Anna Haotanto is the Managing Director of The New Savvy and Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. She is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment, and children’s issues.
Previously, Anna has been featured in CNBC, Fast Company, Business Insider, The Straits Times, Business Insider and Idealist Careers among others. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).
Anna regularly conducts workshops on personal finance and had given talks on finance, women issues and empowerment for organisations – Singapore Exchange (SGX), Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW), SG50 Singapore Female Leaders, Singapore Women Network, etc. She regularly teaches and mentors children and adults on financial prudence and investments, facilitating their ability to be better informed when making financial decisions.
On a personal level, Anna is involved in various charities supporting women and children causes. She was one of the main donors in the building of a library for underprivileged female students.
Prior to The New Savvy, Anna has spent 10 years in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai.
She attended and graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance), Hwa Chong Junior College. In her academic year, it was clear that Anna possessed great determination and drive, she was awarded Top Student (Salutatorian) for UOB-SMU Private Banking course.
Anna earned her financial independence at age 28. However, she seeks meaning in focusing her entrepreneurial career on financial literacy as she firmly believes that continuous learning empowers people. This has ultimately led Anna to The New Savvy.
In your own words what is The New Savvy?
THENEWSAVVY.COM is an online platform that focuses financial and career issues for women in Asia. Despite advancing in our career and earning more, women lack confidence in financial matters. 41% do not invest or manage their money. There is a lack of media outlets that engages women financially.
The New Savvy uses simplified, relevant language to help women make smarter decisions. We cover 35 topics ranging from investments vehicles, savings, buying property, marriage, fashion and health. We want to make money fun and promote better financial habits among women.
The New Savvy is a fast-growing women-focused site, and we have worked with many financial institutions and organisations namely Fast company, Singapore Exchange (SGX), MayBank Securities and others.
We are content partners with Yahoo!, AsiaOne and CPF.
Here are a list of our press and partners.
How did you come up with the idea of The New Savvy?
There are 2 major inspirations for The New Savvy.
First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money. I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.
As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.
I am lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learnt financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21. While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.
Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities. That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.
If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me, it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up The New Savvy?
In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was pure Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing, and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and HAD to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.
I did everything from scratch myself. I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learnt about how websites are arranged and how they worked. I did a short market survey on what is lacking regarding women financial education and what women will like to learn more.
I took up a Digital Marketing course and learnt how to utilise tools like Google Analytics, Seach console and understood the terms.
We focused on having original content that are engaging, fun and relevant. I was very sure that we didn’t want to be another financial site which teaches you to make 20x in a week. I wanted The New Savvy to be relatable to women, so they won’t be intimidated by Finance.
We have also produced our own Retirement and Mortgage calculators that are fun and easy to use.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?
There were a few difficulties:
One, when I shared the idea with people, most of them dismissed me thinking that it’s just another blog. Or, they think that I am limiting myself by focusing only on women. Many told me not to make it as broad to ensure that we get more website hits.
Second, coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn into an entrepreneur. I was giving up a good five-figure income and some people told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. That affected my morale.
For a long time, I was wondering if I am just impetuous or silly. Should I just continue earning money and be in banking? There’s a societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I am doing this mostly to help other women.
Third, I wasn’t trained for this. It was an uphill struggle for me. I ended up working till 4 am every day. Most of my close ones were concerned and told me not to overwork. I think I made every mistake that shouldn’t be made. But that’s life, isn’t it? You falter, but you pick yourself up.
Last, a good product is useless if there are no users. How do I get the word out? How do I market TheNewSavvy.com to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists?
Most importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind non-stop since I embarked on this journey – How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?
How have you been developing The New Savvy since startup?
In terms of the content, we have 35 categories in 3 areas of focus: technical articles, lifestyle pieces, and inspirational stories.
– Technical articles are informative, must-know Finance concepts in bite-sized to make it more palatable to readers.
Eg: What’s the difference between ETFs and mutual funds, Bonds 101, Which Real Estate in Singapore Should You Purchase?
– Lifestyle pieces are fun articles that discuss issues plaguing the modern women. All of them include a finance or female empowerment angle to them.
Eg: When Women Earn More Than Men In a Marriage, 10 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Date, How to measure your cost per wear for clothes…
– Inspirational stories include stories of individuals breaking barriers, speaking up, living authentic lives. We also have interviews sections where we question our subjects on their occupations or businesses, financial planning and thoughts on women issues.
We are also developing bite-sized financial online courses and looking at holding workshops for financial education every two months.
What kind of feedback did you get for The New Savvy so far?
Over the years, my female friends have approached me to share with them on how to invest, how to open a securities account, which loan makes sense, the difference between a bond and a bond fund. Truth be told, even as someone trained in Finance, I don’t want to read yet another stock picks or technical analysis.
As a woman, I want to know how smart financial management can impact my life and how relevant it is to my needs. I want something I can relate to, something that can inspire and motivate me.
That’s what The New Savvy has been to many women. I’ve met many strangers at different events who told me that they read and LOVE The New Savvy. Many women wrote to me, sharing with me their lives and financial situations. Most women I knew always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating. So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances.
Every of this feedback and sharing is precious to me as they are my motivation when I am thinking of giving up. I hope to keep empowering women financially.
Do you face a lot of competition in this industry especially from companies?
To be honest, I don’t believe there is a competitor for me. The New Savvy is a women-focused financial website – a cross between a women publication and a financial blog. There is no one else doing this unless you consider women or finance publications/websites as competition. Even then, our offerings are different.
Second, I don’t view anyone as competition or believe in competing. We can all co-exist and improve together. Ultimately, all of us wants to provide a service that benefits the users. The more, the merrier!
My strategy, from day one, has always been: To provide value, focus on users’ needs, learn and keep improving.
What can you tell us about the industry?
I don’t think The New Savvy falls squarely into ONE industry. We are a mixture of new media, finance, publishing, education, advertising and soon, events.
I guess the one overarching theme is that you have to keep growing your audience. The audience is king. If you want advertising revenue, companies still prefer the bigger audience to smaller ones. But I always try to convince them that The New Savvy taps into a niche, hard to reach audience – which I believe is valuable in itself.
Second, if you are talking about new media, you still need to focus on valuable content and insights. The New Savvy doesn’t do trending topics as we feel that there are others that do it better. We focus on our expertise: finance, women, and empowerment.
The only true insights I can share is…I find that the other site owners to be really welcoming and friendly. I’m friends with some finance websites owners, and we motivate each other to be better. We discuss topics and even collaborate. Even if it’s business, I don’t think we focus on making money and ousting each other. All of us started to help others be financially savvy.
I am friends with other women-focused websites owners, and likewise, they are smart women who want to do good. We try to work together and learn from each other.
What is the future of the industry?
The future of new media, to me, is endless. In today’s era, every one can be and IS already a publisher.
People are increasingly consuming content through their devices such as laptops, iPads and the biggest growth area, mobile phones. We are slowly moving away from print (newspaper, magazines), and while I think that’s a big pity, it’s happening.
In fact, most of us consume content from Facebook. We used to go into the browser and go directly to websites. Now, we see what is shared by our friends.
To stay relevant, you need to produce content that is mobile-friendly.
Similarly, advertising dollar is going to move more into mobile space. There are 2 questions that we have to answer – 1) how do we ensure ethical advertising and placements? 2) How do we present these advertisements in a way that’s most pleasing to our readers?
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
I don’t dwell on unpleasant things. My mind is inundated with things to do, tasks to complete and I’m constantly thinking on how to improve The New Savvy. I don’t have the time to think of unhappy incidents or disappointments.
I just can’t afford it; I don’t allow myself to be mired in unconstructive thoughts.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?
As opposed to …where? United States? United Kingdom? Even in Asia, I don’t think it’s parallel for each country. I believe being an entrepreneur in Singapore is very different than being one in Malaysia or Indonesia.
I can only speak about being based in Singapore – there are definite advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages include recent support from government and corporations, stable business environment, structured and efficient. Singapore is a pleasant and easy place to start a business.
On the flip side, I find that Singapore still lacks an entrepreneurial environment and spirit as we are very comfortable. Singapore is also a small market compared to the other Asian cities.
What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?
Again, depending on your definition on Western.
I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between Asian or Western entrepreneurship. For me, it’s more of culture and market needs.
For example, United States is a big market and is mostly domestic driven. So is China and Indonesia. These are the most populous countries, and you are talking about big numbers. Mostly, if you develop a product, you can cater it to most of the country. A bank account can work for most of the cities in those countries.
In contrast, Singapore is a smaller market, so most businesses have the ambitions to expand to the region. But each country are different – they have different needs, different products, and different cultures. So that’s our big challenge.
Going back to Western vs. Asian entrepreneurship, I think the biggest differences for me is; I personally feel that we Asians have to learn to embrace failure more. There is still a stigma to failure here, and maybe, that’s stopping people from stepping out.
We did an article on The Worst And Best Countries To Be Female Entrepreneurs.
What is your definition of success?
I define success loosely in 3 areas – personal, interpersonal and financial.
Personal – to live authentically and lead a balanced life.
Interpersonal – relationships are very important to me so I always ask myself, if I am giving enough to my loved ones and how I can help others.
Financial – Being financially successful to me is having the choice and security to live the life I seek meaning in. And by extension, giving the people I love the lives they desire.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
There are a few reasons –
I couldn’t ignore the desire to do this. I’ve wanted to do it since 2010. It’s an itch that can’t be ignored.
I’ve always wanted to help people and finance is the best way I know how to. Women and children are my pet causes.
I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives. This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible, I am happier than before.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
A clear focus and direction on what you want to achieve. A detailed plan on how you are going to achieve those goals. Focus on important objectives instead of glorified achievements. Don’t compare yourself with others. Only do it to improve your offering.
Be very tight on finances, spend lesser than you budgeted because you always need more money.
Sometimes, you also have to depend on timing and luck.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?
Have resilience and grit to keep going when the world crashes. Always be humble and be willing to learn. Receive criticisms openly, constantly improve and pivot.
Don’t dwell on unconstructive thoughts or wallow in self-pity. Exercise often and take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun!