Stephen Choo has been making waves in the investment scene in Malaysia and internationally, putting Malaysia on the investment map of some of the most famous and extraordinary people in the world. Choo is the founder and CEO of CTIN Investment, an investment company which has made it globally. Always hungry to learn from the best, he has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Barack Obama. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, the investment guru talks about his journey towards becoming a successful investor and entrepreneur and shares some insights about investing.
Stephen Choo never wanted to settle for an ordinary life. At the young age of 19, he already knew he wanted to be a millionaire. He also knew that his goal could never be achieved as an employee earning a fixed monthly salary. So, for him, the logical choice was to become an entrepreneur.
“My STPM (pre-university) results were good enough for me to enter University of Malaya (UM), but I chose not to accept the offer to study for a degree in the prestigious university. At age 19, I already made up my mind to be a millionaire, and to me, studying for a degree was not one of the ways to achieve my goal,” says Choo.
He was inspired by the book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki, which taught financial education to people across the world. He was motivated by the concept of ESBI in the book, which is basically a cashflow quadrant showing what each person does in each quadrant, and where people get their income from. Choo decided that he would not be an employee or a sole proprietor, because he would not be able to make enough money to become a millionaire.
“I made a bet with my friends on who would be able to make more money. I went to Johor Bahru, (the southern-most state in Peninsular Malaysia) and sold Nu Skin products. In just two years, I was able to buy a Toyota Camry and a double-storey terrace house while my friends were still studying at university. I was 21 years old then,” says the confident Choo.
“Perspective is important. I chose to adopt a global viewpoint. Three years ago, I was a team leader in the property industry, with 200 agents under my leadership, but I felt the property market was not the way to go. So, I started CTIN Investment. It was my dream to have my own investment company. I started in Malaysia and then in 2018, I opened offices in Shanghai, followed in quick succession by Taiwan and Korea. In 2020, I will set up an office in Singapore. In 2021, I will open an office in the USA,” he says.
“In Shanghai, I started in June 2018 with a team of 7 pax. By September 2018, I had 10,000 in my team. The growth was remarkable. On 26 September 2018, we opened our present office in Menara Prestige, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city centre. The cost of the renovations of our office came up to some RM4 million,” he adds.
“On 28 September 2018, we organised a conference in Malaysia and 3,000 agents flew in from China to attend it. Only 5% of the participants were Malaysians. Most of our team members and network are from China,” Choo explains.
Choo described the first few months when he started CTIN Investment as highly challenging because it was hard to convince potential investors to put their money into something new. It took a lot of effort and convincing to gain their trust. It required a lot of courage, perseverance and determination to stick to the dream, but Choo and his team made it.
“Our achievements and successes are not measured in monetary terms. We succeed by helping other people to succeed. We should help people to buy their dream houses and cars and ultimately aim to help them achieve a happy and meaningful life. That is the true measure of success,” explains Choo.
“My team helped me to build CTIN Investment. The fact is they helped me to succeed. We built our success together. Without my team, I would not be able to achieve the level of success that I enjoy today,” he adds.
Choo’s leadership style is to help other people to be the best version of themselves, to be better than they could ever have imagined to be. He believes that we should not be afraid that others will become more successful than ourselves. When we help others to get what they want, we will get what we want.
He regards his greatest achievement as being able to meet Warren Buffett, the American business magnate, investor and philanthropist, who is considered to be one of the most successful investors and one of the richest persons in the world. Choo attended his company’s shareholders meeting in Omaha in the USA. The meeting was attended by 50,000 people, of which 12 were selected to meet Buffett and 20 were selected to play cards with Buffett and Bill Gates for 3 hours.
“I asked Warren Buffett how to be a global leader and he said, ‘Invest in yourself – invest in your brain and your network. If you want to be a millionaire, then you have to mix with millionaires and learn from them.’ Buffett also said that investing in yourself includes investing in your own health,” he explains.
“I also asked Buffett how to become successful like him and he explained that we have to invest in things that we know about and are experts in, and not simply invest in things one is not familiar with,” says Choo.
When asked about investment strategy, Choo says people must learn about investment before they invest in anything. “You must get to know it, become familiar with it, or end up getting burnt. If you are familiar with your investment, you can make money. Otherwise you will lose money.” He also emphasised on lifelong learning for learning is the best way to move forward in life.
Choo continues to dream big and to chase after his dreams. He envisions that in the span of some 5 to 10 years, his company would be handling global investments and that it will become a public listed entity. He also hopes to acquire bank and insurance licenses.
Choo’s advice for youths who are just starting out in their careers is to have the courage to try something new. “Have a dream and have the courage to chase after that dream. Do not be afraid of failure. Be the best that you can be, and give your parents and children the best that life can offer.”
“The ideal scenario is to be able to enjoy what you do. I enjoy my work and my work is my life. We should always have goals and targets to keep on becoming better versions of ourselves and achieve greater success. Keep on learning. Keep on reading. Always be hungry to improve yourself,” says the ambitious and entrepreneurial Choo.