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Singapore wealth firm sees rapid growth catering to rich families

The skyline of Central Business District in Singapore, on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Ore Huiying/Bloomberg)
The skyline of Central Business District in Singapore, on Monday, May 16, 2022. (Ore Huiying/Bloomberg) (Bloomberg)

By David Ramli

(Bloomberg) — Singapore-based multi-family office Farro Capital says it has amassed more than US$1 billion (S$1.34 billion) in assets under management just four months after it launched, highlighting the city-state’s rise as a hub for wealthy clans.

The firm was founded in October by former Bank of Singapore market head for Global South Asia and the Middle East Hemant Tucker, Maitri Asset Management’s ex-Chief Executive Officer Manish Tibrewal and three others. Much of the current client base is of Indian origin, and the rest come from a variety of backgrounds from Europe to other parts of Asia, Tucker said.

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Farro’s rapid accumulation of assets underscores Singapore’s continuing appeal to the super rich, despite recent efforts to raise wealth taxes and introduce stricter conditions for tax breaks. While it’s gained recognition in recent years for an influx of wealthy Chinese families, the city’s low levies and relative stability are attracting a menagerie of global tycoons.

“We are targeting families across the region from Japan to the UK and the US — whoever wants to have access to Asia with Singapore as a center,” Tibrewal said. “We’re looking at adding another 50 families in the next 18 to 24 months,” with an average AUM contribution of US$30 million each, he said.

More than 700 family offices — organizations that manage the lives and affairs of the super rich — were based in Singapore at the end of 2021, according to official estimates. More have set up there since, despite the imposition of tighter rules last April.

Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani opened a family office in the city-state last year, joining Google co-founder Sergey Brin, hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio and vacuum cleaning entrepreneur James Dyson among others.

Farro’s base in downtown Singapore is a simple office with a single boardroom, far from the glitzy, art-filled lobbies of many peers. It aims to have 20 staff by the end of the year who are able to do everything from arranging home loans to making portfolios ESG compliant, negotiating bank fees and sourcing deals. Its own fees vary depending on the level of work required.

One of its key targets are family offices whose assets are big enough to have a handful of dedicated professionals but too small to warrant hiring a full-service team. Farro aims to fill the gaps, providing anything from investment opportunities to arranging trusts. One of its co-founders is Mahesh Kumar, who worked at law firm Withers KhattarWong helping private clients on their tax strategies.

“We’re seeing more first-generation entrepreneurs than ever before and I would say that’s more prevalent in a place like India,” said Nirbhay Handa, head of private clients in Asia at Henley & Partners, which helps wealthy customers set up residency and investments around the world. “When wealth increases, generally you see an uptick of a lot of families looking at a place like Singapore to set up their wealth structuring outfits.”

Handa said interest among wealthy entrepreneurs of Indian origin to move assets or relocate to Singapore remains high, even though it hasn’t increased at the same rate as that of Chinese peers.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.