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Singapore and Dubai: The future of private banking

Outwardly different, Singapore and Dubai have transformed themselves into international wealth management hubs, overseen by clear-minded regulators. They are now starting to compete for business with Europe’s far older private wealth centres.

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Photos: Getty

This is a story about how two places, superficially different yet with a surprising number of parallels, rose to become private banking and wealth management powers.

The first, Singapore, is lush and tropical. The other, Dubai, is arid and windblown. Both are sweltering places to live: Dubai from March to October; Singapore all year round.

Neither is an obvious financial centre. They aren’t economic powers nor is there one – a China or US – nearby. Both are small and fairly young, having only secured independence in the past 60 years.

This hasn’t stopped them. In fact, they have turned negatives to their advantage. Both places, by dint of geographic accident, scrupulous design and political acuity, have in recent decades become magnets for everyone from the mass affluent to the super-rich.

Singapore, by six years the older of the two (it declared independence in 1965) is in the lead, but Dubai is catching up fast and both have Europe’s bigger and far older private banking hubs firmly in their sights.

The Singapore experience

Aware that first impressions count, Singapore’s founding father, prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, was clear about his intentions for the new nation from day one.


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Elliot Wilson headshot.jpg
Global Private Banking and Wealth Management editor
Elliot Wilson is Greater China editor and Private Banking and Wealth Management editor. He joined the magazine in 2020 having been a regular contributor focusing on China and the Indian subcontinent, Russia and Eastern Europe/the CIS. He is based in Hong Kong.