External Asset Managers (EAM) also known as Independent Asset Managers (IAMs) are growing in size in Asia; especially in Singapore. EAM first appeared in Europe where many private bankers left the banks to set up independent offices to serve their clients. As Asian markets have matured and wealth has increased, there is a booming client base of affluent young people who are open to different forms of wealth management.

What is an EAM?

EAM enable clients to place their money with their choice of bank they prefer to use or recommended by the EAM. The client givens an EAM authority and power of attorney as a third party to represent them in managing the investment portfolio and asset allocation. In some instances, they come with a bank that they currently use. At all times, the money remains in the name of the client but the EAM makes decisions on how the assets should be managed. Please refer to basic EAM model below in table

Table 1: EAM Model

Do EAM’s need a Licence in Singapore?

Even through EAM does not hold or control the client assets which are typically placed with custodian banks, private banks and brokers, EAM is considered as a fund management activity in Singapore. The main activity conducted by EAM is to provide client with investment advisory services, construct investment strategies and either conduct discretionary or non-discretionary fund management activities for their clients. Fund management is defined in the Securities Futures Act is defined to mean undertaking, on behalf of customers (a) the management of portfolio of Capital Market Products or (b) entry into foreign exchange contracts for the purpose of managing customer’s funds.

The general categories of Fund Management Companies (“FMCs”) in Singapore are:

  • Licensed fund management companies (“LFMCs”); and
  • Registered fund management companies (“RFMCs”).

LFMCs are further divided into three categories; namely:

  • LFMCs carrying on business in respect of all types of investors including retail investors;
  • LFMCs generally restricted to carrying on business in respect of “qualified investors” only (“A/I LFMCs”); and
  • LFMCs who manage only Venture Capital Funds (“VC LFMCs”)

The decision on which category of licence or registration to apply for depends on the business model and the growth projections for the business. EAM typically falls under A/I LFMCs or RFMCs. Please our article on how to setup a Fund Management company in Singapore https://www.argusglobal.co/setup-singapore-fund-management-company/

What are the requirements for licence/registration application in Singapore?

Please refer to table 2 which illustrates the minimum requirements for LFMC A/I and RFMC in Singapore.

Requirements  LFMC RFMC
Amount of Assets under Management Above S$250 million Maximum of S$250 million
The number of Directors & Experience Minimum of 2 Directors with more than 5 years relevant industry experience. At least 1 must be Executive and Singapore-resident. Minimum of 2 Directors with more than 5 years relevant industry experience. At least 1 must be Executive and Singapore-resident.
Relevant Professionals & MAS Representatives Minimum 2 relevant professionals who need to be resident in Singapore and have at least 5 years of relevant industry experience. They can be same as above if both Resident in Singapore Minimum 2 relevant professionals who need to be resident in Singapore and have at least 5 years of relevant industry experience. They can be same as above if both Resident in Singapore
Investor Type Limited to Qualified Investors Limited to Qualified Investors
Number of Investors No Limits Maximum of 30 investors (which may include up to 15 funds)
Compliance Arrangements This function can be outsourced if the AUM is less than S$1 b. Can be outsourced as per complexity and scale of business
Professional Indemnity Insurance Encouraged to be maintained Encouraged to be maintained
Reporting requirements Annual and Quarterly Annual
Base Capital Requirements S$250,000 S$250,000
Risk-Based Capital Requirements 120% of Operational Risk Requirements None

What are the estimates costs of setting up an EAM in Singapore?

Costs involved in setting up an EAM are split into initial incorporation costs and ongoing cost. EAM will have to factor in cost of company incorporation, licence application, setting up of compliance policies and procedures as the initial set up costs. Ongoing costs include operational costs pertaining to rental and staff salaries, ongoing licence/registration costs, and costs for maintaining service providers such as outsourced compliance support, IT support and auditors.   

Costs will vary depending on size and business model of the EAM. EAM may take advantage of various tax exemptions available in Singapore to reduce their cost burden. Typically with good anchor clients the benefits of setting up as an EAM significantly outweigh the costs which can be kept very frugal during the initial phase.

What are the types of fees charged by EAM?

External Asset Managers charge clients advisory/management fee. Some banks share commissions earned with trades on clients’ accounts. This type of commission is referred to as retrocession fees. Some EAM do not engage in retrocession fees to avoid any conflicts of interest. For example, a conflict of interest would arise if EAM were making unnecessary transactions to increase its revenue.

How can Argus Help?

We are an experienced regulatory consulting firm who understand the External Asset Managers model very well and are fully equipped to provide an end to end solution for you. We can advise what type of licence or registration is suitable for your firm based on your business model. We can assist to apply for the relevant Fund Management Registration or Licence. We can also assist with drafting policies, procedures and provide outsourced compliance support to maintain your ongoing regulatory obligations.

Please contact us today at info@argusglobal.co

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