Friday, November 23, 2012

Labor Law: Constructive Dismissal or Discharge

Many of you may not know about this term but this is something that must know as an employee. Before I touch about this constructive dismissal or constructive discharge - which is the most interesting one, let's look at what procedures an employer must do prior they dismiss an employee and what are the different type of workplace dismissals that we can have.

Dismissal Procedures

Employers must follow a certain process before they terminate or dismiss an employee. They should give an improvement note to the employee and if that doesn't improve, they should start giving you an written warning. If that still doesn't work out, a final written warning will be given to you which states you will be dismissed if you still do not improve in your performance.

Now the dismissal process only starts. To start the dismissal, the employers must start with a written letter to clearly stating out the charges made against the employee. After that, you as an employee can deny or accept the charges and the employers shall make the next move either still insist to dismiss you. In most of the cases, it won't happen until this stage because the employee will usually resign already. In case it does, you can bring the employer to court if you still think you're not fairly treated.

Let's look at different type of dismissals that could have...

Types of Dismissals

  • Fair Dismissal - This is the favor to the employer where the reasons for dismissal are acceptable by labor law and the employment contract.
  • Summary Dismissal - This is usually due to the misconduct of an employee such as watching pornography at office. :)
  • Unfair / Wrongly Dismissal - This is basically illegal where employer does not follow a proper disciplinary and dismissal procedures.This could be arguable because fair or unfair has its own definition in labor law.
  • Constructive Dismissal - This is the interesting one because employee dismiss themselves rather than the employer where the employee is somehow forced to leave his job.

What is Constructive Dismissal?

Well, this is interesting because you don't need to wait for the unfair or wrongly dismissal then you only bring your employer to court. As long as you're being treated as"UNFAIR", then you can dismiss or discharge yourself. A very common case of constructive dismissal is employer is trying to make significant changes to the original of your employment contract. Do you know that removing certain benefits and compensation from you can be considered a violating the employment contract?

But one thing that you want to keep in mind is the "UNFAIR" definition is different for different countries based on the country's labor laws. However before you come into this path, I suggest you is better to get a labor law lawyer for advice unless you have done enough homework and you do not need them. Some people has done that before successfully without a lawyer.

For constructive dismissal, you basically need to resign quickly with a very clear statement in your resignation letter telling that employer made your life so difficult that you have no choice but being forced to resign. Then, you should file a report to the labor law office after you tender your resignation.

After that, 3 possible outcomes can happen. Firstly, the employer will reinstate and ask you back to the office with the agreement from you (e.g. give you back whatever that you suppose to get). Secondly, they will try to compensate you without going to the court and of course get the agreement from you too. Finally, they will usually consider this route as last resource to basically settle this with you in court.

Depends on the labor law of your country, country that favors employee will usually win the court case for constructive dismissal. Good luck!

P/S: I want to write this because I want you to know your rights as an employee. Feel free to share with me if you have any thoughts. Also, if you interested in the minimum compensation for retrenchment in Malaysia, you can visit my previous post:Understand Retrenchment Law in Malaysia

Friday, November 16, 2012

Robert Kuok Hock Nien (郭鶴年) Interview - English Translation

In case you do not know, Robert Kuok (郭鶴年) is known as "Sugar King of Asia" and also involved in many other businesses such as palm oil, shipping and property which makes him the richest person in south-east Asia with estimated USD 14.7 billion of net worth (as of Feb 2012) and most importantly he is a Malaysian. Oh by the way, he is a Malaysian who currently stays in Hong Kong now.

This is an one hour interview in Mandarin and I try to translate the interview dialogue summary here especially for those who does not understand mandarin. One thing that I feel bad is during the interview, he hardly talked about Malaysia and referred China as his hometown instead. Why is this so? You may think he is not patriotic but in reality it may due to some political reasons where he was indirectly forced to leave Malaysia after many contributions that he had made.

Anyway, I'm not going to talk about those political stuff much here because this is still a financial blog ultimately. Let's watch the interview and let's see what we can learn from this "Sugar King". If you're lazy, you can read the interview dialogue that I translate from the interview.

Key Interview Dialogues Summary (Translated to English)

Q: Why invest in sugar business? Why take such high risk to put all your money into it and at that time no one is into this business in Malaysia?

Robert: Sugar is basic food necessity besides rice and wheat, thus it is very important. A child cries at night, you just need to give him/her a sweet and they won't cry anymore. That's why I see the potential to invest in this business.

Q: Did you face any roadblock in sugar business?

Robert: In general, it was very smooth. However in 1963, I'm too brave and overconfident to keep 200 thousands tones of stock because of anticipating the sugar market price will go up at that time. This can allow me to earn plenty of money. But who knows the market not only just stagnant but it went down. It almost caused me to bankrupt but luckily the typhoon hit in Cuba saved me. The incident caused tremendous damage to the sugar cane farm in Cuba (major sugar production in the world at that time) which eventually caused the sugar market price went up. So, I was really lucky!

Q: In business, do you think intelligent or luck is more important?

Robert: I think 90% should be based on our hard work and our own intelligent. We should always continue gathering information, researching on productions and consumers problems, shipping problem and etc. For example, the shipping takes 5 to 6 weeks but when a country is lacking of sugar, they basically can't wait for that long. Once this is clear, we need to have a solution and most importantly is we must act fast because other competitors can see the same thing as well.

Q: You had so many competitors at that time, how did you win all of them?

Robert: One advantage I had is I can speak English well. At that time, not many people can speak English and this impressed those business men from western countries (i.e. New York, London) and that's why it was easier for me to approach them. I visited their office in the morning and at night, I treated one of them for dinner. During the dinner, I basically try to learn and capture whatever ideas that they had in their mind. After that, I took those ideas and send back to Singapore for research.

In fact, there are smarter people than I am. However, some of them have a complicated night life. So the next morning, they can't get up early where else I can get up early every day. That's why I can run faster than most of them. :)

Q: There are so many business opportunities out there. How do you know which one is the right one?

Robert: Every business has it own risk. You need to be brave enough the grab the opportunities. If there is a risk and you scare, then you run away. If you run away and get a better opportunities, that is still okay. However, if every time you run away,  you will never be rich and successful.

Q: Are you a brave person?

Robert: We must be brave when we do business but our brave must focus on the business and not on the human.

Q: China requested your help to buy 300 thousand tones of sugar, why don't you take this opportunity to earn from it?

Robert: That's not royal to China. For example when you have agreed to help your customer, you don't try to get sideline profit.

Q: What makes you a successful sugar king?

Robert: We must focus. :)

Q: Isn't that you involve in so many business can be considered as not focus?

Robert: Well, that is not what I meant by the focus here. In business, you should always involve in few types of business because they're inter-related.

Q: Do you like being called as hotel king as well?

Robert: Yes but not the king but the "hotel"! LOL

Q: Why do you like the hotel business?

Robert: Hotel is not like the other businesses that I have. It is a service industry where the most important element in this industry is employees. You depend on them (from all levels) to take care of your customers. Thus, I told all my employees (including the executives) that the primary objective is to serve our customers.

 Q: Why invest in China in such an early stage? E.g.Open up the first Shangri-La hotel in HangZhou in 1983.

Robert: From the very early stage, I already had a feeling that tourism industry in China has a very good potential due to its rich historical relics and monuments. I believed China will become the most busiest travel industry in the world. However, the infrastructure is very bad at that time (e.g. very bad condition for staying, toilets are terrible and etc.). How can we attract foreign tourists? Thus, we need to help China's tourism industry to grow!

Q: Why you made a huge investment in 1984, committing to build the World Trade Center in Beijing?
Didn't your family member or colleague worry?

Robert: At that time, my temper is very bad and always blow up in my office. So I guess they were not dare to tell me even though they were worry. One thing that made me can't forget is when I asked who are the competitors in this investment, none of them are from China. Thus, I decided to invest in this project. We as a Chinese must be ambitious and cannot be let down by foreign countries.

Q: Why you want to take such big risk? How sure you are this project will be successful?

Robert: I"m not a great businessman because I'm not the calculative kind. Simple calculation I can do such as plus and minus. So I do not know how to calculate whether this project will be successful or not. As long as it is good for China, I will do it.

Some other key messages that commented by Robert:

  • You don't need to publicize if you help people and do not need to look for a return.
  • I'm strongly influenced by my mum. For example, she told me in business, we must follow the path of morality and not materialism, not need to leave children with inheritance money because giving them is useless if they're not capable, do not turn to the dark side (i.e. evil) businessman, be a good person, not to be greedy about money and help the poor.
His very pretty daughter (Kuok Hui Kong) commented on him:

  • My father believed in hard work and also thought me the importance of studying Chinese specifically Mandarin (not Cantonese) although we stayed in Hong Kong at that time. But, I'm glad that now I know Chinese and it is all because of him.

His handsome son commented on him:
  • He is a very strict person and he also acts very fast. So if we can't follow, he will scold us too but everyone who works with him know that he scolds for the issue not on the human.

His expectation to his children:
  • My children won't faced the difficulties that I had faced before but I hope that my children are able to accomplish something good for the company and be a good leader. 

Wrap Up

Robert Kuok is very supportive of China's development, thus he will almost invest or contribute to any development in China as long as it is for China.  That is the reason he has a very good relationship and great influence to China.

He also mentioned that many business people are very aggressive in the past and use illegal or unethical method which is very successful at that time. He knew their method but he never complained and still tried very hard to compete with them. However these business people are no longer survive today.

Finally, he also commented that he doesn't like money but would prefer his company to be profitable so that he can pay big bonus to his staff!

Disclaimer:  I may translate wrongly or have missing some dialogues here because I only translated those key messages and put those into my own words. I hope this will be at least useful for those who do not understand Mandarin and would like to know the interview content. Enjoy!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Guess who has the highest net worth?

I think this net worth comic is really very good and it reflects to reality. Credit to the comic author of this. So, let's guess who has the highest net worth here?

Yes, surprisingly the beggar  has the highest network of $2.73 cash!!! It is just like our normal life, can we really tell who has the highest net worth? Is it by the cloth they dress (e.g. dress classy like PSY)? or by the car they drive (e.g. drive BMW)? or by the house they stay (e.g. awesome renovated house)?

P/S: Hopefully we all don't fall into a trap that we just merely want to appear to be rich, thus aware of your actual net worth is essential in personal finance.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Unconventional Personal Finance Learning by LCF

It started back in 2010, when I woke up one fine morning and felt the urge to get myself formally educated on financial matters. Not that I am deep in debt or anything. If this is in the movie, Inception, you could say someone has planted this seed of an idea deep inside my subconscious mind.

See if this resonates with you - independent, no-strings attached financial advice is few and far between. If I have a general query on life insurance, I could ask an insurance agent but after that, he will probably approach me more than a few times to introduce the latest insurance product. It is the same with investment when I talk to a unit trust agent. To add salt to the wound, banks constantly use jargons and fine prints which are too complicated for the layman to comprehend.

Anyway, the very same week, I enrolled in Certified Financial Planner program at KDU Penang, determined to demystify the seemingly complex field of personal finance. I still have 2 modules left (there are a total of 6 modules) to get certified by FPAM, but the surprising part is that I got to meet classmates with engineering background like myself who are hell-bent to improve their holistic financial knowledge. I cannot claim I am an expert but truly, my personal finance learning has been snowballing since then. About a year after I started my CFP course, I started a blog to document my learning in personal finance and around that time, Personal Money magazine contacted me for an interview for the article How to Invest RM 1k, 5k, 10k and 100k in Sept 2011 issue.

In the process, I get to know authors who have been in the financial blogosphere for years. The learning you get from other financial authors is substantial but always does your own due diligence when it comes to money. Despite Gen-Yer-er having the reputation of being spendthrift, I got the opportunity to reach out to a few like-minded people who had much success in managing and investing their own money and aren't stingy to share their experience in the public domain. ChampDog is one of them, and though he refused to meet me in person (because he wants to keep his real identity more secretive than 007), I got to give him credits for all the sweat and tears he put into this blog for the benefit of many Malaysians.

I step out further of my comfort zone and reached out to more prominent personal finance personalities like Andrew Hallam, author of the bestseller book - Millionaire Teacher, The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School. I actually had a Skype video call appointment to interview him on his money and investing philosophy. The audio interview was later published as podcast in my blog. That gained the attention of Wiley, the publisher of the book (which I already had a copy), where I subsequently requested for two free copies to be given away to my blog readers. And like what they said - if you never ask, the answer is always “No”. I got a “Yes”, and couldn’t be happier to give away books to strangers who will definitely help them in financial literacy, without having to fork out a single cent.

Eventually, I garnered the attention of Malaysia’s top personal finance blog, The founder, KC Lau invited me to guest post at his blog, which I graciously accepted. This has provided me an avenue to grow my blog readership and to reach out to more audience.

How do you know the content you pen down is well accepted by readers? By using the ultimate gauge nowadays- social media.  With close to 1,000 Facebook fans and counting, I believe I am delivering what many people are looking for - simplified, value-added contents with minimal use of financial jargons. For example, if you could explain, in layman terms, the amortization schedule for house loan and flat interest for car loan, people would have easier time understanding the difference between the interest rate for mortgage and hire purchase.

I hope my story inspires the younger generation to learn more about personal finance, and take charge of your finances. Myself is a good example, starting from zero and coming from non-financial background, but now I am currently an investment columnist in Money Compass (one of Malaysia’s premier wealth management and investment magazine).

This is a guest post by Lieu Ching Foo (LCF) who is the founder of and a firm believer of financial literacy. He is a frugal “early” Gen-Y who thinks differently from most of his peers, and has to battle his way every day from succumbing to the many temptations to part with his money.

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