SINGAPORE – Like many rich Chinese, graduate student Zayn Zhang thinks Singapore could be the ideal place to park his family’s wealth.
He is hoping that studying at a university in the Asian financial hub will lead to permanent residency, and while the 26-year-old hits the books, his wife is out looking for a $5 million to $7 million penthouse.
“Singapore is great. It is stable and offers a lot of investment opportunities,” Mr 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.
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Hosting discussions on topics like family wealth and sustainable investing, the forum at Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel was attended by hundreds of wealthy people, many bedecked in designer gear from Hermes belt buckles to monogrammed Gucci shawls to the latest Dior bags. Several Chinese attendees said they had recently relocated to Singapore or were thinking of doing so.
With its tax-friendly regime and seen as politically stable, Singapore has long been a haven for ultra-rich foreigners.
But it has seen a fresh influx of wealth since 2021 after it became one of the first Asian cities to significantly ease pandemic restrictions and as many Chinese became disillusioned with their country’s draconian Covid-19 policies.<![CDATA[ if( window.innerWidth
This disenchantment propelled Mr Zhang, who gained Hong Kong residency in 2021, to look at 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 had also been disheartening, he added.
Family office boom
Singapore’s number of family offices – which handle investments, taxation, wealth transfer and other financial matters for the super rich – surged to about 700 in 2021 from 400 the year before.
Well-known Singapore family offices include those set up by British billionaire inventor James Dyson, hedge fund manager Ray Dalio and Mr Zhang Yong, founder of China’s Haidilao hotpot restaurant chain.<![CDATA[ if( window.innerWidth
Although fresher statistics are not available, those involved in the industry said interest in family offices picked up in 2022 and is expected to continue unabated in 2023.
China’s abandonment of its zero-Covid policies is not expected to change the trend, given concern among the country’s rich about President Xi Jinping’s common prosperity drive that aimed to reduce inequality, they added.
Mr Chung Ting Fai, a lawyer who helps set up family offices, said that in late 2022, he had one inquiry a week from people who wanted to move at least US$20 million (S$26.3 million) into Singapore. That was up from about an inquiry a month in 2021, while in January 2023, he received two inquiries a week.
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