Where you study your Master in Finance matters. We’re not just talking about the school; we’re talking about the city or country.
Exposure to a thriving finance centre means you’ll come in contact with more professionals and organisations in your field than any other city. You’ll be immersed in richer ideas and build a network that can potentially benefit your career.
This is why popular destinations for post-graduate finance degrees include London, Paris, and Switzerland. But besides financial hubs in Europe and North America, there is one more place you should consider — the city-state of Singapore.
“You’ll be immersed in richer ideas.”
#1: It’s one of the economic powerhouses of a dynamic and high-growth region — Asia-Pacific.
We can’t make a case for Singapore without mentioning the continent where it belongs. Businesses are now setting their eyes on Asia-Pacific, whose economic growth outlook based on International Monetary Fund’s estimates is at 5.8% for 2018.
Although a few developed countries in the region are dealing with slow productivity, ageing populations, and increasing protectionism, vibrant economies are offsetting these trends. India is expected to rebound to 7.2% next year, while China, the second largest economy in the world, is still poised to grow at 6.2% for the same period1.
Then you have South-east Asia — specifically, Laos, Philippines, Cambodia, and Myanmar. These are countries with young populations, accelerating developments in infrastructure and foreign investment, and optimistic GDP forecasts by World Bank of 6.9 to 7% in 2017.
Where does that put Singapore? This Little Red Dot in South-east Asia, with an economy as large as Malaysia but with a per capita GDP comparable to the USA, is considered one of the centres for global trade and finance in the region. Almost any corporation that wants to do business across Asia will most definitely have a presence in Singapore In fact, the country is ranked #2 in Asia (after Hong Kong) and #4 in the world in the 2018 Global Financial Centres Index, beating Tokyo and Shanghai.
#2: Singapore has a globalised business community and financial environment.
Singapore is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. As a percentage of total population, Singapore has the fifth largest expat community at 29% or 1.6 million.
In the finance world, you’ll see a similarly global picture:
- Singapore has the first and oldest member society of the CFA Institute outside North America, as well as one of the ten largest Member Societies worldwide.
- More than 40% of companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) are based outside the country. Furthermore, SGX is the world’s largest offshore market for Asian equity futures with a focus on China, India, and Japan, the largest economies in the region.
- It’s also the largest foreign currency trading in Asia and the third largest in the world after London and New York.
“Singapore is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.”
#3: Singapore is one of the best places for doing business.
Every year, various institutions rank countries based on their conduciveness to business activity and attractiveness to foreign investors. Whether it’s the World Bank’s (WB) Ease of Doing Business or the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index, you can count on Singapore to place within the top five year in and year out. On the latest versions of both rankings, Singapore came out second.
The country has actively pursued policies, innovations, and infrastructure that help businesses thrive:
- One of the key indicators in the WB study is starting a business, where Singapore is sixth in the world. In this city-state, it only takes three steps and two and half days to get registered.
- The maximum corporate tax rate in Singapore is 17%, comparably lower than those of many developed economies in America and Europe, such as the US (35%), France (33.3%), and Germany (29.79%)2. Meanwhile, start-ups are awarded generous tax reliefs to help them grow faster, with a full exemption on their first chargeable income of SGD100,000 for three consecutive years.
- Singapore’s infrastructure is ranked #2 in the world by WEF’s Competitiveness Index. This doesn’t come as a surprise to its residents who have experienced the world-class Changi International Airport as well as the efficient train and bus service systems that can take you to any part of the city.
#4: Singapore has a stable economy and political environment essential for businesses and financial markets to thrive.
Businesses and investments flock to Singapore because of its efficient and predictable environment. A transparent government makes this possible by upholding the rule of law, guaranteeing regulatory stability, implementing a clear tax regime, and fighting corruption. In the same way that a plant needs good weather and soil to grow, companies can benefit from good governance. Notably, Transparency International ranks the Singapore government as one of the most trustworthy institutions in the world in their Corruption Perceptions Index, placing seventh among 176 nations and second out of 30 Asia-Pacific countries.
Its finance market bears similar traits of stability: Singapore is one of the few economies in the world with a triple-A (AAA) sovereign credit rating from all four agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, Fitch, and Research & Investment International.
“An ecosystem that can nurture and attract innovative and successful start-ups.”
#5: Singapore is one of the top start-up hubs and the best fintech hub in the world.
Singapore’s success as a start-up and fintech hub was 50 years in the making. Its innovative and technology-driven character ultimately resulted from the government’s concerted effort in building pragmatic and growth-driven R&D capabilities.
Having limited natural resources, the country realised developing the population’s talents in STEM* would be its key to economic competitiveness3. If you combine this wealth of entrepreneurs and high-tech professionals with a good business environment and active policies that support venture capital, you will get an ecosystem that can nurture and attract innovative and successful start-ups.
Startup Genome, the premier think tank on start-ups based in Silicon Valley, ranks Singapore as the 12th best city for tech entrepreneurs primarily for its availability of talent. The think tank also acknowledged a government scheme that matches early-stage VC funding to propel young start-ups toward marketability.
For fintech start-ups, there is even better news: Singapore is ranked first — tied with London — as the best place for fintech innovation. In a report published by Deloitte and the Global FinTech Hubs Federation, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is lauded for channelling SGD225 million toward developing the sector. Both new and established financial institutions have also embraced fintech through their own innovation labs, bootcamps, and accelerators, giving entrepreneurs in the field access to greater resources and industry expertise.
Not only is Singapore a good base for learning how an advanced financial hub works, it also offers a strategic vantage point for learning about the Asia-Pacific economy and financial landscape. And whether you’re contemplating a career in fintech or any other sector in finance, Singapore has a mature financial ecosystem with various opportunities for professional development, doing business, investment, and entrepreneurship.