‘Who should I hire? Will I get rich?’ Fortune telling is a booming business in Singapore

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A fortune teller predicting the future to a passer-by.
Luis Acosta | Afp | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — When it comes to looking for perfect hires, it’s not just work experience and resumes that are scrutinized. For some employers in Singapore, the day and time the candidates were born are just as important.

To determine if a candidate was a good fit for his company, one CEO is said to have consulted a “feng shui” master.

“If the feng shui master does not give a good reading, they may not be strongly considered,” according to a former employee Benedict, who was part of the hiring team in the marketing firm. He declined to use his real name due to the sensitivity of the matter, given how Singapore’s hiring principle is one based on merit.

Feng shui involves the art of reading one’s destiny and temperament based on their birth dates, and comes under the broader umbrella of fortune telling, an ancient practice that seeks to foretell the future and people’s fates using methods like tarot cards and palmistry.

According to Benedict, consulting fortune-tellers shrank the pool of people considered for the role because the candidates needed to make the cut of “aligning with the company” in their reading.

The human resource manager has to do their work. But then we become one of the points of consideration when they decide to hire somebody, especially for important positions.
Mark Tan
CEO of Way Fengshui Group

“If [they ran] the date of birth first through the feng shui master and it’s an unfavorable reading, then that eliminates the candidate before an interview is even scheduled,” he said.

From who to hire to where to put their money and when is the best time to get married, more and more people are turning to fortune telling in Singapore.

The industry has grown steadily from 2017 to 2021, with the number of fortune telling establishments in Singapore climbing 32.6%, according to the most recent statistics given by Singapore’s Department of Statistics.

The total operating revenue by the industry surged almost 70% to 76.2 million Singapore dollars ($56 million) over the same period.

Who to hire?

About 100 companies use Way Fengshui Group’s service per year to enquire about who to hire, according to its CEO Mark Tan.

“The companies might send me the ‘ba zi’ of the candidate and ask me whether this would be a person who will be suitable for the role they are hiring,” said Tan, referring to the eight characters which denote a person’s date of birth, right down to the hour, according to Chinese customs.

However, the company would still have to derive their own final judgment after an assessment is given on whether the candidate is a good fit, Tan said.

A person doing a tarot card reading
Godong | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

“The human resource manager has to do their work. But then we become one of the points of consideration when they decide to hire somebody, especially for important positions,” he added.

“Especially if it’s a C-suite hire, or if it’s a very important hire and the companies are unsure. Or if they’re very sure, they just want to see if there [are] any blind spots to watch out for.”

Responding to CNBC’s request for comment, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower and the Tripartite Alliance Limited pointed to Singapore’s fair employment guidelines, which state that employers must recruit employees on the basis of merit.

The country’s Association of Small and Medium Enterprises has not responded to CNBC’s request for comment.

Where to invest?

Some Singaporean companies also turn to the advice of fortune tellers before embarking on major business decisions.

Jing, who works for a metals manufacturing company in Singapore, said that on top of hiring decisions, her firm also consults fortune tellers when it comes to investment opportunities in new factories.

But such consultations are usually done in tandem with their own research, she affirmed. 

The most common question that people ask is: ‘When will I be rich? How come I’m not rich?’
Chase Woo
managing partner at Hoseiki

“It is usually a clear internal business decision backed by figures and once this is decided, the feng shui master will be consulted on whether it is the right time,” said Jing, who declined to give her real name as she’s not authorized to speak to media on behalf of the company. 

The master will take into consideration yardsticks such as the elevation of the land, whether there are “undesirable structures” around like an electrical house, among other factors. 

“Once they give the green light, then we will go ahead to pursue the project,” she said.

“It’s an added level of assurance … so just wanting to cover all bases as much as possible and minimize the chances of things going awry,” Jing said, claiming that feng shui has never backfired on them before.

How do I get rich?

Some who seek fortune may also seek a reading on when the cash would come.

“The most common question that people ask is: ‘When will I be rich? How come I’m not rich?'” said Chase Woo, managing partner at Hoseiki, a feng shui atelier which also does consultations.

Most of the time, it’s because their investment strategy is wrong, he said.

“And why their investment strategy is wrong has everything to do with the fact that they want to get rich quick,” he said.

From their [date of birth] chart,” some people just carry the negative wealth element, he explained.

Gold coins and bars on display at a shopfront in Singapore.
Roslan Rahman | Afp | Getty Images

According to Woo, about 60% of his clients ask him about how to get rich, and the bulk of it comes from Singaporeans between 35 to 45 years of age.

Woo said a lot of his clients are salespeople, such as financial insurance agents, seeking his advice on how to increase their sales.

“We teach them about numerology and some face reading techniques in order for them to [identify] their clients’ pain points,” he said.

“A person with a lot of number six in their chart most probably will be a bit more self centered. You can’t tell him that a policy will benefit his child [because] the person won’t care,” Woo cited an example.

Woo said he does between four to 12 destiny readings in a day.

When to marry?

Aside from wealth and business dealings, Singaporeans also frequent fortune tellers for more personal inquiries — such as advice on their love life, or exam results.

Tan from Way Fengshui Group bemused that some mothers consulted him about whether their children’s exam results will be good.

“There is an increasing trend of young people coming to us to [choose] their baby’s names, and also auspicious days for getting married,” said Tan.

Jonathan Lok consulted a feng shui master before picking Jan. 27 to get married.

“We only wanted Saturdays and a date before [the] 2024 lunar new year as the feng shui master also mentioned that the next year would be bad for me (for a dog zodiac) and if I were to miss it, that means I have to delay my wedding by one more year,” said the 29-year-old.

A couple posing for a pre-wedding photoshoot in Singapore.
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Others use fortune telling to gauge their chances at love.

People in their ’20s, “especially the female demographic, are very interested to know whether they can have kids, or when they will get married,” said Tan.

“Especially when they’re not seeing someone and then when they’re past a certain age … they start being a bit more concerned. They want to know whether they should still hold any hopes in having a family.”

Ultimately, as much as fortune telling is part of the decision-making process for many people, it’s not the end-all and be-all.

“I would still see fortune telling as something fun to know [about], but I would not fully devote myself into following exactly what the fortune teller says,” said Lok.

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