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More Than Half Of Wealthy Singaporeans Struggle With Family Feuds - Survey

Tara Loader Wilkinson

16 November 2011

Over half of high net worth individuals in Singapore (those with a net worth of $1 million and above) say that family wealth has led to conflict, according to a survey from UK wealth manager Barclays Wealth.

Fifty two per cent in Singapore have experienced family spats due to money, compared with half of respondents across Asia-Pacific, contrasting with the the global average of 40 per cent, said the study, entitled The Transfer of Trust: Wealth and Succession in a Changing World.

Such conflict may explain why Singaporean HNW individuals feel they need to forge a different path from their parents, and create a niche for themselves. Sixty per cent of local respondents do not feel it is important to follow in the career and business footsteps of their parents.

More than half of local respondents (53 per cent) believe that a significant level of professional advice is needed when deciding on an inheritance plan for their children and stepchildren. This could be explained by the fact that the same proportion have experienced family conflict relating to family wealth, and 36 per cent say that inheritance has placed an unnecessary burden on the next generation.

“It is clear that with wealth comes an increasing complexity of choice, and in some cases this can result in concerns about conflict when considering the intergenerational transfer of wealth. With the issue of family conflict around family wealth seemingly high in Asia-Pacific, understanding options for succession planning in advance can help address these fears,” said Thelma Kwan, head of wealth advisory, Asia-Pacific at Barclays Wealth.

Succession Not A Priority

The report, which interviewed more than 2,000 HNW individuals, including 500 respondents from Asia Pacific, (100 of whom are from Singapore), pointed out that Singaporean wealthy are not actively involved in succession planning.

Drafting a will is not necessarily a common practice amongst the wealthy in Asia-Pacific with less than half (47 per cent) of respondents saying they do not currently have a will or testament. Within Asia, Singaporean HNWIs are the second most likely to have drafted a will (68 per cent), behind India (78 per cent).

However, more than half of Singaporean HNW individuals (55 per cent) have never reviewed their will since it was first written.

This finding reveals a paradox in Singaporean HNWIs’ approach towards succession planning – while they may indicate succession and inheritance planning as a key financial priority; they are not as active in managing this, said the report.

Tomorrow’s World

Among the HNW individuals surveyed, Singaporean respondents have the highest aspirations for their children in Asia-Pacific, with 91 per cent wanting their children to surpass them in their financial success and 98 per cent saying they want to be able to provide for their children’s future education.

With the shifting balance of global economic power towards the East, there has also been a gradual shift towards learning Mandarin as a language. Globally, HNW individuals consider English (68 per cent) and Chinese (69 per cent) – specifically Mandarin – as the two most important languages for the next generation to learn. Unsurprisingly, this is mirrored in Singapore, with 97 per cent of local respondents saying that it is important that the next generation learns English and 95 per cent indicating the importance of learning Mandarin.

“The report has found that wealth is not the only thing that parents can pass on to their children. Sharing insight into what the future holds, imparting advice on what it takes to be successful, and the skills needed to equip younger generations to achieve their goals in life are also important to parents. Respondents are aware of the growing influence of China and the globalisation of industry and are keen for the next generation to capitalise on this to give them the best chance in life,” added Kwan.