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Following yesterday’s article about ComplianceAsia raising the issue of Hong Kong and Singapore not being well represented by the hedge fund associations’ regulatory proposals ahead of the G20 summit (Opalesque Exclusive: ComplianceAsia wants adequate representation of Hong Kong and Singapore in draft of hedge funds policies for upcoming G20 summit Source), another point that ComplianceAsia raised was that new regulations in this part of the world could change the Asia hedge fund landscape dramatically.
Typically, Hong Kong or Singapore companies advise offshore managers of offshore funds. Hong Kong advisors must be licensed with the SFC, and Singapore advisors must register with the MAS.
If proposed changes in terms of registration of managers and disclosure of information are enacted, then in Hong Kong, there would be “greater focus on regulation of the fund and probably a regulatory view that the offshore manager should be essentially ignored, unless there is a clear commercial reality to its offshore business. Structures where the offshore manager is really a brass plate of the Hong Kong advisor may become obsolete from a regulatory perspective. There is an integral link between taxation issues and the offshore manager and maybe the current aggressive regulatory environment regarding offshore tax arrangements results in the tax advantages of offshore management also being eroded or removed”, argues ComplianceAsia.
Hong Kong firms which are U.S. outposts will become outposts of regulated US organizations, which will mean enhanced compliance controls and processes to meet SEC standards.
Singapore registered firms will experience more profound changes. The current registration system can house large advisors as well as very small managers. ComplianceAsia believes that there are instances of smaller firms “with little or no compliance infrastructure to protect investors from conflicts of interest and poor back office processes.” In order to keep its edge as an asset management centre, Singapore should evolve closer to Hong Kong with a new system placing greater emphasis on proper regulation of funds and managers.
Lastly, ComplianceAsia raises the concern that Hong Kong and Singapore may not be able to maintain their current edge over the asset management’s regulatory environment in India and mainland China. The latter are both G20 members, and G20 members may take into consideration new rules regarding onshore access and concessionary rates of taxation – which would make India and mainland China more attractive to hedge fund managers “instead of Singapore and Hong Kong acting as proxies.”
ComplianceAsia believes that regulatory passports between Hong Kong and Singapore should be considered. If both centres worked together, it would cut a lot of red tape and make them more attractive to large international firms.
ComplianceAsia Consulting has offices in Hong Kong and in Singapore, and specializes in providing regulatory and compliance consulting services to financial institutions in Asia Pacific.