Gary Chua – The Story of a Banker Turned Entrepreneur
“More and more people are unable to finance their new homes. This has long-lasting implications, not just for the homebuyers, but for the entire industry itself. Property developers are unable to make sales without the bank’s support in giving out loans to home buyers. There is a gap in the market, and SMART Financing aims to bridge that gap by teaching and educating people on how to increase their chances of getting house loans.”
Introducing Mr Gary Chua, the Chief Executive Officer of SMART Financing. Entrepreneur Insight had the pleasure of conducting an exclusive interview with Gary Chua to learn about his entrepreneurial journey and to better understand his business and what it stands for.
SMART Financing started as an education platform, organising talks and courses on property purchases and bank financing. Throughout the years, the business has expanded to include interior designing services, property management, group investments, retail management and so much more. “The goal of SMART Financing? I want it to be the one-stop centre for everyone’s property investment needs,” said Gary Chua.
Gary Chua started out working for local and international banks for most of his career as a banker. In those eleven years, he slaved and climbed up through the ranks, being promoted multiple times; from senior management all the way up to higher management. Being in the position he was, he had plenty of time to grasp the inner workings of the banks’ operations and internal policies, giving him an edge when it comes to applying for bank loans and the sort.
With the knowledge he accumulated, Gary Chua started his property investment journey in 2007 with a small amount of initial capital. It seems that a decade of banking experience is not enough, as he spent the next several years learning more about property investments through books and courses. He has compiled his knowledge into bite-sized, easy to understand principles and established a system, which became the foundation of SMART Financing. In 2013, Gary Chua has managed to increase his net worth to RM20 million in just one year through the system that he has created and fine-tuned.
“It is true though… At first, I kept the system mostly to myself, but I eventually shared my knowledge with some close friends and family members. After teaching them what I know, they came up to me one day and told me the results were fantastic! They then started down their journey to property investment, and by the end of 2014, they became full-time property investors. They told me that the system works and has helped them build up a significant amount of wealth. That is when they suggested that I should start a training programme in order to help others.”
The Gap In The Marketplace
“A common misconception that plagues most first time home buyers face is that it is difficult to qualify and apply for a house loan. In reality, it is not as difficult as they think! Most homebuyers are just unfamiliar with the bank’s qualifying process and their requirements when it comes to mortgage loans. The majority of SMART Financing members I teach are actually eligible for a housing loan, but because they have not secured the necessary documents needed to prove that they have the ability to pay off the monthly installments, the banks do not recognise their eligibility,” shared Gary Chua.
“Another issue that I come across regularly is that many people are not taking their credit reports seriously. Credit cards, car loans, PTPTN loans, payment history, default amount and durations… All of this information is laid out clear as day in your credit report, but many people don’t even know that credit reports exist! They do not know how to build an attractive credit history in order to qualify for a house loan.”
“There is also a significant portion of homebuyers that are not well-versed in financial literacy. It is common for them to overestimate or underestimate the type of property that they can afford. It is very discouraging for them to spend a significant amount of time and effort in house hunting, only to realise that they are unable to qualify for a loan because it is outside their budget.”
“This is what I meant by the gap in the market – The gap in consumer knowledge when it comes to home buying. Here at SMART Financing, we aim to fix this problem by providing the marketplace with a learning platform, building a community that shares the same interest while providing support and assistance to those who need them,” says Gary Chua.
“Property investment has always been my passion. It was, and still is the cornerstone in building my own personal wealth. I have always thought to myself ‘wouldn’t it will be great if I can help other people as well?’ In turn, I hope that the people that I have helped will help those in need too. We at SMART Financing have donated to several charity organisations. We have donated to Charity of Rumah Hope and The Dignity for Children Foundation, to name a few. It is quite fulfilling to help others and leave an impact on other people’s lives.”
Gary Chua highlights and stresses the importance of continuous learning multiple times throughout the interview. According to him, learning should never be a one-off thing. “An academic certificate can only bring you so far. It is important that you apply what you know into good use, and earn a good penny out of it. Just like the Joker said in The Dark Knight movie, if you are good at something, don’t do it for free! ” laughs Gary Chua.
“People call me a property investment guru, as property investment is the best kind of investment. Property is safe, provides better returns, and it generates passive income. But do you know which development project I believe would be the best to invest in? Personal development, of course! Strip away all your wealth and assets, and what is left is what I consider to be ‘true value’. The only way for you to increase your value is through meeting the right people, and non-stop learning,” expresses Gary Chua.
Gary Chua even incorporates honesty in his company values as well. The team is encouraged to give suggestions and provide insights on how to further improve the business. The company is run with an open door concept, where stakeholders’ inquiries are quickly answered with transparency.
“If there is one thing that I wish I knew when the business first started, is that you can’t run a company alone. The team make up the backbone for the entire business. If I could, I would like to be able to spend more time with the team. As a practice, I will make sure that I maximize the impact I have while interacting with them. I have to set an example for them. I have to walk the walk, and talk the talk,” Gary Chua expresses.
Gary Chua is very optimistic about the future of the property landscape in Malaysia, despite the movement, or lack thereof in the industry. He says that he will slowly shift his focus onto the other arms of his business outside of home financing. “Soon, you will see an expansion on property management, interior designs, commercial strategies and so on,” says Gary Chua.
“I want to see my business grow and expand because I believe my personal growth is reflective of the company’s growth as well. The day we stop growing is the day we stop being happy. I’m always excited to learn new things and explore areas unfamiliar to me. Personally, my happiness stems from making progress of any form. I do not think I will ever stop learning.”
“The day we stop growing, is the day we stop being happy.” – Gary Chua
“Ability means nothing when paired with the wrong mindset. You must be crystal clear when it comes to what you want to achieve in life. Be like a starving dog – Bite onto something and never let go. There will be people who will discourage you from trying to achieve your dreams. Listen and learn from them, but keep the momentum moving and never stop. Finally, there are no shortcuts when it comes to success. Work hard, and you will achieve great success, for sure,” says Gary Chua with a cheerful smile.