OPERATING and maintaining ships may be a world away from price-earning ratios and stock charts but Mr Sung Yoon Chon has managed to switch from one path to another.
His big move came 20 years ago when the marine engineer was looking for a new career. He settled on stockbroking and has not looked back since, becoming a well-established remisier at UOB Kay Hian and a committee member of the Society of Remisiers.
"I like my job and have no plans to retire," Mr Sung, 62, told The Straits Times, adding that he appreciates the fact that the profession has no set retirement age.
But Mr Sung, who has about 1,000 clients, said he has had to change the way he conducts business in an industry that is evolving rapidly due to technology and Internet trading.
One main aspect of adapting to the new environment means being able to provide stock information and views to clients.
Mr Sung said he has studied technical analysis and fundamental analysis, which allows him to provide opinions when investors call.
Technical analysis is the study of price charts to make educated guesses about future direction, while fundamental analysis involves examining a company's operations and financials.
Said Mr Sung: "I provide information and views on a stock to my clients. We've built up mutual trust; they call me and ask for my opinion."
Remisiers cannot recommend shares to clients but can give their opinions when asked about a particular share.
After that, clients will trade through him or the Internet but, either way, he gets a commission, Mr Sung said.
In this respect, Mr Sung's views are in line with those of Singapore Exchange head of sales and clients Chew Sutat, who said that remisiers must reinvent themselves and learn new skills like stock analysis in order to meet the demands of investors.
There has been talk of the industry being in trouble, with falling commissions and trade volumes, and speculation that Internet trading will eventually replace remisiers.
But Mr Sung believes that there is still a future.
"Clients don't want to talk to a machine" and there will still be demand for a remisier's services, he said. But they must provide value-added service, such as stock opinions, otherwise the clients will not stay long.
Things will get better with the next penny stock bull run, he said.
"People don't usually make very good money during normal times. They should be able to survive," he said. "But the heyday will return when the bull run arrives."
In the meantime, remisiers can earn income from other sources, such as by acting as consultants to firms when they hold mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings and other corporate exercises, he said.
If anything, the profession is a good option for people who want to change careers, such as Mr Sung himself.
"I have seen accountants, teachers, pilots and PhD holders change track to be remisiers over the years," he said.