More affluent families have flocked to Singapore as a base to park their wealth in the midst of a worldwide pandemic in 2020. Data analysis firm Handshakes estimates that 221 single and multi-family offices opened in Singapore in 2020. This compares with 129 in 2019, and 22 in 2018. These figures were derived by studying data from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) which capture flows from outside of Singapore. The proportion of foreign directorships of these newly set up family offices has been rising gradually over the years from 48.6% in 2018 to 51.6% in 2019 to 55% in 2020. Directors from North Asia (mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Japan) alone made up 27.3% in 2020.
The scope of the family office involves planning the education of children to succession planning, with a focus in tax planning for the family and investment of the family’s non-corporate wealth. While Singapore does not allow dual citizenship, opening a family office here facilitates the application for residency for wealthy owners, allowing them to move here in times of crisis, either due to social unrest or health concerns.
UBS’ growth in Q1 2021 is a reflection of how Singapore has captured the rise of family offices in the region. Its latest figures show that the portion of new assets booked in Asia Pacific is a 50:50 split between Singapore and Hong Kong – the two wealth hubs through which UBS books flows. Five years ago, that split was 75% to Hong Kong and 25% to Singapore.