A lot of readers have been asking me lately about offshore banking and wealth management opportunities in Singapore. Unquestionably, Singapore has some very sophisticated banks and bankers, and it has developed a well-earned reputation for discretion and confidentiality.
However I found the following observation on an internet discussion group, that I found interesting:
“Switzerland said it would seize UBS AG data to prevent the U.S. Justice Department from pursuing a U.S. court order seeking the identities of 52,000 American account holders in a crackdown on tax evaders.”
“The Swiss government “will use its legal authority to ensure that the bank cannot be pressured to transmit the information illegally, including if necessary by issuing an order taking effective control of the data at UBS that is the subject of the summons,” according to the filing.”
“The Singapore government is proposing changes to its tax laws to meet demands from the U.S. and Europe to clamp down on bank secrecy.
“Singapore will seek to amend its domestic laws to allow it to extend further cooperation on information exchange” via double-taxation agreements with other countries, the Finance Ministry said in a statement. It is seeking public comments through July 28 on the amendments.”
So, how can we interpret these two news items?
First of all, they both have to be taken in context. While it’s good to see Switzerland sticking up for its sovereignty, we have always recommended clients against doing business with big, international banks like UBS or Credit Suisse. Iwas hardly surprising that UBS were targeted, given their large US presence that makes them something of a sitting duck. We have numerous articles about the Right Way to do Swiss bank accounts (Cantonal Banks, for example), and our Practical Offshore Banking Guide includes contact details of other recommended sources for private banking in Europe (not necessarily Switzerland).
Singapore is a place we’ve never done a lot of banking business with, and the quotation above goes some way toward explaining our reticence. But we full admit that our geographic bias when it comes to banking is more towards Europe and Latin America. Singapore is certainly convenient for Asians and Australasians, due to time zones, languages and culture. On the other hand, it would have to be up there with Hong Kong at the top of the hit list for say the Aussie tax authorities, who are getting more and more agressive these days.
But is banking in Singapore and Hong Kong such a good idea for Europeans and North Americans? In my view, probably not. Both the EU (particularly the UK) and the USA have quite strong influences there, and neither of these entities are friends of offshore banking. Canadians might be OK in Singapore. If you are interested in banking in Asia, then World Offshore Banks has some intriguing services worth exploring.
Generally, the rule is that convenience is a threat to privacy. If you are looking for the most private, best offshore bank for you, you want to be as far away as possible – both geographically and culturally – from your home country and the places where your fellow countrymen do their offshore banking. Europeans might do well in Latin American havens like Panama and Uruguay. North Americans might do well still in obscure corners of Europe.
Whatever you decide, remember that nothing is for ever. You need to monitor the situation and changes taking place in the world of offshore finance. It pays to work with banks that are nimble enough to help you with this. We can recommend a few. And The Q Wealth Report is here to help you with offshore banking advice and recommendations. If you haven’t yet signed up for our Free Offshore Banking and Asset Protection course, I would recommend you do so!