Monday, July 15, 2024

How legit is Chocolate Finance’s 4.5% return?

At 4.5% p.a. assured* return in your deposits, how legit is Chocolate Finance and the way are they capable of promise such a excessive yield when the banks can’t?

Singaporeans rushed in after GXS opened its floodgates for its 3.48% p.a. return on deposits, however barely a month in, GXS determined to slash their rates of interest to a decrease 2.68% p.a. as an alternative.

For sure, that transfer left many shoppers fairly pissed, particularly those that did take the difficulty to enroll in an account and transfer their funds over.

Not cool.

Whereas I knew it was solely a matter of time earlier than GXS would slash their rates of interest, I definitely wasn’t anticipating them to behave so quickly – if I had identified, I could not have bothered to open an account and switch my funds, a lot much less write on it again then! However I did, and I moved my very own funds as effectively, so now I’m in the identical boat as everybody else who has to both 

(i) regulate their very own expectations and be happy with the decrease 2.68%, or 

(ii) discover a higher place to park their money.

I occur to belong to the latter (why earn 2.68% after I can get increased?) so I’ve been searching for choices to shift out my funds into.

Then I obtained an invitation from my outdated pal, Walter de Oude (former founding father of Singlife) to contemplate his latest enterprise, Chocolate Finance, which is providing 4.5% p.a. on a by-invite solely foundation.

For these of you who aren’t aware of Walter, you may recognise him as the previous CEO of Singlife. I’ve identified Walter since 2017, and seen the miracles Walter had pulled off with Singlife when he launched the Singlife 2.5% p.a. account – at a time when banks have been paying low rates of interest – in addition to the obstacles he overcame as he established Singapore’s first digital insurer…so I used to be positively intrigued.

So I met Walter for espresso, and placed on my investigative journalist hat as a result of I wanted to grill and perceive how precisely he and the Chocolate Finance staff was capable of give 4.5% p.a., particularly at a time when GXS was reducing their charges.

We had a good time speaking about how banks generate profits, how the Singlife account used to generate its returns beneath Walter’s management, and even the current Silicon Valley Financial institution collapse.

On the finish of the day, I obtained my solutions, and that led me to place in my very own money, so right here’s my assessment.

Essential disclaimer: This text is NOT sponsored by Chocolate Finance. It comprises my very own notes and observations after I grilled Walter on his latest enterprise, and explains why I felt comfy sufficient to place in my very own cash - with the professionals and cons defined so readers could make their very own knowledgeable determination on the finish.
The supply to assist fastened returns beneath S$20k lasts till 30 June 2024, or till the property beneath administration (AUM) attain $500M – whichever happens earlier. Ought to the AUM be hit sooner than anticipated, Chocolate Finance might select to increase it or amend it relying on market circumstances at the moment.

What’s Chocolate Finance?

First issues first, Chocolate Finance is one thing fairly new, and fairly revolutionary (in the identical vein, it’d take a little bit of getting used to, which is why I’ve bothered with this explainer – additionally whereas documenting my very own determination so I can look again on this text sooner or later and reference it).

It’s NOT a financial institution, nor a cash market fund. As an alternative, it’s a managed account operated by Havenport Investments Pte. Ltd. (UEN: 201015315N), which is a licensed asset administration firm regulated by MAS in Singapore since 2010, serving personal buyers, sovereign wealth funds and world pension funds. Chocolate Finance’s buyers embody Peak XV Companions (beforehand generally known as Sequoia), Prosus, Credit score Saison, GFC and Dara Holdings.

In contrast to the banks, which generate returns by investing buyer deposits primarily in mortgages and credit score, Chocolate Finance’s managed account primarily invests in short-duration fixed-income funds and cash market funds.

The compelling supply by Chocolate Finance now could be that they’re giving a 4.5% p.a. return on the primary S$20,000 of funds deposited per buyer, and a subsequent goal 3.5% p.a. for something increased.

After his success with the Singlife account, Walter began Chocolate Finance to see if he may generate even increased returns for shoppers with out comparable lock-ins, albeit in a distinct method. 

Collectively along with his staff – which additionally consists of leaders who previously served in fairly notable roles earlier than Havenport; as co-CEO of Legg Mason Singapore, Managing Director of DBS Asset Administration and Funding Director of Rothschild Asset Administration – that is what they got here up with.

In your first S$20,000, Chocolate Finance provides you a 4.5% p.a. return (whereas taking any upside as a charge; equally, if there are any underperformance then they use their very own funds to prime up the distinction so you continue to receives a commission your 4.5%).

This is the reason there are presently restricted slots for $20k per particular person, as a result of within the occasion that Chocolate Finance has to prime up the distinction by drawing from its shareholder capital that has been put apart for this objective. Up to now, although, their precise projected returns are nearer to five%, which is why they will confidently supply 4.5% p.a. proper now.

However right here’s the “catch”: identical to banks, if or when market charges fall, the goal returns will regulate accordingly. However I suppose that’s to be anticipated.

How is the 4.5% p.a. return derived?

To find out whether or not the 4.5% p.a. is reputable, I questioned how buyer funds are used. 

Observe: It's CRUCIAL that you simply perceive this half earlier than parking any {dollars} into Chocolate Finance!

In abstract, your funds get invested into a specific portfolio of short-term high-quality bonds decided by the portfolio managers at Chocolate Finance. At this second, the portfolio is presently made up of:

  • Dimensional International Quick-Time period Funding Grade Mounted Earnings Fund (SGD)
  • UOBAM United SGD Fund
  • Fullerton SGD Money Fund

You may acknowledge a few of these names, as I’ve talked concerning the fund(s) on my weblog / Instagram beforehand to clarify how they labored (when a few of you have been asking me about investing in unit trusts and funds). For these of you who wanna pore over the person fund paperwork like I did, I’ve linked it right here (Dimensional), right here (UOBAM) and right here (Fullerton).

For the eagle-eyed, chances are you’ll be questioning, hey, I can discover these funds on a number of brokerage or fund platforms like EndowUs, FundSupermart, POEMS, and so forth as effectively! So what’s stopping me from investing in them immediately?


When you’re a savvy investor who prefers to handle your personal fund investments, then why not?

However when you’re somebody who’s simply searching for a spot to park your spare money for increased returns with out having to trouble or handle an excessive amount of, then you’ll be able to see why Chocolate Finance’s managed account now seems interesting, prefer it does to me.

What’s the worst-case situation?

Okay, there aren’t any ensures in life, and since that is technicially backed by an funding account and and never SDIC-protected, I wanted to know what the dangers and worst-case situation could be – and the way my funds are protected as an alternative in different methods, if any in any respect.

With the SVB collapse nonetheless recent on everybody’s minds, you may additionally be questioning, may a SVB collapse occur?

Watch this brief explainer video on why and the way the collapse of Silicon Valley Financial institution occurred. Now you perceive why a SVB-equivalent situation is unlikely to hit Chocolate, as a result of the funds utilized by Chocolate are short-term and liquid, so the rates of interest change that killed SVB is not going to have the identical impression on Chocolate.

OK, however what about liquidation or chapter?

If Chocolate Finance ever goes beneath, clients funds will nonetheless be round as a result of they’re saved in a custodised account fully separate from Chocolate’s. 

A very good analogy could be to consider it like a fireproof protected (your custodised funds and property) inside a home (Chocolate Finance). No matter is inside remains to be protected, even when the home have been to burn down.

Your property (your stake within the portfolio funds holdings) are protected as a result of they sit with the funding supervisor’s custodian, i.e. State Road for Dimensional and UOBAM, and HSBC for Fullerton. Within the unlikely occasion that Chocolate ceases operations, your property held beneath custody is not going to be affected as they are going to both be returned to the shopper or transferred to a different agent of your selection.

Your money will not be SDIC-protected, however as an alternative individually custodised.

Observe: Right here’s the second CRUCIAL level that it's essential to perceive earlier than transferring any cash into Chocolate Finance!

I’ve seen some questions floating round on-line asking why the funds in Chocolate Finance are usually not protected by SDIC.

That’s a gross misunderstanding of what and the way the SDIC operates.

Firstly, the SDIC solely insures banks and insurers. There is no such thing as a equal safety of the SDIC for asset managers nor buyers, as a result of investments are usually not assured or insured, however in return, that’s the place you’ll be able to probably get increased yields. So when you spend money on a financial institution’s wealth merchandise (investments), there is no such thing as a SDIC safety both – you higher know this by now! P.S. if there was, then Credit score Suisse AT1 bondholders wouldn’t have needed to resort to this lawsuit.

There’s a restrict to how a lot returns banks can give you in your financial savings or fastened deposits which can be SDIC-protected, as a result of in trade for that safety, they’re restricted by what they will spend money on (often mortgages, credit score and generally high-quality loans).

Since Chocolate Finance will not be a financial institution, however basically an asset administration firm, the buyer safety works in another way right here. 

What you ought to be questioning is how buyer funds are held, segregated or custodised, and by whom. 

You must also be questioning the place (your) funds are being invested in, so that you could make a judgment name on whether or not that portfolio of investments is one thing you might be personally comfy with.

Secondly, one other frequent false impression folks typically have about SDIC-insured funds is each greenback of their cash is protected. However that’s not true – scroll to the tremendous print on the phrases and circumstances of each checking account, fastened deposit or insurance coverage financial savings plan that you simply’ve signed up with, and also you’ll see that it’s as much as solely S$75,000 “per depositor per Scheme member by regulation”.

Okay, so what does that imply in easy English?

This merely implies that the S$75k restrict is tagged to every monetary establishment, so within the situation the place you may have a $50k financial savings account with Financial institution A and $100k of their fastened deposits, then if Financial institution A ever goes to mud, you’ll solely get again $75k (not $150k).

Yep. Shocker?!?! Probably not.
So when you’re tremendous kiasi and care about having each single greenback insured by the SDIC, you then in all probability shouldn’t have something greater than $75,000 sitting in any single monetary establishment. You guys displaying off your $100k balances in UOB One, I’m you.

What’s an alternative choice to Chocolate Finance?

Though not likely an apple-to-apple comparability,different nearer options one may contemplate might be the cash market funds, asset administration corporations (when you’re an accredited investor)…or possibly even investment-linked merchandise (ILPs) with underlying bond investments of their major portfolio holdings.

There are a number of key variations although: 

  • There’s no gross sales cost, administration or wrapper charges
  • No lock-ins
  • No minimal capital to begin
As aptly summarized on Chocolate’s web site.

When you’re contemplating different choices to your money, you may additionally be evaluating in opposition to:

  • Mounted deposits
  • Treasury payments
  • Bonds or bond funds

All are usually not actual rivals, however they share one attribute in frequent: they’re all frequent choices that we buyers have a tendency to contemplate when deciding the place to park our money.

Truthfully talking, when you’re savvy and hardworking sufficient to handle your personal funding portfolio, there’s nothing stopping you from investing in the identical underlying portfolio as what Chocolate Finance invests in. Some folks may even use this as a “hack” – put in some cash with Chocolate simply to get entry and see what their underlying portfolio holdings are, after which replicate the identical for your self elsewhere.

It’s not a secret – only a matter of effort vs. comfort and ease.

Who’s appropriate vs. who’s not?

OK, I do know there’s been a number of chatter about Chocolate Finance’s juicy 4.5% p.a. return, particularly after their eye-catching sales space at this yr’s Seedly PFF 2023 held at Suntec.

So I hope this text makes it clearer to you (or anybody contemplating whether or not to maneuver funds in, like I did), on whether or not Chocolate Finance is likely to be an acceptable possibility for you.

In brief, when you care solely about SDIC safety, then keep away.

However when you’re comfy with the safety that custodial segregation gives, and don’t thoughts your cash being managed and invested into these underlying portfolio holdings in trade for a 4.5% p.a. return, then why not?

What’s extra, if in case you have spare money and have already maxed out all the opposite assured choices which you could probably discover (similar to authorities treasury payments, fastened deposits or high-yield financial savings accounts with standards and hoops which you could meet for bonus pursuits), then this might be an possibility.

I may think about bond buyers who’ve gotten bored with managing their very own portfolio may need to use Chocolate Finance as an alternative. Do observe that above the primary S$20k, solely  a goal 3.5% p.a. can be paid out although – this isn’t coated nor will it’s topped up by Chocolate Finance within the occasion of any shortfall.

Lastly, any fairness buyers who need a spot for his or her warchest however are usually not eager on the fluctuating returns of cash market funds provided by their brokerages (e.g. Syfe Money+, moomoo Money Plus, Tiger Vault), may additionally be interested in Chocolate Finance’s providing right here.

Why Finances Babe moved her personal funds over 

You guys watched me transfer my funds into GXS after they provided 3.48%, so it boils all the way down to a easy query for me:

Do I depart my spare money in GXS for two.68% p.a. now that the charges have been reduce, or do I transfer them out into Chocolate for 4.5% p.a. As an alternative?

As an investor, the reply was apparent.

My expertise on Chocolate Finance

I do know slots are restricted proper now, so I gained’t add to the FOMO or bore you an excessive amount of with screenshots of how my expertise went.

However I do need to spotlight a number of key factors:

  1. The sign-up course of was very easy and accomplished inside seconds, utilizing my SingPass.
  2. I transferred utilizing PayNow (you may also use financial institution switch) and the funds arrived nearly instantaneously.
  3. I tried a withdrawal, and the funds arrived inside seconds in my checking account.

Sadly, slots are restricted now on a by-invite solely foundation, so when you did not put your identify on the waitlist throughout the Seedly PFF occasion beforehand and solely enter it in now, you’ll in all probability have to attend so much longer to your flip.

However sheesh, right here’s a short-cut.

I get to refer pals too (albeit capped), and in return, I get $5 when you be part of and fund.

You don’t have to make use of mine – if in case you have pals who’re already on Chocolate Finance and might invite you as effectively, be at liberty to make use of their code so the $5 kopi cash goes to them as an alternative.

So when you discovered this text helpful and wanna get entry, please camp on my Fb web page HERE for a particular promo code dropping on 26 August! 

I’ve advised Walter that since I don’t have the HP numbers of you guys to ask every of you immediately, can we’ve got a particular Finances Babe readers code as an alternative, and he has agreed – albeit to a cap. So…if it will get all snapped up by the point you see it, you’ll be able to at all times simply add your identify to the waitlist by way of Chocolate Finance’s web site and wait patiently to your flip 🙂

Simply be sure to’ve totally learn by way of this text first, earlier than you do! 

TLDR Conclusion

Bear in mind, your funds are usually not SDIC-insured with Chocolate Finance, however in return, there’s a juicy 4.5% p.a. return ready to be taken. Threat-adverse of us who don’t belief the underlying funds, or asset managers, or the staff, might need to keep away.

P.S. And no, Walter has mentioned that Chocolate Finance has no intention to tug a GXS Financial institution and reduce assist for the 4.5% p.a. anytime quickly – offered the market behaves – so that you’ll be capable of take pleasure in it for a great whereas when you do make the transfer.

What are your ideas about Chocolate Finance?

Let me know within the feedback beneath!

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