First, they got rich from commodities. Then real estate and banking. Now what?

By | CYH

I observed a few patterns among the richest in Singapore across generations.

The first generation got rich from commodities although they eventually branched out to other businesses and formed conglomerates.

Tan Kah Kee – rubber
Lee Kong Chian – rubber and pineapples
Lim Nee Soon – rubber and pineapple
Lim Chong Pang – rubber
Eu Tong Sen – tin and rubber

Southeast Asia was rich of resources and that was what prompted the British to colonise the region. The Industrial Revolution brought about the increased demand in goods which required natural resources as a production input. Controlling the resources is big money. It even led to the Japanese’s ambition of creating The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, in a bid to secure resources for their own pursuit.

The second generation of Singapore’s richest was in real estate and banking.

Ng Teng Fong – Far East Organization
Kwek Leng Beng – City Development
Kwee brothers – Pontiac Land
Wee Cho Yaw – UOB and UOL
Khoo Teck Puat – Standard Chartered

Singapore’s GDP has expanded 349 times since independence. The meteoric rise in Singapore has brought wealth to many and those in real estate and banking benefited the most. According to Knight Frank Wealth Report 2022, Singapore came in fifth place as the most expensive cities to buy property.

A growing and vibrant economy is obviously good for banks as financial transactions and demand for products increase.

Looking forward, my question is – which sector would generate the most wealth for the third generation?

The most obvious answer is tech and a dark horse would be crypto. We see some signs of it now as there are a few tech entrepreneurs appearing among the Singapore richest.

Based on Forbes 2022 ranking:
#2 Eduardo Severin – Facebook
#5 Forrest Li – Sea
#7 Gang Ye – Sea
#13 David Chen – Sea
#22 Zhao Changpeng – Binance

The retail investors have sensed this too as investing in tech companies has became popular over the years. I believe it is the easiest way to get exposure to the sector – akin to buying real estate and bank stocks in the 80s and ride the boom.

But it will be even better if you can have a career or business in the tech sector because you get more direct benefits from the involvement.

Yes, it will be competitive. But it is worth a fight if you believe you have a chance. Success in life can be determined by a few key decisions. Identifying the biggest trend and use it as a tailwind would give you a great push in life.

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