How 24 Years in the Finance Industry Change the Way You View Investments
This investment expert shares how he adapted to the ever-changing world of finance.
To master the art of investing, you must willingly brave a long, winding road littered with triumphs and learning experiences. Just ask Michael Gerard D. Enriquez, the President and Chief Investments Officer of Sun Life Investment Management and Trust Corporation (SLIMTC), who, after graduating from university, powered through 24 years of dealing with different markets, experiences, and situations to solidify his mastery of the craft.
So, if you see yourself trekking the same path, it’ll be wise to take a leaf out of Enriquez’s book. Read on to discover four valuable insights into the dynamic world of investing based on key periods in Enriquez’s journey.
How to survive a crisis as a new investor
You can categorize students based on their best subjects. Some lean toward the arts, some toward sports and fitness, and some toward literature and communication. But for Enriquez, his strength has always been math.
The Ateneo alumni shared that he had been trading stocks on a personal level in between classes and found relaxation in observing the valuation and accounting of different companies. To him, these figures revealed how various industries operated—from real estate to banking to power, to infrastructure to consumer to conglomerate—and by connecting the dots, he gained a bird’s eye view of the country’s economic pulse.
So, when the opportunity to join the prestigious Abacus Securities Corporation as an equities trader presented itself, fresh graduate Enriquez took the leap—and fell into Asia’s worst financial crisis yet.
In hindsight, Enriquez considers his five years in Abacus a good experience, especially as a first-time trader. Experiencing the tail-end of a robust bull market followed by a sudden drastic market crash in 1997 taught him his first major lesson in investing: you must experience stressful market conditions to become a good investor.
“There are a lot of things you need to understand during stressful market conditions, [so that time] was a beneficial experience for me,” Enriquez revealed. “[It] gave me a good foundation to really understand asset classes during the high side, the bull markets, and especially during bear markets or ultra bear markets like the Asian financial crisis.”
You will grow as an investor during bear markets if you don’t quit
He also took away a second major lesson in investing: expect to become emotional.
“In university, no emotions were involved when you study movements on asset classes, equities, and fixed income. But when you’re trading those and seeing it fall, and you and your clients are losing money, you can become dominated by emotions than the fundamentals of the assets. That’s the biggest difference between hands-on versus theoretical,” Enriquez mulled.
However, the CIO also shared the silver lining and his third lesson from trading during a deep recession: markets can and will recover.
“[You will experience] fear, anxiety, all of the negative emotions, especially when markets turn bad. But I think as you start to encounter them, they strengthen you because you gain confidence in knowing that equity markets go down, but they also recover. You can also speak from experience rather than theoretical because you’ve gone through those.”
“Markets will recover, and there is always opportunity in adversity,” he added.
True enough, the Philippine economy slowly healed and stabilized by 2007. By then, Enriquez was already heading the fixed-income trading desks in Citicorp, with the position of Assistant Vice-President in Citicorp Financial Services and Insurance Brokerage.
You can sharpen your investing skills by leading a robust life outside of work
You don’t have to bury your nose in screens and numbers to become better at investing. Enriquez’s fourth lesson: you can get inspiration anywhere—especially outside work!
Enriquez doesn’t mix work and travel, something he loves doing with his wife. But sometimes, his best ideas come to him during these trips.
“I get inspired by the things I see in terms of how I look at managing not only assets but the people I lead in Sun Life. So really, traveling opens many doors and opportunities for you to see what’s out there that you can copy, especially when you’re exposed to more developed countries,” he shared.
Enriquez observed that people prioritized wellness and total well-being in Paris and Seoul. They had different investing behaviors from Filipinos, such as investing in art and wine and had different prevalent industries compared to the Philippines. He sees that these could become local trends.
He takes these global best practices home to Sun Life and localizes them, which is easy since Sun Life is a multinational company that thrives in a culture of openness.
Enriquez also gets inspired by his friends in the industry. “I’m good friends with the CIOs of [some banks]. I don’t see them as competitors, but as peers, so we exchange ideas, and I think it’s quite valuable to continue maintaining those strong relationships.”
“We may have the same views of certain stock markets, but the way we approach it, our processes, may be different. Sometimes, I get great ideas from them that I can adopt in Sun Life,” Enriquez shared.
You must invest in your physical, emotional, and mental health, too
Another source of inspiration for Enriquez is the triathlon.
“I’ve retired competitively from [triathlon], but I run every day. It gives me a sense of always striving to improve myself. I think what you get from the sport of triathlon is not just physical wellness, but more importantly, discipline.”
“If you don’t have the proper discipline, you will not be able to train the right way because you need a lot of time to train for running, swimming, and cycling. So, I think it’s perseverance to continue despite physical pain. It’s similar to investing. I think that’s how I applied the resiliency,” Enriquez related.
As a sports person, Enriquez also knows the value of empowering teammates and letting them shine, which is why he is against micromanaging in Sun Life. He also tries to imbibe in them the importance of physical wellness and mental toughness, which are essential when handling volatile markets.
Even with 24 years of experience, there is always more to learn
Enriquez’s investing journey took him to Philequity Management Inc., where he was General Manager; ING Investment Management, where he headed the equities desk as Vice- President; BPI, where he was Vice- President and Head of Equities for the Odyssey Funds in BPI Asset Management; the Fund Managers Association of the Philippines where he was a board of trustees member; and finally, in Sun Life as the CIO and President of Sun Life Investment Management and Trust Corporation. These experiences taught him how to navigate different asset classes in different market situations.
Now, as an insurer, he uses his investing savviness differently. “It’s a different way of managing assets as opposed to just trying to get the highest yield out there; that’s why it attracted me,” he explained.
“Throughout my career, I have been investing to maximize returns. Now, it’s a different case. It’s maximizing returns while ensuring we have the right amount of funds. We’re one of the few with experience as an asset manager and insurer.”
These days, Enriquez is busy growing Sun Life Investment Management and Trust Corporation, Sun Life’s standalone trust company that offers investment management.
SLIMTC is also one of the few standalone trust companies licensed to offer derivative capabilities to clients and can leverage their global presence.
To know more, visit Sun Life Investment Management and Trust Corporation’s official website at www.sunlife.co/SLIMTC.