Are the ultra-wealthy departing Hong Kong for politically stable Singapore?

Published:  5 Jul at 6 PM
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Upscale wealth management companies are now shunning Hong Kong in favour of Singapore.

International wealth management firms planning to open in Hong Kong are changing their minds and heading for Singapore as a result of continuing public unrest over the new extradition bill. The news comes as no surprise, as their wealthy would-be expat clients are already pulling their investments and stashing them elsewhere for the same reason.

According to Reuters, one mid-sized private investment advisory company has given up its plans for a branch in Hong Kong and is now preplanning for a Singapore base. The company’s CEO, speaking under anonymity for obvious reasons, told the media outlet he has little confidence in the situation as it is at present, although he’s watching carefully for developments. He added stability is the one essential for wealthy expat clients, and believes Singapore is a far safer bet at this present time.

The hugely unpopular bill brought over a million Hong Kong residents onto the streets in protest and has been suspended as a result. However, protestors are now demanding its scrapping, with broader concerns over its threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law. Investors are fearful it may be the thin end of the wedge, leading to Beijing’s being able to seize expat assets unless they’ve already been moved to a more politically secure haven. For the city, long known as a hub for wealth management, the adoption of the bill could well result in its collapse as one of the world’s most important financial centres.

Although Hong Kong’s central bank is attempting to reassure the sector by stating there are no indications as yet of significant fund or business shifts to Singapore from Hong Kong, Singaporean property brokers have different perspectives, with several reporting not just increased enquiries but also visits from groups based in Hong Kong, including managers of real estate funds and those looking after the private investment vehicles of mega-wealthy residents.

According to one exclusive Singaporean agency’s representative, investors are interested in hotels, offices and private dwellings in a range from S$200 million to S$500 million. One thing’s for certain, when the money shifts country to country, wealth managers follow fast.
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