HK's Raffles Family Office opens in Singapore

Firm serves clients in Greater China and is now targeting Asean market; it aims to grow AUM to at least US$5 billion by next year


HONG KONG multifamily office Raffles Family Office has launched in Singapore with the intention of investing in startups, incubating other family offices and leveraging strategic partnerships to grow its client base.

The firm, which manages more than US$2 billion in assets, is looking to serve clients in the Asean region, though its existing clients in Greater China are also looking at diversifying.

Founder and CEO Kwan Chi Man told The Business Times that Raffles Family Office is "one hundred per cent" looking at making more direct investments into startups.

"We all know that in this industry, the pace and the rate of return - there's so much to be seen. We have seen how startups can be unicorns within a very short period of time.

"And we're not just talking about the US and Israel, you're talking about Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. So I think opportunities are everywhere, and people are getting new ideas every day. We just have to keep our eyes and minds open."

Startups with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) angle will be of particular interest to the team, said managing partner Kendrick Lee.

More family offices are turning their attention towards startups as a generation of millennials inherit their family's wealth. While the older generation has traditionally placed their faith in real estate and the equity market, the new generation is known to be more tech-savvy and open to taking risks.

The Asia family office sector is relatively underdeveloped compared to Europe, though there has been steady growth in recent years. Average family office portfolio return in the Asia-Pacific in 2019 was 6.2 per cent, higher than North America's 5.9 per cent and Europe's 4.3 per cent, according to a report by UBS and Campden Research.

But the returns for all regions were lower than those in 2018.

Raffles Family Office, founded in 2016, is aiming to grow its assets under management to at least US$5 billion by next year, and wants to double that figure by the end of 2021. It now has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei, and will open one in Shanghai early next year. It expects two to three more offices in 2020.

The Singapore office houses 18 staff and is led by Mr Lee and Jaydee Lin, the chief operating officer and managing partner.

The company's total office space now spans about 12,000 sq ft. Within the next two years, it aims to hit 25,000 to 30,000 sq ft of space across six to eight offices, and wants to increase its employee headcount to 100-120, from the current 57.

Besides directly serving clients and working with professionals such as accountants, lawyers and trustees, the firm will work with tycoon families in the region to run their newly set-up family offices.

Raffles Family Office has a joint venture called RafflesTech with Hong Kong-based co-working space operator WorkTech, aimed at building an ecosystem of partners for wealth and asset management. WorkTech manages about 400,000 sq ft of space.

Mr Kwan said that among other benefits, the partnership will allow the firm to better service the family offices it incubates. "Their business is present in a few countries. So they need to be present in a few cities, and obviously for them to set up an office in so many places, it's very hard. It's not easy, but with WorkTech and us, we have a few offices so they can leverage on our presence," he said.

Raffles Family Office will also be on the hunt for strategic partnerships for specific segments of their clients. For instance, it recently announced a joint venture with a Chinese subsidiary of Singapore Exchange-listed iFast, as it looks to better serve the fast-growing ultra high net worth market in China.