Singapore Monetary Authority Proposes New Rules to License Larger Hedge Fund Management Firms

On April 27, 2010, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (Authority), the Singapore central bank, set out its new plan to regulate fund managers, including hedge fund managers, with a framework governing fund management companies (FMCs).  Currently, Singapore represents the only developed jurisdiction other than the United States where hedge funds do not face regulation so long as they deal only with “accredited” or professional investors.  Pursuant to the Singapore Securities and Futures Act (SFA), in order to conduct fund management activities in Singapore, managers must either hold a Capital Markets Services (CMS) license, or fit within an exemption from the need to hold such a license.  Hedge fund managers in Singapore currently receive an exemption from holding a CMS license provided that they manage funds on behalf of 30 or fewer “qualified” investors (“qualified” investors refer to accredited investors, or funds whose underlying investors are all “accredited” investors).  The SFA refers to these managers as exempt fund managers (EFMs).  The new framework proposes the creation of three new categories of FMCs: (1) a “notified” category for smaller companies that manage fewer than S$250million (US$183 million) and serve no more than 30 qualified investors with no more than 15 funds; (2) a “licensed” category for those with assets under management (AUM) greater than S$250 million who serve only “accredited” and institutional investors; and (3) a “licensed” category for those who manage retail (non-accredited and non-institutional) investors.  Significantly, then, hedge fund management firms in Singapore that manage more than S$250 million and those that serve retail investors (the second and third categories) will require licenses.  These changes may potentially have a significant impact on many hedge fund managers who have established funds in Singapore in the last few years due to its light regulation.  Singapore now has 138 single-strategy hedge fund managers employing more than 800 professionals, according to a survey by the local chapter of the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA).  According to a survey by AIMA, this industry oversees at least $34.9 billion in assets under management, excluding assets managed by several of the large global firms, making it Asia’s second biggest market.  This article summarizes the proposed revisions to the Singapore regulatory regime, the proposed admission criteria for participation in the regime, the implications of the revisions for hedge fund managers in Singapore and the reaction from the AIMA.

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