By Wendy Sim
In the last 20 years many more women have become decision makers both professionally and commercially in our region.
During that time the family office space has grown, we now have over 400 offices in Singapore alone and the number is rising all the time.
For example, 20 years ago women in a family business weren’t always part of the company’s succession plan. They tended to have a very prescriptive role, often taking a backseat to male family members. Now, more women are taking up strategic and dynamic roles within their family business, and they are being considered in succession plans.
As someone who deals with trusts and succession planning, this is has been exciting to see and as an adviser, I’m proud of being able to play a key role in helping this progression.
Women in Asia haven’t wanted for skills or education. These are a given. We have many educated and able women who are more than capable of driving commerce in our region. The change has been in perception. So what we see now is an appreciation and understanding of how important the inclusion of women in decision making is.
This has fed down from professional services through to the companies we advise. We can, at ZEDRA, help set an example.
When I started at ZEDRA we had a team of eight, now it’s 40 strong. This growth has been echoed in the number of women taking key roles and I’ve seen the role of women within the family office space evolving.
Women and men together driving commerce forward
As a lawyer I personally didn’t experience a glass ceiling. In my experience, law is a career where if you have the skills and qualifications, your gender is largely irrelevant. It’s a well-oiled industry in terms of career progression. You get your exams, you do your time and you move up if you are good. In that respect it’s meritocratic.
But that’s not yet the case in our more emerging industries we are seeing, the tech and the renewable resources for example. The question of hierarchy has tended by default to settle on the male members of the family.
But as the world evolves so too does the need for a partnership between men and women. You only have to see how economic, social and governance (ESG) strategies are being adopted globally to see just how important it is for women and men to embrace a partnership that can drive commerce forward.
How women are spearheading change
Last autumn I became part of an exciting initiative, the Global Asia Family Office Circle.
The Global-Asia Family Office Circle has been set up as a platform for industry players to collaborate, share best practices and build new capabilities.
It’s a launch I’m proud to be a part of and it’s been driven forward by some dynamic women not to mention Ms Foo Mee Har the Chief Executive of the Wealth Management Institute.
The Global-Asia Family Office Circle, which has been set up by the Wealth Management Institute is helping build the next generation of talent by bringing together the region’s lawyers, trustees, tax advisers, investment expertise and asset managers.
Ms Foo told ZEDRA the Global-Asia Family Office Circle hopes that building the next generation of talent can help to build the foundations of equality and provide clients with access to the region’s vast array of professional expertise.
I believe the asset and wealth management industry is setting an example. We have some incredibly dynamic women, and this feeds down into the companies we advise and work with.
We have at least 4,250 ultra-high net worth families with wealth of $250m or more in Asia and the Global-Asia Family Office Circle found that in 2019, the number of family offices in Singapore has doubled to about 400 as at end-2020.
Organisations like Global-Asia Family Office Circle mean we can help industry players adopt global best practices and that means embedding ESG considerations into their decision-making.
One of those ESG considerations is sustainability and my belief is that includes making sure more women, and their abilities, are part of our region’s future. Not just for commerce but for our children’s future.
Wendy Sim has been involved in family governance workshops for clients, and advising on and establishing philanthropy related structures.
She also teaches a faculty module within the Certificate for Trust Services programme on trusts and client management at Wealth Management Institute which was founded by GIC and Temasek in 2003 to be the leading training provider for Wealth and Asset Management in Asia.
When she’s not teaching, working or looking after her family Wendy can be found skiing somewhere powdery and sunny.
Wendy can also be found in the Private Client Global Elite Directory.