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Singapore and Dubai: Global Magnets for the Ultra-Wealthy

Michael W. Sonnenfeldt

Michael W. Sonnenfeldt

Michael W. Sonnenfeldt is Founder and Chairman of TIGER 21.

TIGER 21, the premier peer membership organization for ultra-high-net-worth wealth creators and preservers celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with the launch of Singapore 01, its 120th Group. I attended TIGER 21’s newest Group’s Meeting and obtained a first-hand look at the new developments in Singapore that are making this city-state so attractive to the ultra-wealthy today. Interestingly, Members report that Dubai also has many attractions for this cohort.

What is different today in Singapore?

Members of our Singapore Group deal with many similar issues to other TIGER 21 Members, including children, legacy, health and wellness, making sense of a complex world, preserving and growing their assets, and grappling with philanthropic opportunities and responsibilities. However, what made the Meeting I attended stand out was that the Members included a half dozen nationalities and reflected the profound nature of what mobility looks like in the 21st century. It is an exciting time to focus on wealth preservation in Singapore as there is massive multi-generational wealth that will be transferred over the next two decades — underlining the need to spend time focused on educating the next generation to be stewards of wealth.

US businessman in suit meeting Emirati business partner in traditional kandura standing in modern office, looking at laptop

Physically, the development of Singapore is quite spectacular, and it is extraordinary to see the regional and even global role the city-state has taken on since the decline of Hong Kong and the cumulative impact of a government that must surely rate as one of the most effective on the planet.

Quality of life

Singapore and Dubai have become magnets for people across the globe who are looking for a high quality of life, personal safety, relatively stable and predictable legal regimes, clean environments, and effective governments that keep the trains and buses running on time and the water flowing cleanly and plentifully. Both are attracting successful entrepreneurs, investors, and fund managers from all over the world as they offer a pro-business climate that is largely apolitical and seen as impartial and just.

As an American, it can be hard to comprehend fully how attractive the ‘livability’ of these two powerhouses is to those from less livable countries because I largely take a high quality of life for granted, despite the much-heralded issues in New York City of late. The respective forms of government and government control in Singapore and Dubai differ significantly from the general notion of the ideals of democracy that I have grown up with, so until I had spent some time talking with local residents and getting an inside view of what motivated their decisions to live in the two financial centers, it was difficult to appreciate the special attraction that Singapore and Dubai hold. Some of Singapore’s regulations are stringent but the benefits of a well-run, highly functioning society and a clean environment that is ‘ideal’ for raising children, which Singapore offers, outweigh my initial concerns about whether a democracy in the mold of the USA’s should be the most important requirement. Frankly, the US democracy is not working as well as it once did, and Singapore’s form of democracy was rarely cited as a concern by the residents I spoke with.

At the same time, Singapore’s government employees are among the highest paid in the world — if not the highest — which allows the city-state to attract the most superior quality, highly talented team to make sure it functions effectively from top to bottom.

Singapore seems to be universally praised as an idyllic place with many advantages over the USA and one of the best and safest places to raise a family, particularly if you are of a certain level of wealth. Needless to say, it isn’t for everyone — or even available to everyone.

Looking ahead

TIGER 21 expects to inaugurate its first Group in Dubai in the coming months, and I look forward to exploring the city when I attend its introductory Meeting. It is clear that two of the most attractive markets right now are Singapore and Dubai, while most Americans have little to no sense of how important these two places have become to the rest of the world.

Hearing Members in Singapore discuss these issues through their lens added an entire new dimension and outlook. Sometimes it is too easy to look at something new from an old perspective instead of taking a fresh view. Most Americans have no idea about the forces in Asia and beyond that are propelling the growth in Singapore and Dubai, but if you want to catch a glimpse of the new world that is emerging, there is no better place to start than a trip to these two powerful wealth hubs.

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