Laven Partners, a consultancy for alternative investment managers, has incorporated its Singapore business, added two staff there and plans to hire two more in the coming months. 

The firm previously operated in the city-state through a branch of its London office, with two local staff reporting to group CEO Jerome Lussan. He remains in London but maintains his post as head of Asia and comes to Singapore every three months.

Sophie Benalioua has looked after regional development as director of the newly incorporated Laven Partners (Asia) since March 2012. She was previously with Citco Fund Services (Europe) in Amsterdam and before that with Eurekahedge, a Singapore-based data provider.. 

The new staff include Rose Marie Evius, formerly of KPMG Singapore, and Grace Chang, formerly of PwC Singapore, both of whom start this month.

Laven, which has had a presence in Singapore since September 2011, offers compliance services such as Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) authorisation, regulatory compliance including internal audits and anti-money-laundering (AML)/CFT training; Cayman, BVI and Luxembourg fund formation; and due diligence on hedge and private equity funds.

The firm has in-house legal capacity in its London and  Luxembourg offices, as well as operational and commercial expertise from the funds industry, notes Lussan. That is what sets it apart from the growing number of compliance and other consulting firms seeking to gain a foothold in Asia, he says.

Consultancies to have set up offices or expanded in the region in recent years include ACA, Complyport, Kinetic and Optionality. They join companies already offering similar services, such as ComplianceAsia, CompliancePlus, law firm Deacons and the likes of Ernst & Young and PwC.

“We understand the compliance, commercial and operational aspects of asset managers”, he adds, which means Laven can provide both practical and policy advice. "Thus we protect senior management and don’t just deal with compliance as an isolated silo."

Lussan cites as an example the know-your-customer rules introduced recently in Singapore, which he says senior management cannot afford to get wrong.

“You don’t just say [to the regulator] you have an AML policy,” he notes. “You should be able to go beyond that with intricate cases and say what can be done about specific customers.

"For example, with a family office client, where’s their money coming from? How do you justify your categorisation of the type of risk faced and deal with that risk successfully, where possible, so as to on-board the client and protect the firm?"

Lussan expects demand to grow particularly fast for the firm’s services from the private equity industry. Some 30% of Laven’s business globally, and 10% of that in Asia, comes from PE firms, but he believes those figures will rise to 50% and 33%, respectively, in the next year. The current take up of new clients generally is between one and five a month.

Meanwhile, Laven’s Singaporean clients are increasingly asking the firm to help them carry out compliance audits that they are being asked to conduct by their US-based investors. Lussan says this is a growing trend, in that investors outside Asia are seeking comfort from a third-party that MAS rules are being properly adhered to.

However, Asian firms tend to pay lower fees than those in the West, and Lussan admits that Laven charges lower rates in this region. “We obviously have had to lower our price expectations,” he says, partly because the market didn’t feel it needed the same level of assistance, and also because they are smaller managers, so have less deep pockets."

Laven has clients in Hong Kong as well as Singapore, but has more clients in the latter city and a more established relationship with the MAS, notes Lussan, hence its setting up in the Lion City. The move was also motivated by Singapore’s intent to improve its regulatory regime, which it did in February.

The consultancy also has offices in Europe, the Caribbean and the US – with New York and Singapore the most recent additions to the list, both having been set up in the past year or so.