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Need for speed: Banker Kenneth Yeo’s 23-year Prancing Horse dream fulfilled

What started as a dare in school has led to the 42-year-old being the owner of a 2013 Ferrari California.

His cheeky grin and a taper fade high above the hairline on his boyish face suggests Kenneth Yeo is up to mischief. Leaning against a black sports car while twiddling the cuff of his Giorgio Armani ensemble, he unwittingly enforces this notion: appearances can be misleading.

Looks aside, Yeo exudes a sense of achievement more than 20 years in the making. The sleek-looking gem behind the 42-year-old is the 2013 Ferrari California he acquired last year for S$380,000. The car was a fulfilment of a dream that began in 1996 when he dared an Anglo-Chinese Junior College schoolmate to have her father fetch her from school in his Ferrari F40, then the Italian automaker’s fastest and most expensive supercar in its stable.

“When her dad was about 100m away from us, everyone in school stood still at the sight of the car and roar of its engine,” recalls Yeo. “It was something to behold – and that was when the Ferrari lovebug bit me.”

Owning a supercar was his dream from then on, although he knew very well that the road to realising it was paved with sheer hard work.

After National Service, he jetted off to the University of New South Wales in Sydney to major in geotechnical engineering. His goal was to establish a career in oil and gas because that was where the money was, and Australia was in short supply of such industry professionals. However, his parents urged their only child to return home after graduation in 2002.

(Related: Need for speed: How Bryan Chin and his dad received the first McLaren 720S in Singapore)

“My parents presented me with a BMW 318 Coupe as a graduation gift after I came home,” says Yeo. “It was a nice sporty car, but my dream was still a Ferrari. I just couldn’t afford one then.”

Yeo soon discovered engineers were highly sought after by the banking sector for their analytical skills. He took a leap of faith with a local private bank in 2003 and hit pay dirt.

Six years on and with a different institution as director, head of private banking sales, Yeo was at a crossroads. Ferrari had rolled out the 458, but he felt it was too ostentatious so early in his career.

After a BMW, a Mercedes-Benz and a Maserati, he gave in to the Ferrari itch in 2019. By then, the issue was no longer about whether he could afford the Ferrari California. He had to first sell the idea to his family.

“I eyed a pre-owned California because it was a more conventional car and two people could sit in the back,” said the father of a nine-year-old daughter and a son, who’s six. “I took them to Ital Auto and told them we could still drive around as a family in this Ferrari.”

But why pre-owned instead of new? “I am a believer in strong brands and Ferrari is one of them. The people behind it ensure it will always be top-notch, even if preowned. Also, as an engineer, I like to do the numbers. Before investing in a new one, I needed to know what owning one entailed. I will know after a few years of driving the California.”

Yeo has three years more with his Ferrari before he has to decide whether he wants to extend its COE or move on to the next car. “For now, I am enjoying what I have,” he says. “However, I do like the Ferrari Roma and I will think about it when the time comes.”

(Related: Need for speed: Fanty Soenardy’s journey on the fast lane)