Singapore still an attractive global investment hub, but lacks element of fun: GIC top exec

SINGAPORE – The Republic remains an attractive hub for global investments, but lacks an element of fun to draw a greater variety of market participants and raise the city’s brand as the place to be, said GIC deputy group chief investment officer and chief operating officer Tay Lim Hock during a panel at the 2021 Milken Institute Asia Summit on Monday (Nov 15).

Mr Tay was asked what more could be done to raise Singapore’s attractiveness as a global investment hub, during the two-day summit that kicked off on Monday at Marina Bay Sands.

He added that while Singapore has made progress in bringing “first-class entertainment events” such as the F1 race and Singapore Aerospace Show to its shores, it could do with more industry-focused events such as “private equity and alternative investment-specific conferences”, as well as real estate fairs.

Economic Development Board managing director Jacqueline Poh noted that the city is preparing to host a larger number of conferences and events next year “that will bring together groups of people that have never before had their own conferences or occasions to network in Singapore”.

She cited the Singapore Cocktail Festival from Nov 12 to Dec 12, which is expected to rejuvenate the food and beverage sector as the Republic opens up.

Speakers on the panel agreed that Singapore remains an attractive global investment hub, particularly for alternative or private capital. The past two years have been “good years for assets under management”, with investments by venture capital and private equity funds reaching levels surpassing the pre-pandemic period, Ms Poh said.

She added that private capital inflows to Singapore have benefited entrepreneurs, with some 3,500 start-ups and 200 accelerators now based here. “We have about 25 unicorns in South-east Asia, 12 of which are Singapore-based,” she said.

Meanwhile, there are about 400 family offices that have set up base in Singapore and this has led to new areas of growth in professional services such as legal and accountancy solutions, added Ms Poh.

Mr Ganen Savananthan, managing partner of alternative asset manager TPG Capital Asia, said many wealth managers have successfully raised alternative capital and private equity in Singapore recently. That is because the city has “a combination of capital, investors and interesting companies headquartered here”, he said.

Mr Kevin Lu, partner and chairman of fund manager Partners Group, said Singapore continues to facilitate the private equity market in that the city has been an important place to hold board meetings, be more “hands on” when working with portfolio companies and gain access to professional services.

He added: “In private equity, we act on legal insider information to generate returns. When you deal with these sorts of information flows, it is much easier to be in a place where the other participants also are at in person rather than remotely.”

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