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September 2, 2019updated 10 Sep 2019 6:08pm

Family offices boom as Asia’s wealth matures

By Oliver Williams

The number of family offices in Asia has increased dramatically as the age of many family patriarchs or matriarchs edges into retirement.

A report by EY and DBS, released on Friday, says that a growing number of Asian family offices have a focus on intergenerational planning.

While the EY and DBS report estimates there are 10,000 single family offices (SFOs) globally, with at least half being set up in the last 15 years, Asia estimates vary. An earlier report counted 500 SFOs in Asia. However, that figure has risen by as much as 15% in the last year. 

“As the founding patriarch or matriarch hands over the reins to the next generation, more of the future generation are seeking to institutionalise the family office”, says Desmond Teo, EY Asia-Pacific Financial Services Growth Markets Leader.

The average age of an HNWI in Asia is 59.5, according to WealthInsight. While this is on par with other regions, including Europe and North America, intergenerational planning is taking place in some families for the first time. The wealthier families would rather institutionalize the process through some kind of family office.

This need is growing fast as wealth starts to change hands, says Lee Woon Shiu, regional head of Wealth Planning, Family Office and Insurance Solutions at DBS Private Bank.

But succession planning is not unique to family offices, however, and the report points to other factors behind the sudden growth in these companies, which manage the wealth of one or a handful of families.

These include the increasing focus on cross-jurisdictional transparency of financial assets, which adds another layer of complexity to wealth management. Other regulatory and financial risks are driving more Asian UHNWIs to set up family offices, says the report.

A number of private banks, including DBS have established dedicated family office units to help families deal with these complexities when establishing their own office.

Credit Suisse recently set up a similar division to deal with a rising number of family offices in China.


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