Home > UTC Media Centre > Investment Segment > Feature Address delivered by Mr. Justin Silva, UTC Portfolio Manager at UTC’s Schools’ Investment Game

February 27th, 2013

Feature Address delivered by Mr. Justin Silva, UTC Portfolio Manager at UTC’s Schools’ Investment Game


Executive Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation,Members of Senior Management, Students and Teachers,Members of the Media,

Good morning and welcome,
First I would like to extend congratulations to the students and teachers whose achievements we are celebrating today. I’m thankful to be here to recognize your achievements in the Unit Trust Corporation’s School Investment Game. Today I
But before I start, I have a question for you all. Can anyone guess what Steve Jobs, my mother and an aquarium full of fish have in common? Well let me talk to you for a bit and we’ll find out soon enough.

I was asked about a week ago to deliver this speech and I thought“yeah man this thing easy! Sock eye!” But pretty soon afterward reality set in and I started to wonder “but wait nuhwhat I really gonna talk about”?

A positive attitude is important, but there’s always that hurdle called reality which you must strive to get over as well.

So I went home pulled out my laptop and started to go through the ‘trusty ol’google’ and did my research. So I thought ‘yes man I ready for dem!’

But as I began typing I started to think back to what I wanted to hear when I was your age.

By the way how old is everyone here?
Well when I was at your age I didn’t want to listen to adults! I thought everything they said was boring or didn’t apply to me or was just plain foolishness. I was only interested in going out and partying on the weekend. 
I either spent my weekend doing that or,when I didn’t have the money, I stayed  home and took care of my fish. My cousin had given me 2 fighter fish (male and female) and a small tank as a birthday present. I experimented with breeding them and successfully reared a batch of about 30 babies with absolutely no plans for them, but thanks to my father I was able to procure a half drum which we casted and kept them in.
Now the main problem I had at that age was I didn’t have much extra money to go partying. I was surrounded by fairly well to do people but I came from fairly simple beginnings, don’t let the appearance fool you now.
Back then I had only one pair of shoes which had to last until my feet got too big for them.So I was playing football barefoot. KFC was a reward for big exams, and I don’t mean end of term. I mean SEA, end of year exams (if I did well), Mock exams,CXC and GCE. I never had coke or softdrink in my house, only water. And the same pants I wear to school Friday, well that doubled as a dress pants to go out later with the nice polo jersey. So if I got that dirty I was either not getting into the party or the girls weren’t looking twice my way.
And allowance and money to spend? 5 dollars per day, ie if you don’t take lunch to school.
So you could say I learned the importance of finance and economics really fast!
While at times I felt jealous that some of my friends had 20 times my spending power per day, I also recognized that I was surrounded by classmates who had none! So I was glad for what I had but I also wondered how I could get the money necessary to go out and do the things I wanted to do.
It was this important train of thought that sparked an amazing set of events.
One day in school I was passing by a group of form 3’s who were huddled around some desks. They were cheering and making noise so I went for a closer look. I realized they were watching Fighter Fish fight! Intrigued as I was at this I noticed that there were several other guys with their fish in jars waiting for their turn.
At this point that I thought that if this was to be an ongoing event then they would eventually need fish. So during one of the fights I mentioned to the group that I breed fighters and have some nearing adulthood. One of them jumped up and said they will give me 3 dollars for any fighter I have!
I saw an opportunity and acted on it. I was open for business!
However, being a bit sceptical I only offered two of my fish for sale so the next day I brought two young fighters for my first client, I was even able to recommend to him the kind of food to feed it if he wanted it to get stronger to fight. He paid me six dollars, that day I had 11 dollars to spend. Sounds nicer than 5 dollars right?
Soon after this I was approached by other members of his class and I began to realize that this can really turn into something big if it spreads to the other form 3 classes. I realized I had to expand.
Soon after this happened there was talk of a big party coming up in a few weeks, so I suddenly had a decision to make, should I go and spend my savings for the next few weeks and the money I got from the sale of my fish on partying or should I buy another aquarium and 2 more adult fish?
This taught me the importance of analyzing and weighing options and making decisions.
The way I saw it, was that I would sacrifice a couple of weekendsand because the females can breed almost once a month and babies take 2-3 months to get their color, I could have a steady supply of fish by the start of the next term.
From this I had my first experiences in planning. I also had my first experience in risk management because who’s to say that next term anyone is going to want my fish? So what did I do? It happened by accident really. But I’ve found that when you approach something with the right attitude, solutions always tend to present themselves.
I asked my mom for an early Christmas gift, I told her I wanted some books on fish breeding and fish diseases. Needless to say she had a concerned look on her facedue to the growing space I was taking up on the porch. So you can say my business was somewhat subsidized.
When I went with her to the pet store to check out the books, sure enough I saw a tank full of fighters. What happened next gave me my faith in adults.In talking to the store manager about fighters my mother said with a smile,‘My son breeds fighters you know, if you need he could sell them to you?’To which the guy responded ‘Sure, bring me whatever you have and we’ll buy them’.
Now perhaps my mother was hoping I would sell all my fish and return her porch space to her or perhaps she was just exercising that motherly business-esquewisdom. But suddenly my problem was gone and I wasn’t reliant on the form 3’s in school anymore, I could sell whatever fish I had to the pet store!
What did this teach me? The importance of diversification and the importance of seeking advice from those more experienced than me.

As I graduated from school I was able to work and my time for fish breeding sadly came to an end. So I sold off my fish and gave away my tanks and equipment. I had made sacrificesfor my little fish business but in the end it taught me some really important lessons which I carry with me to this day even as a Portfolio Manager.

  1. No matter how hard it gets, there’s always someone worst off than you, so smile and don’t be afraid to question and challenge yourself. Changing our mindset is one of the most important steps to growing.
  2. Know your capabilities, this will allow you to know where you can create value and will open your eyes to the countless opportunities that come your way.
  3. No man is an island. We can’t always solve our problems ourselves, sometimes we need to swallow our pride and talk to someone more experienced than ourselves.

The Schools’ Investment Game is a valuable tool to learn these lessons.You have faced many buying and selling opportunities for your portfolio. You worked in teams so you will have had discussions with those more and less experienced than you. You would have also had to make important decisions and understand the risk that comes along with those decisions.
Experiences such as these are priceless, and just as they have helped me, I wish that the lessons you have learned continue to help you as you move along through life.
So I asked you in the beginning, what have Steve Jobs, my mother and a tank full of fish have in common?
They all taught me a little about business and a little bit about life.
Even though I haven’t mentioned him before I would like to end with some words from Steve Jobs, who said
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”.

Thank you.