The Hong Kong-China mutual fund platform has been touted as a game changer for Hong Kong?s fund industry, potentially attracting more managers to set up Hong Kong fund structures as cross-border vehicles. But how will this development affect Singapore?s role as Asia?s other international asset management hub?

Alvin Goh, Citi

Alvin Goh, Singapore-based country head of securities and fund services at?Citi, believes the city-state has ?slightly different strengths? as a fund centre and that it?s unlikely it will try to compete or develop into a look-alike of Hong Kong, as that could create ?a lot of tension?.

?I would see the two developing on a complementary basis, and I am sure that mainland authorities would see that there are some gaps that hopefully Singapore could fill,? he says.

He also believes that, since Hong Kong?s asset management industry has a large mass retail component, Singapore should be able to tap further into the wholesale market on the corporate side, as well as the private banking space and the wider markets across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Ken Yap, Cerulli Associates

Ken Yap, Singapore-based director and head of Asia-Pacific research at Boston-based research firm?Cerulli Associates, says it is hard to see if there will be any direct impact of the Hong Kong-China fund agreement on how Singapore may develop, as renminbi products have been targeting more of the high-net-worth and institutional space than the retail segment in the city-state.

?The story isn?t so big here; in Hong Kong, you see a lot stronger pull because of the proximity and the head-start they have had,? he says.

The Hong Kong-China mutual fund platform matters more to global fund houses that seek to access China, but since most of the major ones are already in both locations, the result may just be a minor reshuffling of resources, he says.

Nevertheless, Singapore authorities would want to watch closely to see what they could emulate in the future, Yap says, adding that having the same access would be very useful.

Alexa Lam, Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong

The Hong Kong-China fund platform concept was first?announced?in January by Alexa Lam, deputy CEO and executive director for policy, China and investment products at Hong Kong?s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). She said at the time that the forthcoming platform, which would allow Hong Kong funds to be sold in China and vice versa, would likely be ?Asia?s largest and deepest?.

Industry reaction to the announcement has generally been positive, with many hoping that it will spur growth in the local Hong Kong market and in the proportion of locally domiciled funds, but there have also been many mixed reactions to proposals as expressed in?Ignites Asia?s?five-part series?examining the developments.

In June, SFC?s Lam?said?during a panel discussion at the FT Asset Management Summit 2013 co-organised by the Financial Times, FTfm and?Ignites Asia?in Hong Kong that the development of the platform was still in the first of a two-stage process where the regulators were still ?trying to get a consensus of minds?.

It appears that in some areas Singapore?s access to the Chinese market will emulate Hong Kong?s but only after a significant time lag.

More than 10 years after it was first introduced to Hong Kong, the China Securities Regulatory Commission?announced?last week its intention to extend to Singapore its renminbi qualified foreign institutional investor (RQFII) scheme that would allow approved licensees to channel renminbi funds into the mainland securities markets.

Quotas for the RQFII scheme were previously granted only to Hong Kong subsidiaries of qualified mainland asset management and securities firms.

Citi?s Goh says Hong Kong?s access to China?s market has developed in ?baby steps? to where it sits now on the verge of a platform for cross-border fund sales, but in the case of Singapore maybe some of these steps could be skipped or accelerated as they have already been trialled in Hong Kong.

Will new entrants choose HK over Singapore?

Bill Rosensweig, Brown Brothers Harriman

Bill Rosensweig, Hong Kong-based partner for investor services at?Brown Brothers Harriman, echoes other service providers in saying that he is fielding many questions from clients about the Hong Kong-China platform and he is confident that there will be a boom in Hong Kong-domiciled funds, as?reported.

Justin Ong, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Justin Ong, Singapore-based asset management leader at?PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that, once the Hong Kong-China mutual fund platform pushes the door to the China retail market wide open, some asset management companies might prioritise launching more locally domiciled funds in Hong Kong, rather than launching funds in the Singapore market.

Ong says that, as some global fund houses, such as?Franklin Templeton Investments?and?Schroder Investment Management, already have well established offices in both Hong Kong and Singapore, there wouldn?t really be a big impact for them. But it might be a different situation for newer or smaller entrants, which don?t have the resources to be present in both Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thomas Granger, Singapore-based partner at law firm Walkers Global, believes Singapore is ?the financial hub? for Asia ex-China, but he also believes that the city-state may lose out to Hong Kong in the context of tapping into China?s wealth and it will be a massive challenge to the city-state in terms of attracting genuine management talent.

The amount of capital that managers are looking to attract from China is enormous, so if a mutual fund recognition platform allows Hong Kong products to be offered into China and vice versa, the gap between Hong Kong and Singapore will perhaps widen and be exaggerated, he says.

Meanwhile, the private banking arena in Singapore is still very much expanding with banks building out private wealth teams. Additionally, service providers, trust banks and administrators are looking to set up shop there, which is ?very much an area that Singapore can dominate the market?, Granger says.

Will Asean provide the solution for Singapore?

Simon Hopkins, Milltrust International Group

Singapore?s private banking business oversees more than US$300 billion in wealth, yet the city-state?s real opportunity as a financial centre is to join up the financial markets of Southeast Asia, says Simon Hopkins, Singapore-based CEO and founder at Milltrust, an emerging-market multi-manager business.

Although the Hong Kong-China platform is a welcome development for international firms looking to make headway in China, the journey is unlikely to be an easy one as more Chinese firms develop asset management capabilities and give foreign firms a real run for their money, he says.

Furthermore, the stock markets of North Asia have not been a very fertile place to invest in recent years, and China, Korea and Japan are all more than five hours away from Singapore, he says. The Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, which are scarcely a short hop from the city-state, ?have been the darlings of the global investor?, he adds.

Asean, a market of 630 million consumers half of whom are under the age of 30, is one of the fastest growing regions in the world already with a combined economy greater than that of India, Hopkins says.

Despite this, there are only a handful of managers running equities funds that are dedicated to the region, and the few funds, whether manufactured by big banks or small boutique fund managers, remain small and largely unheard of, he adds.

In Asean ?lies the real opportunity for Singapore, as the region?s principal capital market, with a sound legal framework and a regulator that is widely respected?, he says.

However, Cerulli?s Yap points out that, while the huge source of potential assets in China is a draw for companies setting up in Hong Kong, the dynamic between Singapore and other Asean countries is not really the same.

Wealth in Singapore is probably equal in scale to the rest of the Asean region combined, which is a very different situation to that of Hong Kong and China, he says.

One of Singapore?s strengths is acting as a jurisdiction of choice for Asean funds and fund structures, and there is still more it could do to take advantage of such a position, but the assets and opportunities in Asean are dwarfed by the opportunity in China, Walker?s Granger says.