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Singapore family office hiring in overdrive as vacancies top 2020 levels

Family office hiring in Singapore is booming like never before as the Republic positions itself as an alluring destination for these small investment firms. Recruitment levels in the sector so far this year already exceed all of 2020, says Stanley Teo, managing director at recruiters Profile. Selby Jennings has also made more family office hires in the year to mid-May than it did during 2020, says Andrew Zee, senior vice president, front office. The scandal surrounding family office Archegos Capital has made no impact on the Singapore job market, say recruiters.

Singapore introduced the tax-efficient Variable Capital Company (VCC) legal structure in January last year, designed to attract the assets of family offices and fund managers. There were about 400 single family offices operating in the country as of end-2020, estimates the Monetary Authority of Singapore. MAS is now considering changes to the VCC to reel in even more family offices. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is setting up a branch of his Bayshore Global Management family office in Singapore. In November, Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, announced that he is also opening a Singapore office.

“The family office industry is attracting a lot of buzz. Singapore has definitely played a big role in positioning itself not only as a financial hub, but as an accommodating platform with efficient incentives. The more FOs that set up shop, the more talent Singapore will attract,” says Youssry Henien, chairman of Windsor Family Office.

To date, multi-family offices have been leading the hiring in Singapore and have been targeting both banks and buy-side firms for talent. Kamet Capital Partners took on nine people last year, including Wilson Er, a portfolio manager from Rockpool Capital, and David Law, a money manager and analyst at Mizuho Asset Management. As we’ve reported, Hong Kong-based Raffles Family Office has been expanding in Singapore. Its new hires include Simon Lints, CEO of Schroders Wealth Management in Singapore, as a strategic advisor, and Marvin Koh from DBS as a managing director for relationship management.

“Beijing tightening controls in Hong Kong, and the relative success of Singapore in managing the pandemic has further boosted Singapore’s attractiveness to Asia’s wealthy this year,” says Ivan Tang, CEO of Tangspac Consulting, noting an increase in demand for investment professionals who have experience managing Hong Kong clients.

There is also demand for people who are already familiar with VCC incorporations, structures and exemptions, says Tang. “Family offices in Singapore are growing less dependent on flow or vanilla structures, which they can easily tap from private banking relationships. To meet the increasing sophistication of their investment needs, they’re hiring investment and product advisory experts with experience in alternative investments like SPACs – given the success of Southeast Asian unicorns Grab and Gojek – ESG-themed investments, and cryptocurrencies,” he says.

While family office hiring is much busier than in previous years, the headcount numbers involved are still small, given the size of firms in the sector. The industry also remains fairly opaque. It’s common for family office employees not to list their company’s name on LinkedIn. Neither Brin’s nor Dalio’s family offices have Singapore-based employees with LinkedIn profiles.

Nevertheless, as recruitment increases, family offices are facing challenges finding talent in Singapore because they are often competing with expansionist hedge funds and private banks. “There’s a strong overlap in talent for portfolio management/investment management roles in all three sectors. Managing AUM across multi-asset classes is a key factor to all these firms,” says Zee from Selby Jennings. “But there are still differences among the sectors, and candidates who are keen to shift may find it challenging getting up to speed as we’re nearly halfway through the year,” he adds.

There are other disadvantages of joining an FO. “At a single family office, you’re essentially working exclusively for one family and servicing their needs, including at difficult times. For example, if you have a holiday planned, you’d have to cancel if a requirement arises,” says Henien.

Family offices in Asia do tend to pay strong bonuses. On average, Asia Pacific pays the highest percentage (31% to 50% across all roles) of basic salary as a bonus, according to the Agreus Global Family Office Compensation Benchmark Report. Globally, the average is 21% to 30%.

Photo by Ryan Spencer on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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