Daily Management Review

Super-Rich Chinese Who Are Dissatisfied In Their Home Country Turn Their Attention To Singapore


Super-Rich Chinese Who Are Dissatisfied In Their Home Country Turn Their Attention To Singapore
At the forum at Singapore's Shangri-La hotel, graduate student Zayn Zhang agreed with other many wealthy Chinese people that Singapore would be the best place to keep his family's money.
His wife is out hunting for a S$5-7 million ($4-5 million) penthouse while he studies at an Asian financial hub university in the hopes that it will lead to permanent residency.
"Singapore is great. It is stable and offers a lot of investment opportunities," Zhang told Reuters at a business and philanthropy forum here late last year. His family might establish a Singapore family office to manage its wealth in the future, he added.
Hundreds of affluent Chinese and people from other countries attended the event at Singapore's Shangri-La hotel, where debates on issues including family wealth and sustainable investing took place. Many of them were decked out in expensive clothing, including Hermes belt buckles, monogrammed Gucci shawls, and the newest Dior bags. A number of Chinese attendees claimed to have recently moved to Singapore or to be considering doing so.
Singapore has traditionally been a sanctuary for extremely wealthy foreigners thanks to its tax-friendly regime and reputation for political stability.
But after 2021, when it became one of the first Asian cities to dramatically relax epidemic limits and as many Chinese people became weary of their nation's harsh COVID regulations, it has experienced a new flood of riches.
Zhang, who obtained Hong Kong residency in 2021, was disenchanted, which led him to consider Singapore.
"We just lost patience over time," he said, describing the lengthy quarantines he had to endure when travelling between Hong Kong and mainland China. Political turmoil in Hong Kong has also been disheartening, he added.
The number of family-run offices in Singapore, which manage investments, taxes, asset transfers, and other financial matters for the ultra wealthy, increased from 400 to over 700 in 2021.
James Dyson, best known for his vacuum cleaners, Ray Dalio, a hedge fund manager, and Zhang Yong, the creator of China's Haidilao hotpot restaurant chain, have all established well-known Singapore family offices.
Family offices became more popular in 2022, according to individuals working in the sector, and this year that desire is anticipated to remain unabated despite the lack of more recent statistics. The country's wealthy are worried about President Xi Jinping's common prosperity programme, which aims to lessen inequality, thus it is unlikely that China's abandonment of zero-COVID policies will reverse the trend, they noted.
A lawyer who assists with family office setup, Chung Ting Fai, claimed that by the end of 2022, he would receive one inquiry per week from clients looking to relocate at least $20 million into Singapore. In 2021, he received roughly one inquiry every month; in January of this year, he had two inquiries per week.
He noted that in addition to Chinese potential consumers, many of the inquiries were from parents wanting to secure permanent status for their kids.
The government-run Global Investor Programme, which allows those who invest at least S$2.5 million in a firm, a fund, or a family office to seek for permanent residency, is one of Singapore's attractions for the wealthy.
Grace Tang, executive director of Phillip Private Equity, which manages one of Singapore's two global investor programme funds, claimed that the beginning of the year was full with meetings with prospective investors, the majority of whom were Chinese.
Others, she said, are establishing business headquarters in Singapore or investing in funds with Singaporean domiciles, while others are setting up family offices.
In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, Singapore's assets under management increased by 16% to S$5.4 trillion. Just under a third of that came from other Asia-Pacific nations, with more than three-quarters originating from outside Singapore.
The surge of money is a part of a larger trend of ex-pats returning to Singapore following a pandemic-related migration.
The city's population increased to 5.64 million last year thanks to 30,000 more permanent residents and 97,000 more foreigners with employment or other long-term visas.
In the first nine months of last year, Singapore's new developments caused rents to rise 21%. Over the past two years, home prices have also increased, with mainland Chinese purchasers continuing to dominate foreign sales of pricey private houses.
Increased memberships in golf clubs are another revealing indicator of how private wealth is accumulating. According to club membership agency Singolf Services, the price of membership at Singapore's elite Sentosa Golf Club has reached S$880,000 for foreigners, more than quadruple 2019 levels.
According to Desmond Teo, Asia Pacific family enterprise leader at the consulting firm EY, the influx of capital supports Singapore's startup community and financial services industry, building a "rich ecosystem" that attracts new investors.
"When you hit a certain critical mass, the critical mass itself is an attraction," he said.