A lot of people must have felt a sense of personal loss upon learning that Hong Kong Economic Journal writer Cho Chi-ming has passed away.
More popularly known by his nom de plume Cho Yan-chiu (or, if read backwards, Chiu-yan, which means superman), Cho Sir guided and inspired his legions of followers in their journey through the fascinating world of stock investing.
It was indeed a privilege to work with Cho Sir. Throughout his 42-year writing career, he dished out nuggets of investment insights that made his readers wiser, if not wealthier, in the workings of the stock market and corporate world.
He was a very likeable man, and one could glean that from the torrents of condolences coming from his loved ones, friends, peers, colleagues, readers and netizens. He also had many fans in China, although they may have had some difficulty in understanding his style of Putonghua.
In his own way, Cho Sir had helped make Hong Kong people not only financially literate but financially savvy as well. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone who lived in a city that prides itself as an international financial center.
True, ask any five people and someone might be able to tell you what RSI (Relative Strength Index 相對強弱指數) is. Is there any other city where most of the television stations show only stock quotations at daytime? In Hong Kong, a child of four could probably name blue-chip stocks better than they could remember nursery rhymes.
But back in the ’70s when Cho Sir started writing, Hong Kong was far from the financial dynamo that it is now.
He joined Economic Journal in 1973 from a stockbroker firm, working his butt off for the founding Lam family and regularly filing three columns a day in the early and difficult period before the paper became a household name.
His Investor Diary, which he stopped writing only in 2009, was one of the city’s most widely read and quoted columns.
It was filled with investment tips on stocks, real estate, foreign exchange, and gold, along with his funny observations, anecdotes and rumors about corporates and the economy.
Many, like me, learned a lot about finance and investing just by reading his columns because he wrote in a way that a shopkeeper in Central or Sham Shui Po would understand.
Suffice it to say that if he were not a financial columnist, he could be a curator. Well, if stock investment were an art form, he would have already qualified as a curator.
Of course, he also made use of his vast investment knowledge, accumulating a personal fortune estimated at over HK$100 million.
That explains why he was the most generous colleague at the office, buying us afternoon tea or meals when he was in a good mood — and he was always in a good mood.
After selling his minority stake in Economic Journal, Cho Sir diversified into other fields, speaking at investment seminars, donating his writer’s fees to Rural Women in China and once hosting a stand-up comedy show.
He will be forever remembered for guesting in a television show where spoke an incomprehensible version of Putonghua that left millions of Hong Kong viewers in stitches. Cho Sir always made fun of himself because that made people around him happy.
A few months ago I joined a group of ex-colleagues who visited him at his home. I remember it was a Saturday afternoon for no one was in a hurry, least of all Cho Sir who talked to us about a wide range of topics for, I guess, three hours without pausing for a cup of water.
One thing I distinctly remembered he said after the Chinese stock crash last summer – “the buy and hold approach in stock investing no longer works as it did in the past.”
In hindsight, he was right and Buffett was wrong.
His spirit lives on, and Cho Sir, you will be sorely missed.
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