Philanthropy grows in Asia as Family Offices chip in

A recent UBS study shows giving in Asia increased by 10 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013, with 77 per cent of family offices in Asia engaged in philanthropy.

As Asia leads the way in economic growth, there has also been a growth in philanthropy in the region.

According to a recent UBS study, giving in Asia increased by 10 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013, with 77 per cent of family offices in Asia engaged in philanthropy. Analysts said the younger generation is taking a more active role in supporting enterprises with greater social impact.

Asia's super-rich are donating big sums of money to support various causes. UBS said 10 per cent of Asia family offices reported endowments greater than US$50 million (S$67 million) in 2014. Furthermore, among the younger philanthropists, there is increasing interest in the arts, as well as healthcare and environmental issues.

However, education remains one of the leading beneficiaries. Business school INSEAD recently received a gift of S$5 million from Indonesia's Soeryadjaya family - in support of its new Leadership Development Centre in Singapore.

Mr Edwin Soeryadjaya, co-founder of the William Soeryadjaya Foundation, said: "Education is something that everybody needs, and once you are educated, you can take care of a lot of your own needs, and you can be a blessing to others."

Ms Joanne Shoveller, associate dean of INSEAD, noted: "Recently, it is becoming more mainstream and more of a topic of conversation among business people, among people who have the means to be generous to the less fortunate. They have seen that as a way of changing the landscape in Asia, changing societies and changing the standard of living among people, and education has definitely been a recipient of that generosity in a very substantial way."

According to financial institutions, more families are becoming more structured in their giving, with some setting up a foundation and others implementing a governance framework for managing assets and donations.

Said Ms Susan Sy, head of philanthropy at UBS Wealth Management: "We see that our families are very much more involved as well, being more strategic in their giving. A lot of our families are looking at setting up own their philanthropic vehicle to make sure that their giving is not just cutting a cheque, but actually creating a much greater impact to the community that they like to support."

Mr Lee Woon Shiu, head of wealth planning at Bank of Singapore, said: "We are asked to set up charitable foundations of trust to assist in the long-term giving process of these clients. Very often, this is done in legal conjunction with legal advisors and tax advisors to ensure that any cross-border tax issues, concerns or legal issues are all dealt with in a very systematic and optimal manner."

According to the latest UBS Family Office report, philanthropy in Singapore is gaining momentum, with 57 per cent of family offices currently engaged in philanthropy, and an additional 14 per cent coming on board in the next 18 months.

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