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More than 68,000 new Central Depository accounts opened last year

The figure is the largest number of new retail investors in the past five years to venture into the stock market.

SINGAPORE: More than 68,000 new Central Depository accounts were opened last year as the largest number of new retail investors in the past five years ventured into the stock market in the face of an uncertain property sector.

This is a huge jump from the year before, when about 51,000 new accounts were created, data from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) showed.

Ms Lynn Gaspar, head of retail investors at SGX, attributed the growth to an interest in the stock market as a new investment vehicle, as the property sector became more volatile and challenging to invest in following a slew of cooling measures and loan curbs.

Ahead of the launch of the 2014 edition of the StockWhiz online investing contest on Monday (June 30), she said: “When you look at the cost of living, it’s rising anywhere from 4 to 6 per cent every year. And you look at where Singaporeans tend to invest their savings: It’s either a bank deposit account, where you would earn less than half a per cent if you are lucky, or property. But when you look at property now, it’s becoming a lot more inaccessible for the average Singaporean.”

“In an emergency, the ability for you to liquidate property takes a longer time. So, the stock market is a good alternative for people to be able to come in and invest in a higher-yielding asset, not without risk … But you can see the value of the asset you are investing in, you can make those decisions and there’s also liquidity,” she added.

The rising retail interest in stocks is also a result of investor education, Ms Gaspar said. The number of people attending its seminars more than doubled from 32,013 in FY2013 to 85,224 in FY2014, to date.

However, the proportion of retail investors in Singapore is still low, accounting for 8 to 10 per cent of the population, she said, citing previous surveys. This is in sharp contrast to between 15 and 20 per cent in Australia, the United States and Malaysia, and 25 to 30 per cent in Hong Kong. An SGX survey revealed that direct investors account for 33 per cent of the working population. Of these, 13 per cent invest once a year or less, while 11 per cent invest at least once a month.

StockWhiz is a three-month investing competition on an application called TradeHero, available on mobile phones and tablets. Although participants do not use real money in the contest, winners with the best-performing portfolios will get to keep their returns in real cash, with up to S$198,000 to be won, said SGX.

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