The future could be bright for private banking and tax evasion in Southeast Asia
With Switzerland increasingly under pressure from the United States and distressed European countries to loosen its bank secrecy rules, Singapore is expected to become the top private banking centre by 2013, according to a study by PwC consultancy.
The West’s wealthy are progressively moving assets to the city-state through family offices – private companies that manage the trusts and investments of rich households.
According to the research company Campden Wealth, up to ten European family offices have moved to Singapore since the financial crisis in 2008, bringing $5-$10 billion worth of assets with them. Swiss banks, which maintain strong relations with the families, have followed the trend.
Union des Banques Suisses (UBS) set up a family office team in Singapore that is looking to cater to two dozen clients in Asia who have assets of $200m or more. Other Swiss banks including Credit Suisse and Julius Bär have established a solid presence in the country.
Other countries in the region have built a reputation for their friendly regulations and low tax rates including the Philippines and Brunei. The latter is considered an ‘uncooperative’ tax haven by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) but has still attracted several global banks.
Lichtenstein’s Valartis has 100% holdings in Hypo Trust and Corporate Services, an asset management company registered in the sultanate while Royal Bank of Canada, Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC are among the banks which have also opened wealth management offices in Brunei.