The SMRT Embarrassment


This is embarrassing. Well, sometime back I wrote this post admitting I was an SMRT investor. I still am. 

Screw me.

I'll tell you what happened. In the last post I swore that I would sell SMRT on the first market opening I could. I tried. I logged in to, keyed in my password. And again... and.. you know what happened.

In a turn of the eye, my account was locked. I knew the procedures that I have to go through. Call kayhian, speak to the lady with sweet voice, give her the answers to some personal questions (not that personal though :D) and they will send a hardcopy new password to my home address.

My Singapore home address. Sigh. 

I can't call my broker as well. I don't have my CDP number with me. Having not calling him for years, that'll probably be the first thing he asked for to kick start our business transactions. So, that's why I'm still an embarrassed holder of 1000 SMRT shares.

Since we are into the topic of investment, let me reenact a past conversation with a good friend, Warren, a few years back. Here was how it went:

Warren: Heard you are into DIY investment lately, how are things going?

Me: Like that loh, waiting for results.

Warren: Heard of socially responsible investing?

Me: Har? Simi lai eh?

Warren: Well it has origins dated all the way back to 1700s but long story short, it means not investing in companies that are socially irresponsible. In modern era, we focus on civil rights, equality and labor issues.

Me: I invested in ST Engineering. It has a business wing involved in military weapons manufacturing. Does it fall into your black book?

Warren: Yes of course.

Me: Hmm, isn't investing just about making money. That's all I care about my investments. What's wrong?

Warren: You need more income from a day job don't you?

Me: Er... yes?

Warren: Why don't you take up pimping? It doesn't require an educational background and it definitely fetch a higher income than your current job.

Me: Ah... I get your point. But this is subjective. While prostitution is definitely bad on the first considering, its existence may have reduced other social problems such as rape.. And that ST Engineering may be manufacturing weapons but that may be sold to countries that use them to defend their citizens instead of aggressive motives. 

In that case, how do we judge which are the socially unethical and irresponsible businesses?

Warren: That will depend entirely on you, my friend...


Story nice or not? Or already sent you to dreamland? Sorry but this has to be told or my conscience continues to prick me. What does the above stuff gotta do with SMRT again? I'll come to that later. Meanwhile please bear with me. 

You know, recently I read some interesting news about a certain bus company in Australia. The Aussie Bus Boss gives A$15 million to his staff as bonus after he sold his business. What caught my attention was not the boss's generosity. This comment in the article got me instead: 

"This is to recognise that. We have had people here who are second generation, and one fellow in the same job for 52 years."

Which company in Singapore can boast something like that? Rare, if any. Apparently it is common in Australia. In my company alone, there are 2 pairs of father and son working in the company. What does that tells us? 

I wonder if there are any for example, SMRT train officers that will encourage their sons to join SMRT and be an officer like themselves? The answer is a definite no. I challenge ANY SMRT train officers to refute this. More likely, train officers will ask their sons to keep a distance as far as they could from the creaking trains, cable ties and all. 

Once upon a time, I read about Peter Lynch, the unit trust fund legend. He was so good in it because he knew the businesses that he was investing in inside out. From having lunch with CEOs of the companies, making workshop visits and having small talk with employees of the companies and devil knows what else, he extracted crucial information to make his decision whether to buy or avoid. That eventually led to his success in his investments.

Let me do a mock Peter Lynch on the SMRT, the stock I am still holding.

Exit: Saw and her little car
Well we know that Saw was sacked had resigned right? So everything's gonna be fine isn't it? Good company, good investment? 


Well personally I like the companies I invest in to be thrifty but SMRT has gone a little too far in it.

The rumored cheap China made trains or components, the well known cable ties, as well as dyfunctional buggies in train depots and who knows what else?

The thing about excessive cost cutting is that, if a company has its back to the wall in terms of cost cutting, it's not a good sign because well, it has no no other room to maneuver. Personally, I don't like that but I can close an eye on that.

Adoi, still don't want to change buggy?!
If you have followed and made it here so far with me, I applaud your stamina. The below revelation is going to link back to the above grandfather story about socially responsible investment as well as the story about the Australian bus company.

Does SMRT treats their staff well? I'm referring to of course, the operating team. No operating team, no trains. No trains, no commuters get to work and no revenue for the company. That's it.

Despite the obvious importance of the operating team, it doesn't not take a genius to figure how well this typical Singapore company treat their cheaper, better, faster staff. Ma ma dei, at best.

There was a case that SMRT train officers getting their union to fight with the management for getting their public holidays paid. 

You know how good the unions are in Singapore right? The biggest one sells groceries and insurance but can build a big building in One Marina Boulevard, heads and shoulders above even some buildings of banks nearby. The chief urged the workers they are supposed to fight for to become cheaper, better and faster, learn to be a mouse that barks like a dog and also learn to bite some bullets along the way so that we can upskirt the .. upturn the downturn.

That's about how good the union is from what I see it. All talk and fuck all.

Not surprisingly, whatever union that SMRT train officers signed up for was a great disappointment. The union representative sided with the management, citing that they are on a shift work basis and works less hours that the normal manpower guidelines MOM prescribed, thus they shouldn't be paid extra working on public holidays. I.e they don't have public holidays to enjoy.

This is bullying and I detest this. It reminded me of my ex company who forced me to go on a company's trip but I had to take leave for it. When I told my boss I don't want to go, he insisted on it. I told him that I need to take my parents to Australia for a short trip at the later part of the year and I need to preserve my leave.

He simply said, "Oh nevermind, if not enough leave, take no-pay leave for your trip loh."

Fuck off.

I don't even have a choice to opt out of a company trip and had to take leave for it?! If the trip was an incentive to reward staff for the hard work, why do I need to forfeit my annual leave for it? This left a bitter taste in the mouth ever since. When I read all about the SMRT train guys' predicament, my heart is with them. I hate the management messing around with the entitlement of their staff. It's bullying and I detest it.

As far as I know, SMRT falls short on labour issues of my friend's Socially Responsible Business Checklist. I'll reiterate my ratings on SMRT.


Send me an angel with my password.


  1. I don't mind being a pimp, if the girls I'm pimping for are in it of their own free will. The prudes in Sinkee will never understand this of course.

    In countries where prostituition is legal, some working girls would prefer to work for a pimp because they can't be bothered marketing themselves and/or screening their clients. The pimp also acts as their security person.

    As far as SMRT goes, I would keep my shares. One cannot have one's cake and eat it re morality and investing. If you are investing, you want to make money. If you want to be morally upright, go be a civics education teacher. Apple makes money. But the contractors working for Apple mistreat their workers. If consumers don't care, why should the investor? And I wonder if Warren has any Apple products? If so, going by his reasoning he must then be a hypocrite innit?

    SMRT is a monopoly in Sinkee. As an investor you can't wish for better business and political conditions than that.

  2. NTUC = Never Trust Union Chief

  3. the late ong teng cheong was the only one fighting for union workers' rights

    too bad such breed was extinct in singapore

  4. -asingaporeanson-, if you have not already done so, perhaps you can get the current owners/residents of your previous address to forward it to a local friend or relative, or maybe said friend/relative can collect for you as a favour.

    From there, the password can be transmitted to you, or the letter re-sent with urgent delivery.

    Redirecting to another address (if you're not there any more) is covered by the original postage to send to the old address.
    The current owners/residents willing, of course.

  5. Ethical investing is a choice, Apple users included too.

    Warren Buffett has used his social influence and investment acumen to influence for a better world (like the ultra-rich pay more taxes to help US government spending on the people).

    So has his protege Bill Gates, whose social investments against AIDs, and for medicine and Africa are paying off.

    So Warren can keep his Apple devices, if any.

    To want to be amongst the best rich people on Earth, don't lag behind in ethics either.

    Civics teachers exist to encourage students to positively make a difference in the world.
    Their failed students likely make up heartless investors narrow-minded for paper/digital profit.

    Monopolies are unstable investments.
    They are attacked all the time in capitalistic competition, and do not last long, as new dog eats old dog's remains.
    Name a true and full monopoly that has existed since the BC era.

    Being passive to exist evil, is in itself just as evil.
    We always have the choice to do better, instead of lamenting the passing of good people, and resigning ourselves to stabbing one another for gain.

    Let's not regret when what goes around comes around, and another luckier, more ruthless but just as heartless investor comes around to take everything we have.