Family offices plot overseas expansion

A growing desire to build peer networks of like-minded investors is driving family offices in Asia to branch out geographically. And their Western counterparts are doing the same.
Family offices plot overseas expansion

Family offices are typically set up in Asia to invest on behalf of wealthy Asians, and often their investments tend to be into their home region. But they, like their Western counterparts, are expanding their horizons geographically in terms of both the assets they acquire and the partners they work with.

This could mean simply setting up an office elsewhere in Asia to build on the current setup, as is the case for Singapore-based multi-family offices (MFOs) Stamford Privee and Thirdrock Capital.

William Chan, founder and chairman of Stamford Privée – set up originally to manage his family's money – now has four family clients based in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The firm is setting up a Hong Kong satellite office to cater to Chinese and Taiwanese clients.

Thirdrock is making a similar move. “We have more than 10 families from across Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong,” says Melvyn Yeo, chief investment officer. “We are also looking to set up a Hong Kong office in future to ride on private wealth growth in the North Asian countries.”

Both Chan and Yeo were speaking at a private roundtable* hosted recently in Singapore by AsianInvestor.

But FOs' horizons are also expanding beyond Asia. “I have spent a couple of weeks in the US in the past 12 months to build relationships with family offices there,” says Yeo. “We have informal networks of personal relationships that help both parties gain access to and also co-invest in cross-border deals together.”

Thirdrock late last year hosted members of a US FO in Singapore and arranged for CEOs of the companies it has invested in to make presentations.

Another panelist and FO executive, Ong Iu-Jin, is eyeing more connections in the US and elsewhere. “My partners and I deal with Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Africa. There’s definitely potential in Europe as well.

“It’s an issue of connecting pools of capital in Asia, Europe and the US,” adds Ong. “We are starting to build bridges with US family offices on an informal basis.”

And Western FOs are not only looking east for investment purposes, but are now increasingly putting presences on the ground in Asia. There have been several examples of Western FOs to have established offices in the region – such as Parly, a Swiss FO set up by an Italian family, and London-headquartered Sandaire.

Not all are looking to bring in more clients though. Parly, for example, plans to remain a single-family office. The Singapore branch was set up for the purpose of investing in the region, and managing director Roxanne Davies said that that is unlikely to change, while speaking at AsianInvestor's Southeast Asia institutional investor forum in December.

Steve Diggle, Singapore-based founder and head of family office Hrothgar and its fund house Vulpes Investment Management, confirms: “There’s definitely a trend for FOs in Europe and the US to set up out here. I can see this happening more.”

*The full article appears in the latest (February) issue of AsianInvestor magazine.

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