President’s Address – 14th Parliament 2nd Session Speech
by Foo Mee Har, MP for West Coast GRC


  1. Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise in support of the Motion to thank our President for her Address. I support the determination of our government to refresh our social compact and broaden meritocracy. Our efforts to build an egalitarian society where everyone will be treated equally with dignity and respect must continue. At the same time, we must re-affirm Singapore as an open society, expand our economic space and stay connected to global growth opportunities for Singapore to stay relevant and provide a bright future for Singaporeans.



  1. It is against this background that I would like to speak about family offices and their role in contributing to Singapore’s development. I declare my interest as CEO of the Wealth Management Institute (WMI). WMI is the host of the Global-Asia Family Office Circle, a network platform that provides a trusted environment for family office ecosystem to convene as a community to learn about best practices in family office governance as well as opportunities in Singapore and Asia in areas such as innovations, sustainability, co-investments and philanthropy.



  1. The number of wealthy individuals and family offices in Singapore continues to grow, which is a testament to Singapore’s strengths as a hub for wealth and asset management.


Profile of newly-arrived family offices

  1. There has been much interest about the arrival of family offices in Singapore recently. From our experience, they come from a diverse range of countries around the world, including Greater China, South Asia, ASEAN, the Middle East, US and Europe.


  1. Many of them represent some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business owners across the globe – including notable investors, leaders in renewable energy, pioneers of world-changing technology platforms and leaders of Asia’s largest family businesses.


  1. These families do not just bring capital, but also knowledge, networks, skills and talents as well. These are assets that we can channel to support new innovation and enterprise, allowing businesses based in Singapore to benefit from mutual technological, innovation and talent transfers.


  1. Some of these families also have a long track record of giving generously, sometimes stretching back across multiple generations. They have built schools and hospitals, funded scientific advancements, supported conservation efforts, and contributed generously to relief efforts including disaster recovery and pandemic recovery.


  1. These family offices are coming to Singapore for a variety of reasons. Some are seeking safety and stability, whereas others are expanding into South East Asia in search of attractive investment opportunities to support growth.


  1. We are also seeing greater involvement of the next-generation of family principals who are increasingly focused on areas such as impact investments, venture capital and alternative investments.


  1. Family offices are typically extremely private. Recent reports of flashy and ostentatious behaviors are restricted to a minority. Inflows of funds are subject to MAS’s stringent rules of comprehensive customer due diligence including establishing a clear and legitimate purpose for the use of the family office structure, ascertaining the ultimate beneficial owners and corroborating the sources of wealth and funds.


  1. We should welcome this inflow of family offices because they can bring many positive long­-term benefits. More can be done to accelerate their integration and contribution, and most importantly orientate them to Singapore’s norms, values and ways of working.


The development path of family offices

  1. The arrival of family offices in Singapore is still a relatively new concept. We have seen strong growth in a short period of time, especially in recent years during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the industry is still nascent and many family offices are in the initial stages of development.


  1. Family offices typically go through three phases as they set up in Singapore – starting with Governance, then moving on to Investments, then finally to Impact.




  1. The first stage – Governance – is about establishing an effective operational base and putting in place a governance framework under which the family office will operate. Good governance requires careful consideration. How should they set up their legal and trust structures? What systems should they put in place, from financial monitoring to cybersecurity? What should be their board and risk management processes? How can they attract and hire the right talent? Who should they appoint as advisors? How can they meet the evolving regulations in Singapore which have been introduced to raise the bar?


  1. As they establish themselves, family offices contribute towards job creation – both directly and indirectly. Even though family offices are typically small in team size, they have to meet requirements on hiring, annual business spending and local investments.


  1. The key impact of their set up in terms of job creation will be driving additional demand for professional services such as wealth management, asset management, fund administration, trusts, legal, tax and consulting. Since 2020, WMI has had over 1,500 enrolments for family office-related programmes, in testament to the strong appetite for upskilling in this area.



  1. With the office and governance structure in place, family offices’ focus on Investments then takes priority. Family capital is valuable because it can be a useful complement to institutional capital – it can be more flexible, agile and catalytic in line with the values of the family.


  1. Investments are often the main purpose of the family office. However, before they deploy large amounts of capital, family offices need to build a robust understanding of the investment landscape so that they can home in on areas of opportunity.


  1. Fundamentally, they seek good financial returns and sound business models, and often take time to understand and evaluate the different investment options. Also, the market environment in recent years has been challenging.


  1. They also need to find like-minded partners for co-investments. Many family offices tell us they prefer to co-invest with other families – but only with those that they know and trust. A newly-arrived family office will need to build up these trusted networks before they can co-invest effectively.


  1. One current gap is the lack of a systematic on-boarding process to integrate newly-arrived wealthy individuals into Singapore’s enterprise and investment ecosystem so they can become active members of our venture community. There is also a need to help them become aware of the promising research and tech innovations that we have in Singapore from our start-up communities and research institutes, and where they can help commercialise and scale promising new ideas.


  1. Family offices tell us they struggle to navigate the fragmented and fast-changing landscape. They share that they need to work hard to understand who the credible players are and what the roles of different ecosystem actors are.


  1. Newly set up family offices need more help to connect the dots of the full spectrum of what Singapore has to offer. We need to help orientate them towards the local ecosystem, and curate a systematic introduction to the different areas within the innovation community which can help fast-track capital deployment.



  1. The third area that family offices consider is how to contribute to Impact and Philanthropy initiatives, across the wide continuum of different ways of doing good. Many family offices have a stated objective to give back, in line with their family’s values.


  1. But conducting effective philanthropy is a thoughtful process going beyond chequebook giving. The inspiration is often deeply personal and tied to the values of the family.


  1. Based on these values, families will decide what their impact goals are, which causes to support, what assets they could contribute and how to leverage different giving structures. Giving structures take time to establish.


  1. Increasingly, wealthy families want to go beyond straight forward grant making type philanthropy. They aspire to tap their financial resources and networks in creative ways to make impact, and we must evolve our policies to support new forms of giving including venture philanthropy, concessionary capital to impact investing.


  1. In my previous speech, I spoke about generations of Singaporeans have benefited from visionary philanthropists and organisations including the likes of Tan Kah Kee, P. Govindasamy Pillai and Ngee Ann Kongsi among many others. They have contributed to important social services, public healthcare and education and cultivated a culture of giving that is central to Singapore’s social compact.


  1. Today, many among the new generation of wealth owners have a similar aspiration to contribute meaningfully to society. What is needed is greater effort to drive awareness and momentum to support both local and regional causes. We should also encourage sharing from family offices who are already major philanthropists, to provide aspirational examples for others.


  1. Initiatives such as the recent launch of the Impact Philanthropy Partnership, led by WMI and the Private Banking Industry Group with the support of MAS, will help galvanise more family offices in this area.



  1. Today, as Singapore continues to be an attractive destination for global wealthy individuals, our doors will always be open for those who desire and can co-create purposeful wealth with us. To preserve our social compact, it is critical that they are orientated to integrate with Singapore’s social norms and have the right support and access to networks, so that they can ramp up their contributions in terms of investments and impact.


  1. Through this, we can make the most of this unique opportunity to shape this growth towards a more inclusive society for the benefit of all.


  1. With this, I support the Motion.