comes from the top.

Twice a year we hold a retreat for all of our staff globally – one at the beginning of the year to set goals, realign thinking and establish strategy, and one at the end of the year to evaluate our actions and celebrate our success as a team.