At the age of 32, Tan Soo Chuen started Discerene Group, a firm that invests globally on behalf of several philosophically aligned investors.
This Malacca-born investor completed high school and A-Levels in Malaysia before reading law at Oxford University. He then spent three years at McKinsey & Company before pursuing his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at Harvard Business School. After graduating from business school, he worked as an investment analyst at Halcyon Asset Management, The Baupost Group, and Deccan Value Advisors, before founding Discerene Group LP in 2010.
Discerene is a private investment partnership which invests globally on behalf of several philosophically aligned investors, pursuing a fundamental, contrarian, long-term value investing philosophy.
“I started the firm because I wanted to ‘paint my own painting’.”
Soo Chuen started Discerene with the backing of a few investors. He wanted to create “a team with a culture and values I can be proud of, working for and with partners that I enjoy and respect, with missions that I admire and support”. Building Discerene has been his proudest achievement.
“Discerene is a ‘thick’ institution.”
Soo Chuen wants Discerene to be a firm where people of differing backgrounds work together to help each other grow, while working towards common goals. Discerene is an institution with a “thick” culture, that is, one which becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person, “head, hands, heart and soul”.
“When I do research for work, I find it tremendously fun.”
A subscriber of the saying “find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, he integrates his work and personal lives seamlessly. For example, books he reads for fun still tend to be relevant to investing. Conversely, when he researches companies as part of his job, he is also satisfying his personal curiosity about how businesses work.
“Be curious. Read as much as you can, as widely as you can. Talk to people – different people doing different things – about what they do.”
Soo Chuen advises young people starting out in their careers to invest time in discovering where their true passions lie.
“If you do not enjoy a particular profession, then you should not pursue it no matter how much money you think you can make on the job. You will not find contentment, motivation, joy, or fulfilment.”
If you do not want to read and analyse company accounts for hours on end, for example, you may want to reconsider being an auditor. If you do not want to interact with children all day long every working week, perhaps being a paediatrician would not be a good fit for you.
“Follow your passion. This may be different from that of your older brother or older sister, or your friends, or the person next to you, and that’s absolutely OK. Given how much of one’s waking hours one will spend at one’s job, discovering one’s calling and finding true joy at work is one of the biggest blessings in one’s life.”
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