Business

Hong Kong and Singapore compete for family offices, Singapore is winning…for now

The fight to attract the investment offices of the world’s wealthiest families and their capital is rarely fiercer than between Hong Kong and Singapore. For now, Singapore looks to be winning, but Hong Kong is fighting back. 

Last month, the Singaporean authorities revealed there are 200 single-family offices in the city state. That’s a lot by any standards and shows Singapore has one of the most favourable environments for family offices to operate anywhere in the world. 

To counter Singapore’s allure, early this month, a group of mostly multi-family offices have come together in Hong Kong to form a family office industry body to promote the sector better

Most of these family offices were set up by local families and individuals, and the number includes subsidiaries of family offices, like Weybourne, the investment group owned by James Dyson, the UK’s wealthiest individual, and RNT Associates, Ratan Tata’s investment group. 

It’s less certain how many single-family offices there are in Hong Kong – there is no official estimate. But it’s likely to be less than Singapore. 

That said, Hong Kong is home to some very big players – like Blue Pool Capital, the investment group linked to Joe Tsai, the Taiwanese born billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba, and Horizons Ventures, the venture group financed by Li Ka-shing, one of the world’s richest entrepreneurs. 

Given its sovereign state status, the Singaporean government can actively promote parts of the economy the authorities believe will serve the country well. And within the financial services sector, family offices are deemed important. 

The Greater China Family Office Ecosystem – Who Are The Top Players?

 

Early this year, Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Institute of Banking and Finance co-launched an educational platform called the Family Office Advisory Skill Map to build specialist skills to serve family offices better.

The Singaporean financial authorities have also launched its so-called Variable Capital Companies initiative, which offers groups like boutique asset managers and multi-family offices more flexibility when managing their assets. The scheme is likely to be extended to single-family offices. 

Hong Kong authorities have always followed a more laissez-faire approach with its financial services sector, which has worked well up until now. 

But questions over Hong Kong’s independence from a much more interventionist mainland China have grown in the last year as Beijing has taken a more strident approach to the city’s freedoms. 

That has spooked investors and led some family offices in the city to question their long-term viability in the territory, according to reports. And Singapore, which has a well-defined rule of law system favoured by international capital, is an alluring alternative destination for capital in Asia. 

To counter Singapore’s allure, early this month, a group of mostly multi-family offices have come together in Hong Kong to form a family office industry body to promote the sector better. The Family Office Association Hong Kong is targeting membership among single and multi-family offices in Hong Kong and mainland China. 

Chi Man Kwan, the founder and chairman of the new association, says they have had plenty of enquiries from European family offices as well. 

But Hong Kong’s viability as a centre of family office activity in the years ahead is in the hands of Beijing. And for some groups that is a concern too much to bear…

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