News & Analysis
News & Analysis

Margin Call Podcast – S1 E4: Khim Khor | Executive Director & COO of GO Markets

6 February 2019 By GO Markets


Khim Khor (Linkedin) is GO Markets’ COO and Executive Director. He started out as a Sales Manager for the Asia business, when this demographic was just opening up for the CFD/Forex industry. Five years later he stands as COO and is an integral part of the GO Markets team with a unique and innovative perspective on Asia. As a lifelong student of Economics, Khim has always had a penchant for understanding how markets work.

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. His time and role at GO Markets
  2. Growing up in Malaysia, and sambals
  3. The Asian market
  4. Trading & gambling in Asia compared to Australia
  5. Asian investor perspective
  6. USA & China trade relations
  7. What sitcom best resembles GO Markets office


Disclaimer: Go Markets is a derivatives broker and Jordan Michaelides is the managing director of Neuralle Media. All opinions expressed by Jordan and podcast guests are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Go Markets, an AFSL license holder. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for financial decisions nor as an indication of future performance. Clients of Go Markets may hold positions in the derivatives mentioned. A financial services guide and product disclosure statement for our products are available at the website.

Jordan Michaelides: In this episode we spoke with Kim Khor. Kim is Go Markets COO and Executive Director. He started out as a sales manager for the Asia business just when this new demographic was opening up for the most of the CFD and Forex industry. Fast forward five years, he stands as CEO and an integral part of the Go Markets with a unique perspective on Asia. A lifelong student of economics, Kim has always had a pension for understanding how markets work and, of course, his notorious obsession with sambal. This is a great episode where we cover, of course, sambal and growing up in Malaysia, his time and role at Go Markets, the Asia market itself, trading and gambling in Asia compared to Australia, the Asian investor perspective, US versus China Trade Wars and Relations, and what sitcom best resembles the Go markets office. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe on your podcast app and consider sharing with one of your friends.
With that all being said, let’s get into the episode with Khim Khor. Kim, thank you for joining me on this nice sunny Friday. First question for you. How spicy do you like your sambal?

Khim Khor: *laughs* Hot and spicy, of course.

Jordan Michaelides: Do you know it was you that introduced me to sambal? I’d never had sambal before and I remember back in the day when I worked at Go Markets, I used to always buy in the morning for a snack and one day I saw you having your sambal and thought I’m going to try this on my sushi, so I was had sushi and sambal.

Khim Khor: Well, you have a good taste. Back then when I brought a sambar to office, a lot of my colleagues actually complained about the terrible smell.

Jordan Michaelides: What was the other thing used to bring in? They were like little fried prawns.

Khim Khor: Fried prawns? Like a tempura? Oh, they were dried shrimp. They’re very popular in Malaysia and are used in all different kinds of cooking, particularly sambal.

Jordan Michaelides: In Sambal it’s amazing. Whereabouts of Malaysia did you grow up?

Khim Khor: Kuala Lumpur, but I was born in Penang, the island. Malaysia used to be colonized by the British, they used to have Air Force there, and Australia used to have a Navy base on Penang at a place called Butterworth.

Jordan Michaelides: My boss is from Penang, he was saying that a lot of people in pain don’t really speak Chinese or Malay, they all speak English. That’s the common language.

Khim Khor: Yes, that’s correct.

Jordan Michaelides: What’s the common language in Malaysia, do most people speak Malay or Chinese?

Khim Khor: The official national language is Malay, but Malaysia consists of three major races, so if you’re Chinese you’ll be speaking Mandarin, a dialogue like hokkien which is popular in Denang. Indian’s mostly speak Tamel because they are from South India and of course Malaysians will speak Malay.

Jordan Michaelides: I’ve always been fascinated with Malaysia. I’ve still yet to go, I want to get to Penang by the end of next year. That’d be great.
Now, many people internally would know you as the friendly neighborhood, Malaysian, always bringing in your amazing delights to the office. You were at the firm at the same time that I started. You’ve stuck around, worked your way all the way up to an Executive Director and COO. You’ve got an interesting background, looking at your LinkedIn profile, you studied it in Tasmania, right?

Khim Khor: Correct, it was back in 2000 that I started there.

Jordan Michaelides: Okay. So, you did economics, honors as well, workeds as a wealth manager, project director, strategic consultant; What was the catalyst that drew you into Forex?

Khim Khor: I would say back then the motivation was money, when you’re young. You’ll see from my background I graduated from the University Of Tasmania, and my first job is was a wealth planner, a financial planner. I did really well back then and in fact decided to a job opportunity from RBA.

Jordan Michaelides: Really? What were you going to be doing there?

Khim Khor: How it worked back then with my university was if you graduated with first class honors you will be automatically given a job with the RBA. Well paid as well, but for certain reasons I didn’t take up that opportunity. I thought that will be a routine job, running statistics and things like that so it could be a bit boring for me.

Jordan Michaelides: Who knows, you could have been on the board of governors *both laugh*

Khim Khor: So, I worked for Genesis back then, which is under Challenger, I believe, Kerry Packer’s group, for two and a half years and did really well, so, everyone got a pay out, my boss retired and I decided to do something totally different to my background, that was modular housing.

Jordan Michaelides: How did that come about?

Khim Khor: That was back in 2005-2006 when Australia was at the beginning of the mining boom, so the concept of fly-in-fly-out work created some of opportunity with mining workers living in a quite bad conditions around the mining areas. They we’re spending a lot of money hiring private planes in and out so the solution was to build an energy efficient seven star like hotel, like a portable modular concept, which we’d pitch to all the big mining companies.

Jordan Michaelides: How did that go?

Khim Khor: It went pretty well, we were on the verge of finishing the prototype and due diligence with one of the biggest iron ore mining companies in Australia. Some personal things fell through because of the business partner. So, it didn’t work out but not because product was no good, just because in business these things happen.

Jordan Michaelides: Yeah, you can just have a whole bunch of things happen at once and it just makes it impossible to continue.
When you came to study here, did you intend to stay in Australia? Was your original thinking, I’m just going to go back home and get some sick job because I’ve got this degree in Australia?

Khim Khor: Actually my initial intention when starting the University was Canada, Ontario. That’s where I went to college. When I tried to apply for university, I apply about six or seven around the UK, Canada and Australia and the University Of Tasmania happened to be the first university to recruit me.

Jordan Michaelides: What do you miss the most about home when you think about it. I know you get back every, every now.

Khim Khor: Food and family, I suppose.

Jordan Michaelides: In Malaysia it’s always the classic thing, isn’t it? Food and family, but life’s pretty good here I think.
When you were growing up, thinking about your family, are there any particular lessons that you learned or you hold with you today that either of your parents imparted on you, maybe they did that directly or indirectly through you seeing it?

Khim Khor: I think my grandpa and my father have a big influence. Okay. They always teach me when you want to do things successfully, you have to be extremely focused, because the power focus leads to great success. The reason being, if you’re able to focus on one thing and do it right, the rest will just follow suit.

Jordan Michaelides: I was saying before, you’ve worked your way to the near top. I’m curious and I think most of the audience would be curious about the role of, essentially, head of operations. Initially you started here as a sales manager and worked your way up to VP of Asia which we’ll get into Asia in a moment,and now executive director and COO, how did this whole opportunity arise? How do you view it in hindsight, your time starting here?
Khim Khor Back to what I just mentioned, focus is what lead to where I am today. I started as a sales manager in Go Markets, specifically targeting Australia clientele and throughout the process, I suppose, some luck and some fate, Go Markets decided to break into the Chinese market. Because of my background, I do speak other languages, so that gives me certain opportunity to perform.

Jordan Michaelides: I remember initially, you were obviously pitching to clients when you first started in English and then all of a sudden we get a few random clients who’d say, Chinese, Chinese, on the phone and we just started palming them off to you, and it just grew and grew and grew. I guess that’s where the pivot to Asia came for the business, I think. I’m just thinking about the role itself, being CEO, what does that actually mean for a company like Go Markets?

Khim Khor: The rule compared to sales back then has changed significantly. Back then my focus was all about conversions of sales. Be that from Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, the focus was to provide the best user experience for my client, try to answer questions as professionally as possible.
The focus now is altogether different because now, on a management perspective, the daily routine will be more about problem solving and managing people.

Jordan Michaelides: The remit for operations, I’m just thinking about the structure of the business, you’ve got the CEO, compliance team, trading team, operations. Do you oversee all of those people beneath you and speak to the CEO or how does that work? How is everything split up in the business?

Khim Khor: At the moment I classify us as a small-medium enterprise…

Jordan Michaelides: But it’s pretty big for the industry I think, I feel.

Khim Khor: It depends who we compare it with, like, I compare us to IG, CMC, those listed companies, we are small.

Jordan Michaelides: A company like a Pepperstone is of this going to be bigger, but you know, you guys are just that level just below them, I think.

Khim Khor: Yeah, that’s true. In terms of organization structure it will be simpler. I mean, we have upper management and basically the staff. We don’t have so-called middle management. From a communication perspective, decision-making perspective, we are more flexible, which is also a strength.

Jordan Michaelides: Yeah, being agile is always a good strength. What do you think is the most crucial aspect of your role? What is the one thing that is most important?

Khim Khor: Problem solving. That’s absolutely what I’ve done in the last two years.

Jordan Michaelides: Now getting into Asia, I said before you were VP of Asia, is there someone who’s in charge of that market now and you split those up or how does that work?

Khim Khor: Back then we had a slightly different shareholder structure, they introduced the Chinese market by hiring a Western face which is a good strategy because Asia tends to have more confidence if your company has a white face, we have a guy named Adam Bevan who used to run the China business. I work alongside and help him because I can’t relocate into China as my family’s all based in Melbourne.
Then for personal reasons the head of China decided not to proceed further, and I was given an offer to take over the whole Chinese business.

Jordan Michaelides: So, is there anyone who’s in charge of Asia Pacific or anything like that now?

Khim Khor: In China we have a functional team, when I say functional I mean from operational perspective, they can work independently, we have about 28 staff in China, and six staff in Taiwan. The majority of the Chinese business is handled by the Chinese team, so my role is overseeing if they have issues or problems that they require assistance with then I step up and help them.

Jordan Michaelides: I had no idea that there was a whole Chinese team. Are they remote workers or…

Khim Khor: We call it a third party service provider because in China the regulation doesn’t allow you to do any sales activity directly.

Jordan Michaelides: I guess that’s why so many people go and open offices in places like Hong Kong or Singapore.
When I left Go Markets back in 2013, things were starting to pivot towards Asia, you were saying Adam Bevin was starting to grow that part of the business. How do you think it’s changed the company? For example, what’s the percentage of clients now for Go Markets in China, Asia and the rest of the world in comparison.

Khim Khor: I think now it’s around 50/50, 50% is Asia, not just China but Southeast Asia as well.

Jordan Michaelides: In Asia, I think there’s about 1 million millionaire sin China alone, so there’s a lot of wealth that’s been created in Asia. Based on your perspective, you’ve had your time with both types of clients. How is the mindset different from Asian and Chinese investors or traders to locals here in Australia?

Khim Khor: The Chinese, I believe in their blood are more speculative than Westerners, I think that can be proven by just visiting and casino in the world, you can see the high ratio everywhere because they like a punt.

Jordan Michaelides: is that cultural thing or a historical thing? I always thought it was because China and some of these other countries have been poor for so long, or communist in some way, now they’ve got all this wealth they’re wanting to live the best life that they possibly can and that’s what they love to do. Gambling is a major thing for Confucian culture, I think there’s an element where it’s almost like you’d like to lose the money. Is that true?

Khim Khor: I don’t think anyone likes to lose the money, I think the philosophy behind why China tends to have such behaviour is they tend to speculate more than westerners. It’s from historical culture, one of the reasons you just mentioned, they might have been on a poor side for long time and when a little bit of wealth becomes available they tend to leverage that and they’re happy to take that risk. That’s why I say it’s in their blood, it’s who they are.

Jordan Michaelides: So when you say they’re more speculative, what do you mean by that? Are they willing to put in higher hands in different commodities or CFDs or are they just more aggressive?

Khim Khor: More aggressive. Their vision is, if I can use $100 and take a punt overnight I could potentially make 1000, unlike Austrian traders. You can see from the historical trends, we call it a life cycle of a trader, meaning that average trader in the leverage, Forex or margin derivative perspective, the life cycle of Asian trader tend to be much shorter. Interesting.

Jordan Michaelides: Really? So they get in and out and they’re done with it.

Khim Khor: Yes. They either double it or they lose it. That’s the nature of it at the moment. Let’s talk about China alone for a minute, china only been prosperous since 80s, so the wealth effect in China is not driven by financials, it’s been driven by property the last 10 years. If you’re talking about wealth generated in the last 10 years, property is about 10 times bigger than the stock market.

Jordan Michaelides: Prices in Shanghai and Beijing are just out of control.

Khim Khor: Right, it’s out of control. But having said that, you also need to look at how China has been printing money the last 10 years. If you look at the stats, they actually print 10 times more than America.

Jordan Michaelides: I know they do that to peg their currency, but I didn’t know it was about 10 times more. We’re in a really interesting stage at the moment of the lifecycle of Asian investors. China’s here to stay clearly, it’s the superpower with America, at least locally. We’ve gone through this whole stage, I think in the last two years where everyone’s been paranoid about Chinese investors buying real estate and other assets. I think it’s been shown now that Indian investors are starting to actually overtake Chinese investors just because it’s, we’re going through that cycle. Where do you see the Asian investor mindset going over the next few years? What are they saying to you? Are they still interested in Forex and real estate and stuff like that? Or is it something else entirely?

Khim Khor: From the Asian investor perspective, a leverage product, like what we ofter at Go Markets will never die, as long as there are Chinese, they will keep doing it. The differences here is the amount of money they willing to invest will be co-related to their wealth effect. I give you one example. Just now you were talking about the average price of apartments in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen. They are selling at average of approximately hundred thousand RMB per square meter, which is about 20 to 30,000 AUD. So, they say I’ll open an account with Go Markets, if they only spend 0.1% to test it out that’s not a lot of their wealth and they can afford to lose it. But in China, the differences it makes to the world is because of the population. You have 1.6 billion roughly, Shanghai’s population alone is nearly 30 million. You look at the numbers themselves, they’re very powerful. That’s why you see for the last four or five years Forex brokers, nearly everyone now has huge exposure in the Chinese market, which is also a huge risk.

Jordan Michaelides: It’s gonna be very interesting, particulary because a lot of people talk about the trade war at the moment. That’s a big thing.

Khim Khor: Indeed. I suppose it’s flexing of muscles between the two big players.

Jordan Michaelides: What position have you built so far from that? Have you just been observing what’s going on? A lot of the talk at the moment is that the US stock market is overvalued and flushed after 10 years of quantitative easing and China’s in a weird spot because they’ve had to export a lot of labor and construction to keep their economy booming, particularly with the one belt one road initiative. Where do you sit on that at the moment? The China US dynamic.

Khim Khor: If Trump is re-elected in the midterm election in November. My personal opinion… Trump is a businessman or businessman / politicians, if you look at his style of how he conducting business and relate it to politics, I think they are highly correlated. At the end of the game, I don’t think that he will try to create a situation to put China in a huge losing position. He’s a good manipulator, he knows how to play his game really well. Let’s say this particular trade war is creating a lot of uncertainty and volatility, which financial markets love. If you ask me to classify who is the best trader in the world, I say Trump.

Jordan Michaelides: I completely agree with you, he’s a very good persuasion artist. That’s his thing, he’s a negotiator and he uses this and then all of a sudden he comes out of the blue, like with Xi Jinping and says, let’s strike a deal or something like that. And that will calm marks markets down. That’s where you think it’s potentially going to go?

Khim Khor: I think, if Donald Trump wins the midterms he’s got another four years then he’s done. He got 4 years left to fight his war to make American great again. But China is different, he can just change the party structure and stay permanently, effectively we can call him an emperor. He’s not short on money, he’s not short on time. He might say, you know what, you’ve done a good job, Trump. No problem. Bye! *both laugh*

Jordan Michaelides: I never really considered that. from my own podcast we interviewed a geopolitical strategists who works at Australian national university, he’s used and respected by government when it comes to the Communist Party of China, and he was saying no one really grasp the reality of what he’s done. He’s effectively made himself a dictator. He’s completely got all the different areas of the party under control and he can stay there until he’s bored or he wants to retire or he dies.
And the Chinese have a very longterm mindset simply because their culture has existed for so long. You see a lot of articles now from the government political machine where they talk about the fact that we’ve got ages. You’ve got to slowly, slowly chip away at things and gradually, gradually build up years. The salami strategies.

Khim Khor: That’s correct. In China it’s quite a unique political situations, in particular, if you look at the last 5,000 years of Chinese history, since the early twenties when China community’s party was a formed, compared to the historic dynasties, this particular part has existed for less than a hundred years. When President Xi Jingping changed the rules structure and allowed him to be in a position indefinitely, that drew a lot of criticism, seeing that the China is going backwards because China should be moving forward to become liberal, to become democratic.
I once had a constructive argument with a professor from Melbourne university, I asked him a question… Assume that you have a family with one kid, of course you can be more agile, more flexible talking to your kids about right and wrong, this and that. If you have a family with 15 or 20 kids you need certain rules, policy, house rules, right?. That is a huge difference. So yes, democracy is good, but I wouldn’t say communism is bad. I tend to be neutral in a way that you have to look at the circumstances.

Jordan Michaelides: I completely agree. I’ve been to Japan twice in the last 18 months and everyone loves the Japanese culture, but it can also be debilitating for people who live there. People come back and say, Oh, the trains are so good, everything’s so clean, blah, blah, blah. I think that, the differences between monocultures like Japan and multi-cultures like ours. They all have their pros and cons. It depends on where you want to stand to look at things.
We haven’t got much longer left, so some short, fast questions for you to wrap up and give the audience some perspective. I’ve asked every guest so far since, if you were to choose a sitcom, what sitcom best reflects the Go Markets office, what would it be?

Khim Khor: Honestly, I haven’t watched sitcom for long, not since friends?

Jordan Michaelides: A lot of people have said the British version of The Office, but I don’t know, I still can’t put my finger on it that’s why I want to hear from everyone else.
What is your morning routine?

Khim Khor: My morning routine, a coffee and then check through my mailbox. Problem solving all day, then back home. Very boring *laughs*.

Jordan Michaelides: What does your evening look like?

Khim Khor: Go home, relax, watch some movies. See the kids.

Jordan Michaelides: If you had to name your best purchase with the most positive impact under $200?

Khim Khor: Books. The latest one I bought is How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg. It’s about the power of mathematical thinking, about decision making based on mathematics.

Jordan Michaelides: Do you read regularly?

Khim Khor: I used to force myself to read at least seven books a year, since I’ve become COO the only time I have time to read is on a plane. I do fly quite frequently, so try to complete my target of seven, but this year I’m lagging behind.

Jordan Michaelides: Favorite documentaries or movies?

Khim Khor: The Big Shot, that is a brilliant film.

Jordan Michaelides: If you could have a billboard anywhere in Australia, where would it be? And what would it say?

Khim Khor: Hamilton Island, and it would say “life is simple, be happy”.

Jordan Michaelides: We’ve hit our time. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure having you Khim.

Khim Khor: Thanks Jordan.

Ready to start trading?

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