Singapore buildings

SINGAPORE: Singapore is ramping up its efforts to draw high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and future industry leaders, said former Economic Development Board (EDB) executive Matthew Lee, Citywire Asia reports.

The country’s Global Investor Programme, overseen by Mr Lee, has broadened its scope since 2020.

Now, alongside established high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), the program targets next-gen entrepreneurs, fast-growth company founders, and family office principals looking to secure permanent residency (PR) through meeting relevant investment criteria and profile types.

Mr Lee, previous EDB senior vice president and now a partner at Kamet Capital, likens Singapore’s strategy to a beehive.

“Singapore is a small country with limited resources. It is not possible to attract and anchor every single entrepreneur out there. We need to attract only the top-tier business owners and investors,” he said.

It’s like a beehive. You attract the queen bee here; the whole ecosystem will grow and thrive,” he added.

He pointed out the benefit of attracting future industry leaders and family office principals early on:

“By bringing them here early, their affinity with Singapore will naturally lead them to invest and grow here after establishing themselves, instead of going after them when they grow to MNC sizes.”

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He also noted the close collaboration between EDB and MAS in building a vibrant family office ecosystem.

Aik-Ping Ng, head of family office advisory for Asia Pacific at HSBC Global Private Banking, highlighted the remarkable growth of Singapore’s family office scene.

From just 400 entities in 2020, the number has surged to 1,400 in the previous year.

According to Ministry of Trade and Industry data, approximately 200 individuals obtained PR through the scheme between 2020 and 2022, contrasting sharply with the 1,000 PRs granted from 2007 to 2010.

Industry experts emphasise that the role of family offices in Singapore extends far beyond mere wealth management.

Mr Ng pointed out that family offices create jobs by hiring investment experts and generate revenue by engaging various service providers such as private banks, legal firms, custody services, fund administrators, and tax firms.

He added that this spillover effect has bolstered sectors like real estate, retail, and food & beverage while promoting growth in areas such as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives and impact investing.

Mr Lee added that family office principals strengthen the banking and finance sectors, create jobs and contribute by investing in Singapore’s financial and startup ecosystems, fostering robust fundraising opportunities.

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Kerry Goh, founder and CEO of Kamet Capital, envisions Singapore as Asia’s Silicon Valley, where family offices play a critical role in nurturing local startups and partnering with top universities and global tech firms.

He emphasised the value of attracting seasoned business leaders to mentor startups, citing the success of Doctor Anywhere under Kamet’s guidance as a prime example of mentorship and patient capital shaping Singapore’s startup landscape.

However, despite their significant contributions, tighter regulatory measures have slowed Singapore’s expansion of family offices, according to Goh.

He argues that “stronger principals, stronger operators” are needed to support industry growth in the face of talent shortages.

Mr Ng also emphasised the need to improve family offices and attract institutional-level setups due to Asia’s $2.5 trillion wealth transfer.

He stressed the importance of setting up proper family offices to effectively manage family and investment matters.

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong highlighted the responsibility of wealthy residents to follow Singapore’s rules. “We want the wealthy who are here, to contribute to society do their part, pay their dues, and give back to the society.”

He added, “These are our house rules. If you would like to be here, please follow our norms, follow our rules. If you think they are not for you, that is okay. You can take your money elsewhere.”

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Last year, the government announced that new permanent residents (PRs) could join activities like orientation trails organised by the National Integration Council to learn about “Singapore’s way of life.”

They are also encouraged to participate in philanthropic and community efforts supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Singapore’s growing philanthropy sector and new tax incentives allow family offices to contribute meaningfully to society. This supports Prime Minister Wong’s call for wealthy individuals to give back.

However, Associate Professor Kenneth Goh from SMU’s Business Families Institute cautioned that while current policies promote short-term giving, focusing on building lasting connections and understanding within Singapore’s community is crucial.

“We need to pay attention to how families can grow long-term roots,” he said. He stressed the importance of integrating into society, forming bonds, and appreciating Singapore’s people, culture, and history.  /TISG

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