Private bankers overwhelmed as Hong Kong millionaires transfer fortunes overseas

Published:  19 Jul at 6 PM
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As the riots and marches continue in Hong Kong, jittery millionaires are transferring their cash to Singapore’s safe haven.

Wealth managers and private bankers are being overwhelmed by enquiries as Hong Kong’s most wealthy residents struggle to get their cash out of the former British colony, even although the controversial extradition law seems to be dead in the water. One Singaporean wealth manager who prefers to remain anonymous told the media his firm had received a sizeable flow of new money originating in Hong Kong over the past several weeks. At the same time, a Hong Kong private banker said the super-rich have already found alternative locations for their billions, but those holding assets of between $10 to $20 million are still rushing to relocate their wealth.

Client enquiries from both expats and nationals are now running at four times over the normal levels since the protests began, spurred by fears of a mainland Chinese crackdown or worse. Relationship managers snapped up leaflets explaining the protocols of moving currency to foreign jurisdictions, according to a CEO of a Hong Kong-based private bank. The same CEO added the panic had subsided slightly as people began to release they had time to decide what’s best for their fortunes. As a result, the focus is now on setting up the means by which funds can be swiftly redirected if necessary.

Apparently, clients’ major concerns are the long-term safety of their fortunes, with opening a bank account in Singapore enabling fast transfers should the overall situation deteriorate. Nowadays, setting up offshore accounts is a far more time-consuming exercise due to post-2008 money laundering regulations, with accounts for existing clients in safe jobs taking around three weeks but those with complex company holdings forced to wait for up to six months. Even so, for mainland Chinese and ultra-wealthy expats, the exploration of alternatives is considered wise at present. Traditionally, the island is the most popular location for wealth from the mainland, with one Shanghai-based private wealth manager estimating it’s the favourite for over 90 per cent of his clients.
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