After recently hitting $1 billion in assets under management, Singapore-based multi-family office Taurus Wealth Advisors is moving to expand its business to the Middle East.

The firm hopes to receive a licence to operate in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in the next few months, with a view to attracting more clients in the region. It started the application process in mid-2014.

“We see Dubai as a gateway to Africa, and aim to bring on board families in the Middle East and those in Africa who keep their wealth there,” said Mandeep Nalwa, founder and chief executive of Taurus.

A rising number of wealthy Africans are keeping their assets with banks in Dubai rather than London, he noted, adding that the firm already has some clients in the Middle East.

Taurus will place investment advisers in the DIFC but not investment or research staff, noted Nalwa, but having an operation there means it will gain insight into local opportunities.

Interest certainly seems to be rising interest among Middle Eastern investors in allocating to Asian assets and in keeping money in Singapore, as reported. And other fund houses based in the Gulf, such as Asiya, have been moving to tap that demand.

Meanwhile, the number of asset managers either setting up or expanding a presence in the Middle East or showing interest in doing so has been growing fast. Since 2013 the list of firms has swelled to include Aberdeen, Ashmore, BNY Mellon, First State, Lazard, Nomura, PineBridge and Wells Fargo.

Back in Singapore, Taurus has been strengthening its advisory team for high-net-worth and family office clients. It has added five people in the past three months, including specialists in philanthropy, governance and investments.

This includes a duo of senior advisers who joined in December. Terry Farris is head of family governance and philanthropy services, while Rainer Michael Preiss is an executive director and investment adviser. And the firm is looking to hire more, said Nalwa.

Farris was previously head of the family office division at Singapore’s DBS Private Bank from January 2011 to August 2012. Before that, in 2005, he launched and headed UBS’s philanthropy services business for Asia Pacific.

Preiss was previously a director and economic adviser at Ceylon Asset Management, an index fund manager based in Sri Lanka. In addition, he founded Mongolia Asset Management in Ulan Bator. Preiss has also worked at the International Association of Financial Management and at Standard Chartered Bank.

Nalwa expects to accumulate assets much faster now, following the recent additions to the team. “We would aim to grow by 20-25% a year, as the industry is very under-served,” he noted. He said there were hundreds of billions of dollars of private wealth in Hong Kong and Singapore yet to be tapped.

Asked what he saw as Taurus's maximum AUM capacity, Nalwa said: “I don’t think there’s capacity in this business for anyone. There’s no reason we can’t scale up to the size of the big multi-family offices in Europe and the US, given the size of the market and relative lack of participants.”

Set up in 2008, Taurus focuses on advisory portfolio management more than discretionary mandates, said Nalwa, as it prefers to transfer risk. Hence, rather than running investments itself, the firm tends to seek third-party managers, as well as specialist external advisers on direct deals.

“Our ethos is to be an adviser to an entire family rather than taking on a hedge fund-type strategy,” he said, although the firm does run some investment vehicles.