By Anamika Ragu (23A01A), Natalie Tan (23A01B), Tang Lanyun (23S05A)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Singapore is a money-centric society.”Boris Liu (23A01A)
The trope of the Finance Bro (also known as Crypto Bro) means nothing good on the Internet. Images of the Original Finance Bros come to mind, the likes of Elon Musk, Warren Buffet and the Wolf of Wall Street himself.
However, thanks to globalisation or just chronically-online entrepreneurial chancers, the label has wormed its way into the hallowed halls of Raffles Institution, culminating in a micro-epidemic that has plagued the great minds of the future.
“I think there really is a stereotype. When Kyle told me he invested in cryptocurrency, I just fell over. Like, I formed so many assumptions about him.”Reflected Tang Lanyun (23S05A), on Kyle Francis Castillo Tamondong (23S05A)
So, what is a Finance Bro? What makes a Finance Bro?
In view of National Be a Millionaire Day, these intrepid writers of Raffles Press embarked on the pursuit of investigating this phenomenon. We sent out a survey to glean people’s views on so-called Finance Bros and interviewed investors within the RI population.
From our findings, popular understanding of Finance Bros appeared to be less than complimentary. “Finance Bros probably have too much money and don’t spend enough time studying,” scoffed Augustine Chan (23S05A), a non-investor.
In a similar vein, a respondent to our survey remarked, “They give off ‘[superiority complex]’ vibes since playing around with large amounts of money is an Adult Thing.”
Contrastingly, Boris Liu (23A01A), an investor himself, offered a much more generous perspective. “They’re financially opportunistic,” he said, before quickly adding, “bracket positive”.
As with many concepts that were conceived online, the ‘Finance Bro’ is essentially an archetype caricaturing what we imagine a young investor’s mindset (or grindset, if you will) to be.
But how much of it is truth and how much of it fiction? Is it even applicable to us students?
Many of our interviewees’ journeys began with pursuing interests in finance, business, or money-making through easily-accessible informational channels including books and YouTube videos.
Subsequently, they began paper trading — a simulated trade to practice buying and selling stocks without real money — before progressing onto the real thing. To some, this could mean finally getting the real kick.
“I invest out of interest, due to the fun and risks involved,” admitted Boris. Of paper trading, he was less fond. “It doesn’t feel as real.”
On the contrary, Wu Yu (23A01A), who began stock trading last year, had a far more positive take. “It trains you to be more confident in the decisions you make. I think everybody should paper trade.”
Their differing sentiments originate from a single underlying cause—risk appetite—an official term commonly used in financial sectors (or, we daresay, Finance Bro turfs).
Mr Joey Kang, a teacher and longtime investor himself, clarified: “You spread the risk depending on the amount of money you’re comfortable losing. A high risk appetite usually results in wanting high rewards and returns, but you need to be able to take the losses as and when they come.”
This risk appetite factors into why one chooses to invest, but it varies from individual to individual. “I just wanted to make a lot of money on my own, but losing money is humbling,” conceded Ian Ng (23S03P), who invests primarily in cryptocurrency.
Mr Kang—who started investing in university—also wanted to make money independently, but for a different reason. “I didn’t want the burden to be on my parents to support me financially,” he explained. “So a lot of the investment decisions I made were with that end in mind.”
Wu Yu echoed this sentiment: “I think that’s the difference between investors and Finance Bros [..] A Finance Bro will never be satisfied.”
The idea vs the man
As such, the paradoxical complexity of this seemingly stagnant stereotype only grows. Despite the general agreement on Finance Bros’ traits, a plethora of perceptions festered beneath the surface. When tasked to evaluate this nebulous concept, our interviewees produced a range of responses.
For one, Mr Kang posited a theory of a somewhat binary culture amongst Finance Bros: “Frat Bro culture”. That is, high-testosterone one-upmanship and competitiveness, coupled with the carelessness towards money that is commonly seen in finance spaces.
Mr Kang disapproved of so-called Finance Bros’ devaluation of money as a mere plaything. Rather, he expressed that the constant competition creates an unhealthy subculture of ‘alpha males’, all seeking to prove their superiority with money as a metric, and with no shortage of hypermasculine pride.
Thankfully, this troubling subset is rare in RI. Said Wu Yu, “I don’t think anyone in RI is outwardly proud of being an investor. If that’s your only personality trait, that’s a…-10 social standing point.” He also posited that the ruthlessness fundamental to real-world finance bros is unusual among the happy-go-lucky RI traders.
Glimpses of complexity
However, the world of investing comes with higher stakes than a bad reputation and bankruptcy, especially as it expands to cryptocurrency. When it comes to the drawbacks of decentralised finance, non-investors seemed readier to tackle the issue.
“It’s very difficult for me to tell you that cryptocurrency has any real value. It doesn’t help anyone,” Augustine expressed.
On the subject of investing as a whole, Anoushka Rao (23A01A) had this to say: “Investing requires a safety net, mostly helping people with the financial capability to burn money.”
“I think it’s a function of neoliberalism. You know, late-stage capitalism.”Raphael Niu (23A01A)
He refused to elaborate.
As a whole, our results have concluded that the stereotype of a Finance Bro is just that — a stereotype. Perhaps it is too early to tell for them, but our RI Finance Bros seem to be humbler, more complex individuals, with reasons for investing beyond the base desire to strike gold.
And so, it all came down to the question of what they would say to a true conformist to the stereotype.
“I find this very funny… why would you call yourself that?” asked Mr Kang. “What do you see besides the world revolving around money? That’s very unhealthy.”
Augustine, a man of few words, said, “Good luck bro.” A slightly distressed pause followed. “Good luck.”
“Invite me to your yacht party, I am popular and cool.”Wu Yu
This was followed by Raphael, who looked up from his mee pok and noted to Wu Yu, “You’re going to get published like that.”
Note: All interviewees who invest and are below the age of 18 are doing so by helping inform their parents’ or legal guardians’ portfolios. And here’s the link to the Google form if you’re interested in reading the other responses.