Surprised That Chinese IM Market Shrank During Pandemic: Philippe May in 10 on The Weekend

Ten On The Weekend is a weekly (-ish) feature in IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each time, we ask the same ten questions of a different industry figure, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might in an ordinary business setting.

Our guest this week is Philippe May.


How do you spend your weekends?

Besides some business tasks, I typically go for a hike on weekends, then have a swim in the pool. Singapore has some tiny but beautiful nature reserves. A primary forest is next to my home. You can see monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, and even colugos (flying lemurs) here. On Sunday, I attend mass. Sometimes I also have a Davidoff with friends at my club or at home.

What are your top three business goals this year?

Due to the travel restrictions in Asia and my resignation from Arton Capital, I use the opportunity to get to know several countries with residence programs better. Seeing is believing. I have been to Latvia for a week, to Portugal, and will visit one or two more to get personally acquainted. Besides that, I still help clients from my time with Arton Capital with the aim to conclude their application process successfully. Another goal is to discover a new RCBI country.

What’s your biggest business concern right now?

The presence of crooks and the prevalence of corporate malfeasance in the RCBI industry is a matter of great and constant concern. Especially in the UAE and Red China, the shenanigans of unlicensed, incompetent, fraudulent, and sometimes even criminal immigration agents are rife. When such crooks offer citizenship in countries that do not even have programs they don’t just cheat on their client, they jeopardize the whole industry and the good reputation of responsible stakeholders. They bring ill repute to the industry.

Which book is on your night-stand right now?

The Lonely Planet guide of Portugal! I normally plan my trips well ahead, but on this trip – with more time at hand than usual (Singapore is almost locked down with many restrictions on meetings, etc, so I am in no rush to get back) – I check in the evenings where I will go the next day.

How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?

In 2008, when I was a Vice President with EFG Private Bank in Singapore. A Vietnamese client of mine wanted to get a second passport and I assisted him with the application in St. Kitts & Nevis. I even traveled there personally to check out the place and the agent. We are still in touch and he is a proud and happy Kittitian citizen.

What was your proudest moment as a service provider?

I’m proud that I could help certain clients who would normally find it very challenging – if not impossible – to make their application successful, due to their particular circumstances. Their happiness and relief at the moment of approval – after months of bureaucratic nitty-gritty – is a source of pride for me as an enabler. But I have not designed a new program yet or built a corporate empire!

Academically, I have obtained a diploma in international diplomatic law for honorary consuls from the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) in Geneva this year. I was in the first intake and therefore an early mover so to say.

Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?

Red China: This market has shrunk significantly (due to the pandemic). The underlying reasons for a residence or citizenship solution are nevertheless there. I’m surprised that so many potential applicants have put their plans on hold only because currently travel is suspended. The Chinese are normally far-sighted, so this change of heart is surprising. At least at this magnitude. In other markets, I observe clients who make use of the lockdowns and restrictions to reflect and finally make a decision and use the less hectic time to move forward. Mainland China is a surprising exception in this regard, as many Chinese are doing the opposite.

If you could go 10 years back in time, what business decision would you change?

I should have quit private banking back then and join the RCBI industry in the early 2010s already! We now see a trend towards family offices; senior private bankers setting up or joining asset management firms and, in Singapore, the government actively promotes the jurisdiction as a hub for family offices (which is exciting for me). There was and there is no such encouragement in the RCBI industry but one should not need a nudge from any government: the trend is your friend!

What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?

I admire the leaders of Ancient Greece who – 2,000 years ago – understood the benefits of citizenship by investment for their state long before globalization and the omnipresence of information technology. These ancient Greeks are the true pioneers of our industry! Nowadays, I would say it’s Simon Black, of Sovereign Man. He covers not only CBI-related issues in-depth but also related topics in connection with a Plan B. He has done so very consistently for many years and without being flashy or seeking adulation. His reports are very insightful.

If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?

I enjoy what I am doing; I am comfortable in my skin. And the demand for RCBI solutions will only increase. Hence, I will be assisting HNWIs and their trusted advisors in banks, asset management, trusts, and similar companies from the wider financial industry to find and execute sustainable solutions. Not only for residence and citizenship matters but also in banking, tax, etc.

I enjoy being a financial planner and that’s what I will probably still do in five years. I’m not going to retire on a golf course! Besides that, I will remain an active member of the diplomatic and consular corps of Singapore, which I joined ten years ago as an Honorary Consul. Maybe I will spend some more time on business in Europe and the Caribbean, but I will not leave my base in Singapore. We are taking over a lot from Hong Kong these days; so it gets busy here.

More From 10 on The Weekend
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