Asian wealth hubs drawing offshore assets at faster clip

BCG says Singapore, Hong Kong to attract wealth at twice the pace of Switzerland in next four years

Singapore and Hong Kong will attract wealth from abroad at more than twice the pace of Switzerland over the next four years as Asia's economic expansion draws cash from millionaires, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts.

Perceptions that Singapore is safe and stable will also help to bring money to the South-east Asian nation, according to BCG, which sees offshore assets there rising at a compound annual average rate of 8 per cent through 2021.

Hong Kong's will climb 7 per cent, more than Switzerland's 3 per cent, the consulting firm's global wealth report showed yesterday.

Switzerland remains the world's No. 1 offshore wealth management hub with US$2.4 trillion (S$3.3 trillion) in assets, twice as much as Singapore's, the report showed.

For decades, wealth hubs including Switzerland and Singapore have benefited from political and economic instability elsewhere that prompted rich people to move their money abroad in search of safety and investment returns.

Asia's biggest wealth centres are attracting clients from within the region itself who are becoming richer in tandem with its rising economic output.

"Relative to Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore are growing faster because of the economic growth from China to India," said Ms Mariam Jaafar, a Singapore- based BCG partner and one of the authors of the report. "In clients' minds, Singapore is more independent and secure. The government is also very supportive of the wealth management industry."

China ranks above Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia as the largest source of offshore wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to BCG. It contributed almost US$12 billion (S$16.5 billion) in revenue pools for private banks last year, the most in the region, the report showed.

Still, China's restrictions on investment outflows may slow some of the movement of assets from the nation, Ms Mariam Jaafar said. China ranks above Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia as the largest source of offshore wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to BCG. It contributed almost US$12 billion in revenue pools for private banks last year, the most in the region, the firm's report showed.

Wealthy people are keeping money abroad even as the authorities worldwide clamp down on hidden offshore assets. Governments' efforts to tighten tax regulation or provide amnesties have yet to prompt the rich to repatriate their undeclared assets in a material way, BCG said. "Because of political instability, offshore solutions remain attractive for wealthy families," the Boston-based firm said.

Banks from UBS to Credit Suisse and DBS Group have been adding wealth management staff to service global clients as assets grow.  Offshore assets in private banking hubs worldwide swelled almost 4 per cent last year to US$10.3 trillion, according to BCG.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Asian wealth hubs drawing offshore assets at faster clip'. Print Edition | Subscribe