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Date: 29/04/2009 Type: Article Language: English Source: Todayonline.com

Experts say it could take a decade or even two to achieve This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SINGAPORE needs some 10 to 20 years before it can reach the level of wealth managed by Switzerland, industry experts concluded yesterday at a conference.

"Let's not forget, Switzerland has been in this business for 500 years; we've only been in this business for 15 years. It takes a while to catch up," Mr Roman Scott, managing director of Calamander Group, said during a panel discussion at the Shorex Wealth Management Forum.

He thinks it'll be 20 years before Singapore can compare with Switzerland, based on current growth rates of around 10 to 15 per cent. Fox Partnership chief executive Simeon Fowler had his finger on the next ten years. He estimated Switzerland has some US$1.7 trillion ($2.6 trillion) of assets under management while Singapore has about US$800 billion. Data from the central bank showed that funds managed in Singapore in 2007 reached nearly $1.2 trillion.

What's hampering Singapore's growth? One wealth advisor from the audience said whilst she was looking for service providers in the wealth management industries worldwide, she found that Singapore financial institutions had yet to amass the depth of knowledge and diversity found in Switzerland and Luxembourg. Panelists agreed that the island's big and boutique banks were still searching for the right talent to manage Asian wealth.

Meanwhile, some expressed concern about the erosion of banking secrecy due to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) efforts to extract tax-related information from countries that sign on to the standard.
"There's no such thing as private banking anymore," said Mr Scott. "Expect the ability of governments to go after anything they want."

Several countries like Singapore and Switzerland have agreed in principle to the standards. "In the past, more clients were depending a lot on secrecy and non-disclosure. Now they need to be more sophisticated and make plans," said Portcullis TrustNet Group chairman David Chong.

"The issue is how the individual could be protected against an intrusive tax authority going after them in a fishing expedition," said Mr Jacques Leuba, member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

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