May 31, 2009
me & my money
Preserving wealth is his main concern
CEO of lifestyle firm likes assurance that his capital is protected regardless of economy
By Lorna Tan
Millionaire businessman Frank Cintamani may be a jewellery aficionado and is usually dressed to the nines, but his investment portfolio is anything but exciting.
When it comes to his personal finances, the 36-year-old bachelor, who recently chaired the inaugural Audi Fashion Festival, said that 'wealth preservation is key'.
'I have a very boring investment portfolio. I'm generally a conservative person when it comes to risk-taking,' said the founder and group chief executive officer of lifestyle and interior design company Fide Living.
Other than the properties he owns, his investment portfolio consists largely of capital-protected structured products.
Though the returns are marginal and typically in single digits or low double digits, he likes the assurance that his capital is protected regardless of the economic environment.
A Chinese Indonesian, Mr Cintamani studied here at the Anglo-Chinese School till he was about 14 before leaving for London, where he pursued degrees in law and music.
While he was still in university, he worked for two years as an unpaid volunteer raising funds for charities.
Upon his graduation in 1995, his first job was as a junior partner in a boutique project finance firm here. Three years later, he left to set up a family office business in London with two partners, of which he is still a director.
Fide Living was set up in 2005 in Killiney Road and it has since expanded to include an events management and public relations arm, Fide Productions, and magazine publisher Fide Multimedia.
Q: Are you a spender or saver?
A bit of both. I spend 5 per cent of my net worth. The rest is saved. I totally believe in saving.
Q: How much do you charge to your credit cards every month?
My credit-card bills come up to an average six-figure sum monthly.
That's because I entertain a lot and I travel extensively to Hong Kong, Japan, Seoul and more recently Europe to attend the fashion weeks and expand my understanding of the fashion industry.
I travel to the United States about four to five times a year as I have relatives there. I almost always pay my bills in full partly because I don't like debt hanging over my head.
I don't go to the ATM. I send someone to withdraw cash from the bank twice a month.
Q: What financial planning have you done for yourself?
My income comes mainly from my core businesses. I'm not in the market to make a killing. I go to the market to safeguard the money. Wealth preservation is key.
If I exclude my properties, 60 per cent of my investments are in cash and currencies and the balance 40 per cent in principal-guaranteed structured products which are fixed income like bonds.
In good years, my portfolio had achieved modest double-digit gains, from 10 per cent to 14 per cent and even up to 21 per cent.
In these current circumstances, we make almost nothing and lose nothing as well, while others are losing 50 per cent to 60 per cent.
As for insurance, I have medical cover and I also have protection against theft and fire for my artworks, fine jewellery and watches. The annual premium is $30,000.
Q: Moneywise, what were your growing-up years like?
I have three brothers and a sister. I am the second child.
My parents, who are from Indonesia, settled in Singapore in the early 1970s. We lived in a 15,000 sq ft, two-storey, eight-bedroom bungalow off Tanglin Road.
My dad is a businessman running an Indonesia-based oil and gas business. My parents became Singaporeans about a decade ago.
I had a well-rounded money education from my parents. I learnt how to be thrifty and how to spend money wisely when required. It makes little sense to be accumulating and not know how to spend it.
Q: How did you get interested in investing?
It found me, quite by accident. I never meant to go into the financial world. I was invited by a veteran banker to join the boutique finance firm in 1995 and that was where I picked up a whole wealth of financial knowledge. I was like a sponge. I also did a finance degree from 2002 to 2004.
Q: What properties do you own?
I have a 6,000 sq ft penthouse along Bukit Timah Road which I bought in 2005 for a few million dollars. The value would have more than doubled. I also have a penthouse in London which was bought in 1998. It is half the size of the Singapore penthouse but it cost me twice as much. I have a three-storey, seven-bedroom house in Bel Air, in Los Angeles, which I bought in 2001. The value has since dipped a little. I stay in them when I visit London and Bel Air.
Q: What's the most extravagant thing you have bought?
In 2007, I bought a 14-storey building in South-east Asia. It cost me double-digit million dollars. The rental yield is about 11 per cent per annum. The seller was really looking for a buyer and it was priced to sell then. I bought it because it has huge potential for redevelopment. I plan to collapse it and rebuild it to take advantage of the real plot ratio which wasn't exercised when it was first built.
Q: What's your retirement plan?
I do not plan to retire. Outside of my entertaining and travel, I do live simply. I used to collect watches and fine jewellery but I don't feel the urge to continue the habit. I'm quite jaded right now by shiny objects. I don't think I need a lot when I'm really retired. I can live on $10 a day and have nasi lemak.
Q: Home is now...?
The penthouse in Bukit Timah.
Q: I drive...
I am chauffeured in a navy blue Bentley which I bought last year for just under a million.
WORST AND BEST BETS
Q: What has been your worst investment to date?
I can't think of something that has been an overwhelming loss. In any case, even bad investments are good learning experiences. They are all life lessons.
Q: And your best investment?
It is in my firm Fide Living. It was profitable even before the first year of operations ended. So far, I've invested about $2 million in Fide, which has a staff strength of 50.