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Banking

Island state builds its offshore share

Singapore will soon be second to Switzerland in offshore private banking, having overtaken its main Asian rival, Hong Kong. And it is attracting money from wealthy Europeans as well as from Asians.

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OVER RECENT YEARS, Singapore's government has been preparing the country to become an international wealth management centre. Socio-political stability, a strong domestic economy, a clean and efficient legal infrastructure, best practice in financial sector regulation and supervision standards, and a ready pool of experienced professionals have attracted the world's top 20 private banks and more than 30 of the top 50 US and European fund managers to set up in Singapore, boasts the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

"The country has really come from nowhere in the last few years," says Ian Woodhouse of IBM Business Consulting Services, whose research reveals that private banks expect Singapore to be the second most important offshore centre after Switzerland by 2005, beating Luxembourg, the UK, Hong Kong and Jersey. With the number of Asia's wealthy booming, and doubts about Europe's offshore business, MAS's timing has been impeccable.

Singapore, like its long-standing rival Hong Kong, has long attracted global private banks using the country as an offshore booking centre. Singapore tended to be used to service southeast Asian clients from Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, while Hong Kong served north Asian clients from Taiwan, China and Korea.

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