Monday, October 26, 2020

Help Singapore save money by using Trace Together app instead of token if you can

This is not a post about personal finance. It is related to national finance.

Trace Together tokens were collected for my family yesterday. I never gave any thought as to why not. Government give free, I take. I am a cheapskate. It was a natural knee-jerk reaction.

Today, I realized I should have used the free Trace Together app instead of taking the token. I am writing this blog post to make amends. I will not collecting any more token when the existing token runs out of battery.

Let's do a worst-case scenario estimate of the cost of supplying every Singapore resident with a hardware token. 

Each Trace-Together token is estimated to cost SGD20. To supply entire 5.7m population of Singapore, the total cost will be around SGD114m. The battery life for each token is 6 months and the battery is non-rechargeable. So, every 6 months, Singapore will have to spend SGD114m to supply each resident with a token. We are looking at annual expense of SGD228m. 

Why waste money on a hardware token when the app is available for download free of charge?

Besides helping the country save money, there are other reasons to use the TraceTogether app instead of token. I do not like the inconvenience of carrying an extra dog tag. I also do not feel comfortable with a bluetooth token near my body that is forever emitting radiation. The phone allows me to disable bluetooth whenever convenient to reduce electronic radiation. Bluetooth radiation levels are low, so it is not a health concern but I am paranoid on such matters.

Some members of the public will always be skeptical of what Trace-Together app can do. What if this app uploads my private data to some government cloud data? Skepticism is a good habit when confronted with new information. If one is doubtful, then verify the claims. Trace-together app source code is open and available to public for download. The app operation can be verified by checking the source code. While most people do not have the expertise to do, there will be engineers who can independently warn the public through social media when something is wrong. I seriously doubt the team behind Trace-Together will risk that and lose the public's trust. 

There are some people who need the token for workplace convenience or do not own a smartphone. As for myself, I will be using the app from now on. When the battery of my existing token runs out, I will not be collecting any new token. I will persuade my family members to do the same.

Whether it is token or app, the savings is small compared to total cost incurred by Covid-19 so far. So, let's co-operate and run Trace-Together together to quickly contain this Covid virus so that Singapore can get on back to normal economic life as soon as possible. Thank you.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

My experience with Tiger Brokers platform

Although this is mainly a positive post about my experience on Tiger platform, it is not a sponsored post. It is written independently from Tiger Brokers based on my personal experience/situation. I am happy to do this as a grateful customer who have benefited from the freebies offered by Tiger. Not being sponsored also means I am free to talk about negative aspects of Tiger platform.

I am an existing customer of DBS Treasures (for Singapore stocks) and Interactive Brokers(everything else). Recently, I applied to be a customer of Tiger Brokers. So, why apply for a new account? It is because Tiger Brokers can offer things that my existing brokers cannot. 

Top reason : Free, quality market data

Tiger Broker provides free, real-time bid-ask price data for U.S, Singapore, China stock markets. For Hong Kong stocks, only the last-done real-time price is provided. Tiger, being a Chinese company provides wonderful market data for Chinese stocks. 

I can see the order book for Chinese stocks. Here is an example.

Interactive Brokers charges for market data. DBS Treasures provides free real-time market data (bid-ask price, order book) for Singapore stocks which is even more generous than Tiger but loses out for non-Singapore markets.
Besides market data, fundamental data of the financial statements is also provided free of charge. Company name of the snapshots not provided for copyright reasons. The snapshot cannot capture all the information because they cannot be captured in a single screen.



I like the price-volume charting facilities on Tiger platform. You can even see the intra-day price action down to the 1-minute level in real-time.

Another aspect that I like about Tiger platform is Tiger's desktop app. The data loads much faster on Tiger's software, faster than the other brokers' software/websites that I have used. It is friendly to navigate the software. You have to really experience it to appreciate this point.
The commission charged by Tigers is very competitive compared to the other brokers. 
Blog posts from other financial bloggers written in collaboration with Tiger have talked about the competitive fees and friendly user-interface at length. I do not wish to repeat here.

Negative aspects about using Tiger Brokers

There are negative aspects about Tiger that cannot be conveniently talked about in sponsored articles. Since this is not a sponsored article, I can freely talk about them here.

The top reason that keeps me wary of using Tiger as my main broker is that Tiger is still a young company at this stage. It was set up in 2014 and managed to become profitable this year (2020). Since funds are held in custody, having a financially strong broker with very low probability of going bust is important. Tiger uses DBS as custodian. This makes me feel safe that my assets are protected if Tiger goes bust. However, even if funds can be recovered 100% later, there is the issue of the funds being temporarily frozen while the bankruptcy issues are being sorted out. If the securities are frozen, the investor/trader cannot sell. If he cannot sell, he cannot manage his risks. This is fine for bonds and index funds/ETFs which the investor is prepared to buy and hold. It is not ok for individual stocks. For me personally, I will use Tiger to buy ETFs which I am prepared to hold for the long-term as a start. The probability of Tiger going bust is low at this point in time(Aug 2020) thanks to a strong balance sheet  with long-term debt negligible compared to short-term assets alone and short-term assets exceeding short-term liabilities. However, Tiger is exposed to the dangers of financial markets because Tiger extends margin credit to her brokerage clients. A black swan event can cause clients to blow up and the financial contagion can spread to the broker. Due to these risk considerations, I will use Tiger as a back-up broker for the time being despite being very satisfied with their platform. I sincerely wish every success to Tiger Brokers but as investors, we had better consider all these risks first before we commit our funds to any party.

One aspect that I dislike about Tiger's platform is the lack of configuration options for the software. For example, I find the dark mode in the desktop app too dark. The fonts are too small and it strains my eye to use Tiger platform after some time. This is actually a serious user problem.

If any staff from Tiger is reading this, could you allow the user to configure the font size and color? If not, please at least use a brighter red color by default in dark mode for your desktop app. The current red color looks dim in dark mode and is eye-straining to look at.

Applying for Tiger account
To apply for an account, simply use the official link from Tigers. There have been several referral links floating on the internet but there are no extra benefits to the applicant compared to the official Tiger link. If a personal friend/relative asks you to click on his referral link, sure go ahead but there is no need to crack your head which link to choose. I wasted time trying to find out which is the best referral link to use. 
Tigers will provide stock vouchers to new customers after funds are deposited. Please take note that these are stock vouchers and not cash vouchers. We should make a trade only when there are market opportunities and not to take advantage of a discount.

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