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Industry Insights | 4 minute read

2022 market update: Singapore single-family offices

July 26, 2022

    This blog post was originally published on Profile Search & Selection. View the article here.

    The complexities and globalization of financial and capital markets, coupled with the evolution of technology have brought about an onset of growing opportunities for asset owners and investors alike who continue to seek new investment opportunities to generate wealth and asset growth.

    In this update, we seek to share our observations across one group of investors and asset owners- single-family offices (SFOs).

    There’s been a surge in ultra-high net worth (UHNW) families — bringing an increased demand to hire single-family offices in Singapore to manage, grow, and preserve their wealth and assets. According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the number of family offices in the region rose five-fold between 2017 and 2019. And there’s currently no sign of this momentum slowing down.

    In 2020, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in Parliament indicated SFO numbers have reached 200, with industry research estimating assets from each family exceeding $100m. This projects total SFO assets management in the Republic to be around $20bn. As a result, we’ve seen a consistent and growing demand for talent in this area. So, what are family offices looking for in candidates?

    What are family offices looking for?

    #1: Candidates who embody an entrepreneurial mindset

    Since SFO teams are lean, they usually require all hands on deck. Top-tier candidates are ones who enlist a solution-oriented mindset, can work quickly and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. This direct method of portfolio management and investment has been highly sought after, especially as many look to re-evaluate investments for the generational change of wealth.

    #2: Applicants that can showcase subject matter expertise

    Whether it’s expertise in investments, an industry-oriented trade, legal or HR, candidates demonstrating skills with real-world examples of how their knowledge has made an impact will differentiate them from the average person. SFOs are seeking candidates with subject matter expertise who are adaptable and ready for change. It’s important, therefore, to own your domain confidently in order to gain full trust.

    ​#3: The ability to communicate long-term asset preservation

    Candidates aren’t only competing with other candidates here — they’re also competing with investment teams who may include the next generation of family members wanting to manage their own wealth. This could either be to build their careers for managing third-party wealth later or to simply be more involved in the financial infrastructure. When working with a family office, it’s a long-term setup that institutionalizes the holding structure for the entire family’s assets and facilitates succession planning. As the one implementing a framework, it’s been shown many are preferring simpler and leaner financial structures. This makes joining an SFO even more competitive, so candidates should prepare for the interpersonal effects caused by these financial structures being put into place as well as how they will be shaped for the long term.

    #4: Candidates who can emphasize environmental, social and governance (ESG) models

    Over the last few years, we have observed that the next generation of asset owners who are taking over the decision-making process are prioritizing the commitment to managing portfolios that are environmentally and socially conscious. Candidates with experience in ESG and sustainability have been sought after as family offices seek to adopt a more sustainable and multi-generational approach to their wealth planning. Understanding and aligning values in accordance with philanthropic efforts are key to succeeding in this growing industry. This includes allocating families’ wealth into newer, more innovative ways for a positive impact, including gender balance and sustainability. This open-minded route for investment teams with gender-balanced leadership has been shown to outperform according to a co-written Catalyst at Large report. This also fosters purpose and community between family members — so candidates for SFOs play a pivotal role in helping build a legacy and stewardship in the family’s wealth.

    What are SFO candidates looking for?

    #1: Access to decision-makers faster

    Candidates accustomed to working in larger, more bureaucratic organizations outside of Singapore want the ability to be near decision-makers and have answers in real-time. This can be challenging with some legal counsel and compliance who may prefer the governance and regulatory frameworks granted by larger companies.

    ​#2: Input on shaping the investment framework

    Investment professionals enjoy the opportunity to be directly involved in helping the family shape their strategy. This includes advising in the areas of wealth structuring, family administration, personal travel and investment management to bring the benefits of a structured and thoughtful wealth plan. Candidates want their fair shot at being changemakers as globalization continues to spread across Asia, North America and Europe.

    ​#3: Minimized bureaucratic work

    Candidates are keen to handle fewer stakeholders in their day-to-day work. With family offices, the bureaucratic red tape is considerably smaller, ensuring they won’t have to manage multiple stakeholders across the globe. Singapore’s strong legal and financial infrastructure uniquely positions it for both single family offices and multifamily offices. We expect to see increasing demand for candidates across both the investment and support functions for family offices. ​

    About Suan Wei Yeo

    Suan Wei is the director of legal and compliance in Singapore. She focuses on in-house legal and compliance across all industries. Suan Wei has 17 years of executive search experience, with a background in recruitment within financial services.