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PEOPLE

The Power of Intelligence with AQUMON’s Kelvin Lei

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• Kelvin Lei, CEO and Co-Founder of AQUMON, talks to The Mag about the power of intelligence.
• Both machines and humans possess intelligence.
• Machine learning technology has huge implications in everyday life, and now even in financial investments, making them more accessible.
• While machines help us make data-driven decisions, human intelligence, including Emotional Quotient and Adversity Quotient is irreplaceable.

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What’s the one thing that motivates you? “The Power Series” offers thought leadership insights from industry experts at Taikoo Place on the “power” of their initiatives in relation to everyday life. In February, we speak to Kelvin Lei, CEO and Co-Founder of AQUMON, about the power of intelligence.

What do machines and humans have in common? They can both acquire knowledge and learn – that’s intelligence.

With machine learning capabilities, a computer program can be “trained” to get smarter. And this has huge implications for our everyday lives. Big data technology, for example, is used in day-to-day settings such as search engines and content that pops up on our social media feeds. Let’s say you enjoy watching cat videos; the program will eventually figure that out and recommend relevant content to you as it learns your preferences. That got me thinking: what if we could leverage such technologies to empower investors?

“The defining factor between human and machine intelligence is the emotional sensitivity a human possesses.”

Having worked in different positions in renowned banks, I realised the banking industry’s policies were not always in the interest of clients. It was difficult to get advice unless you fell within the bracket of the top five per cent of Hong Kong’s wealth. I saw a market for digital, automated wealth management products – a solution for anyone to invest. Back in the mid-2010s, there was a new movement of Robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront in North America. My old colleague Dr Don Huang and I thought we could bring something similar to the Asian markets, and that’s how AQUMON was born.

Thanks to big data and machine learning technologies, we can sift through a whole universe of financial data, such as how much profit a company makes and how much R&D it invests in. The program gets smarter each time it makes a prediction when the market circumstances change, as it learns to autocorrect its assumptions and invest in a more measured method. The machines intelligently pick the products to invest in based on risk appetite and preferences, execute trades immediately, monitor investments 24/7 and auto-balance them if they notice that the investment returns aren’t optimised.

This kind of intelligence makes investing a lot more accessible. In the past, you’d need a substantial amount of investable assets – US$1 million or more – to get quality investment advice and access to a properly diversified investment portfolio, simply due to a shortage of wealth management professionals. (Hong Kong has approximately 4,000 qualified wealth managers for a population of almost 8 million.) With the latest automated technologies, we can help ease the pressure of asset managers, while lowering the entry barrier to as little as HK$10,000, so anyone can invest like the pros.

It also means we can leave the heavy lifting of research and analysis to the computers, which have less margin for error. The defining factor between human and machine intelligence is the emotional sensitivity a human possesses. When it comes to investments, it’s best to leave emotions out of them. Why? Well, when we are overconfident, we’re usually exposing ourselves to much higher risks; and when we’re anxious about the future, we become overly cautious and miss out on great opportunities. That’s where machine intelligence works in our favour to help us make rational, data-driven decisions, while we can sit back and pursue other passions, knowing that the automated Robo advisors are working hard for us.

That is not to say emotional sensitivity is a bad thing, though. On the contrary, I believe emotional intelligence, among other types of human intelligence such as creativity and AQ (Adversity Quotient), is a very useful skill in many life situations. Unlike machines, we humans are social beings. And while not everyone thinks in the same way, we can detect another person’s feelings from their body language, tone, and vocabulary usage. This allows us to understand others’ pain points in order to seek solutions.

In the workplace, human intelligence is essential, of course. We need EQ (Emotional Quotient) to resolve differences within a team intelligently. It’s about understanding that everyone in the office is trying to do their best; that it’s not a matter of who is right or wrong, but how to get everyone on the same page and agree to disagree respectfully. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s achievable through communication and transparency. At our office, I host quarterly town hall meetings where our staff ask questions freely, voice their comments and share stories.


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Find inspiration from your Taikoo Place neighbours –
Read more from The Mag’s POWER SERIES.  

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Then, we also need AQ – the endurance, grit and determination to pull through – to overcome challenges and stay competitive in a vibrant city like Hong Kong. The exciting part about working in a fast-paced environment is that you learn to be very agile. When things don’t go your way, don’t fret but rather adjust, adapt and pivot to a new perspective on how to tackle the problem. Our company’s very existence proves this point: at the beginning, we bootstrapped ourselves at a university library to devise the algorithms to power our quantitative engines; our hard work paid off and now we have a team of over 150 in our offices in Taikoo Place and Shenzhen.

A common misconception about intelligence is that it’s a fixed, innate quality. But I genuinely believe that it’s trainable, just like how computers learn through observation and emulation. I wouldn’t call myself a fintech expert back when I was working for the banks; and now I’m part of the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC)’s Fintech Advisory Committee!

I’ve developed my skills through years of experience, reading and efforts to educate myself on the topic, and talking to people more knowledgeable than myself. As long as we are patient, open-minded and have a growth mindset – the belief that our talents can be developed – we can all become smarter, whether it’s in investing or any other domains that we choose to pursue.

How does having a meaningful routine enhance our everyday lives? Read more about the Power of Rituals with The Porter’s Jared Lawler.

Do you work at Taikoo Place and want to be featured in The Power Series? Get in touch.

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