Singapore: The New Switzerland? Private Banking's New Home

When you think of "Switzerland" some may think of chocolates, clocks, quaint towns, and others think of Switzerland, as a "secret" locale for global financial services firms and high net worth investors. But, Europe is once again "old skool" as here comes Singapore -- which has the world's highest concentration of millionaires and low tax rates. According to a recent study by Boston Consulting Group, Swiss banks could see a decline of as much as 28 percent by 2014 if currently proposed laws change regarding secrecy in banking in Switzerland. Singapore (and Hong Kong) would each benefit from this power shift in money. At one time, it was estimated that one-third of the total world's funds were held in Switzerland in 2001.

Singapore and Hong Kong have long been considered the region's banking centers but the opportunity to grow globally exists as the power of banking moves from a more "secret" setting in Europe to a more "clean and safe" home in Singapore. Singapore is well-known as a tropical destination of many wealthy as its uber-clean (chewing gum is against the law) orderly, has a brand-new wired infrastructure which powers the casinos, fine dining, high-end luxury shopping, docking for super yachts. By contrast, Switzerland is cold and dark.

Singapore has already garnered much of the wealth from its neighbor, Australia. But the Americans and Germans have downloaded their Google maps and located Singapore as well. Singapore has had a "jump-start" in its remarkable growth due to the rise in Asian millionaires. Singapore has been a longstanding banking hub and center of international settlements. Much of the growth has been viral and the recent German and American inquiries into Swiss banking have cast a new light on Singapore as an off-shore destination of funds for either tax and/or secrecy reasons.

After a recent trip to Singapore, I would have to conclude that it appears as a futuristic city even from the outside. The skyline, and city streets welcome you into an opulent setting which is orderly and efficient; you can feel the vibe of a future place. It's not difficult to see why Singapore has the world's highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million U.S. dollars in disposable wealth. This excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods, which if included would further increase the number of millionaires, especially as property in Singapore is among the world's most expensive.

Singapore is poised for significant growth and will benefit moving forward from new funds leaving cold Switzerland for the warm beaches of Singapore. Beyond its private banking affability, lies an economy, climate and destination which seems light years away from Europe (medieval times?) and the United States (third-world country?). For a glimpse of the future, go take a look at Singapore. More Americans need to put this destination on their radar screen instead of Europe.