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China’s Tiger Brokers eyes Singapore’s rich to drive growth

Bloomberg • 4 min read
China’s Tiger Brokers eyes Singapore’s rich to drive growth
The firm is hoping to double its revenue in Singapore over the next one to two years as it taps the “sophisticated and rich,” says CEO Wu Tianhua. Photo: Bloomberg
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China’s Tiger Brokers is setting its sights on Singapore’s riches for a revenue boost as it continues to shift away from its home market after a regulatory crackdown.

The firm, formally known as Up Fintech Holding Ltd, is hoping to double its revenue in Singapore over the next one to two years as it taps the “sophisticated and rich”, including high-net worth individuals, family offices and hedge funds, founder and CEO Wu Tianhua said in an interview this week. 

Singapore is an international financial centre that can connect wealth across the globe, Wu said in a video call from Beijing. “We see a lot of growth potential in the country. It’s the central pivot of our internationalisation.”

About one in every three adults in Singapore is a registered user of Tiger Brokers, according to Wu. The city-state is now the firm’s global headquarters and its single largest market in terms of client assets and revenue contribution, he said, declining to disclose the detailed breakdown. 

The firm’s total revenue jumped 21% to US$272.5 million ($367.3 million) last year, and rose 19% over the first quarter this year to US$78.9 million. The balance on its client accounts more than doubled to US$32.9 billion as of end-March, the firm reported Wednesday, adding average net asset inflows of new funded clients in Singapore reached US$14,000. 

Home market

See also: Singapore’s USD millionaires to grow by over 10% in the next five years: UBS

Tiger Brokers, which started off facilitating overseas securities trading for mainland Chinese investors, has been shifting away from the home market over the past few years after a regulatory clampdown. 

China bars its individuals from using the annual US$50,000 foreign exchange quota for direct offshore investments including securities, though some brokerages have for years managed to help them circumvent the rule by opening accounts offshore.

Authorities have criticised Tiger and peer Futu Holdings Ltd. since 2021, labeling their cross-border brokerage business as illegal. The online brokers were ordered in late 2022 to stop taking on new mainland investors and had to pull their trading apps onshore last year. 

See also: Rich Chinese return to Hong Kong as S'pore steps up scrutiny

China’s share in Tiger’s total client assets has now dropped to less than 25% from a “great majority” in 2020, according to Wu.

The firm has been maintaining close communications with Chinese regulators, and pledged to comply with any upcoming rules regarding cross-border trades, said Wu, adding for now the dust has settled.

The company’s shares had traded within a tight range over the past two years. They are down about 50% from October 2021 when China first took aim at cross border services, and almost 90% below its peak in February the same year. 

Global ambitions

Tiger Brokers, which already facilitates trades in assets ranging from equities, US Treasuries to derivatives, will strive to beef up innovation and its product portfolio to cater to both retail and institutional investors, said Wu. 

Having just launched virtual asset trading services for professional investors in Hong Kong in May, Tiger is in the process of obtaining qualifications in the city and other jurisdictions including Singapore and the US to expand the offering, he said. Wu expects the firm to get a greenlight in Hong Kong likely within this year to service retail investors, and get clearance for handling crypto trades in Singapore after that. 

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Headcount might be added marginally to aid its business expansion, but Wu ruled out the possibility of a “big increase” to its global staff of 1,000 employees.

Founded in 2014 in Beijing, Tiger Brokers now holds brokerage licenses in jurisdictions including Hong Kong, Singapore, US, Australia and New Zealand and services 2.2 million clients globally. It also offers Employee Stock Ownership Program management, investment banking and wealth management among other services.  

“We aspire to become a world-class brokerage empowered by technologies” like the firm’s investor Interactive Brokers, he said. “We’ve managed to develop from zero to one over the past decade, and we hope to notch it up from one to ten in the future.”

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