Expanding into Asia? Singapore could be the answer

Date 22/12/2021
3 minutes to read
Alan Bennet

We chatted with Alan Bennet, our recently appointed Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance - Singapore, to find out what this jurisdiction has to offer and why it’s so attractive to businesses looking to expand into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). With more than 20 years of compliance advisory experience, Alan is responsible for Equiom’s Governance Risk and Compliance function in Singapore, offering bespoke compliance solutions to companies and private offices.

Having lived in Singapore for several years now, I really appreciate what this island has to offer. Excellent infrastructure, security, low taxes, culture, innovation and most importantly, permanent summer!

Singapore has so much to offer, so why are you not here?

Already home to a steady stream of financial services firms, it’s well understood that establishing a regional headquarters in Singapore is a good move if you are looking to expand operations into ASEAN and across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

In fact, the Singapore Funds Industry Group recently stated that Singapore is now the leading pan-Asian asset management hub with a diverse base of more than 1,000 fund managers. Assets under management are reported to have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 11% over the last five years to S$4 trillion at the end of 2019. Additionally, more than 260 Variable Capital Companies (VCCs) have been set up in Singapore since the launch of the VCC framework in January last year (a VCC is a new legal entity for all types of investment funds in Singapore).

Singapore has also been busy attracting ASEAN focused private equity and venture capital firms – and with huge success. Nikkei Asia recently quoted that there were 313 fund managers with exposure to private equity venture capital (PEVC) within ASEAN, up from 244 about a year ago. Furthermore, Preqin forecasts APAC private capital assets under management to rise from US$1.7tn in 2020 to US$6.1tn by 2025 – a huge rise in a short space of time.

With a vast array of government sponsored incentives to choose from, FinTechs are also understandably making their move to Singapore. 

The local financial regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), states that there are over 1,000 FinTech firms already established in Singapore with a 19% Y-o-Y increase in FinTech investments in the first half of 2020. Singapore was ranked 2nd in Bloomberg’s ‘Innovation Index’ 2021 and 1st in the World Trademark Review ‘IP Office Innovation Ranking’ 2020.

More recently, the MAS FinTech Festival 2021 attracted a vast array of subject matter experts and firms queuing up to speak at what was a hugely impressive virtual event - a big well done to the MAS and all their supporters. I found myself waking at 7am and being spoilt for choice by the sheer number of quality speakers on offer throughout the day.

The festival really highlighted that Singapore has been incentivising corporations large and small, start-ups, innovators, FinTech firms and financial organisations for some time now. In essence, the advertising has already been done. The question is now how long will it remain so easy to set up here and take advantage of all the incentives on offer? That will remain to be seen. While I’m sure Singapore will be welcoming all with open arms for many years to come, the deals and grants that are available right now may not be extended indefinitely. So, now is the time to review your investment opportunities and look East. The question must be, why are you not here already?

From my own experience the time to move is never right or wrong, the thing to do is act and see where those actions lead you. 

Our experienced Singapore team can support individuals or businesses who wish to explore what the market has to offer, as well as who are ready to set up or expand in the region. We can support and assist with all aspects of doing business in Singapore, including structuring, licences, tax compliance, legal and regulatory requirements. Please get in contact with myself, or any member of the team and we would be delighted to help with anything from company services to compliance solutions to complement any business.

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