As a growing number of international firms pivot their focus in Asia to Singapore, King & Spalding’s appointment of banking heavyweight Andrew Brereton as the office’s new managing partner could be viewed as a declaration of redoubled commitment to the city state.
The Atlanta-headquartered firm first brought the Clifford Chance veteran on board at the start of 2019 as part of an effort to build out its finance and restructuring capabilities in the wider region.
He will succeed project finance partner Kelly Malone in the manager partner role.
Brereton followed in the footsteps of fellow former Clifford Chance M&A partner Lee Taylor, who King & Spalding recruited in January 2018 to head up its corporate department.
Speaking to Legal Business from India, which he described as ‘a very hot market right now’, Brereton said that his appointment spoke to the firm’s commitment to implementing new ideas and – crucially – to broadening its reach: ‘The firm has its core strengths, and we aren’t resting on our laurels there [The Singapore office hired international arbitration partner Nils Eliasson from Shearman & Sterling’s Hong Kong office in April this year], but we want to widen our focus.’
Pointing to increasingly bullish markets in India, Vietnam, and the Philippines, Brereton insisted he wanted to ‘follow these trends’ and concentrate his office’s position across the Asian private equity and private credit markets.
‘Given the geopolitical situation, a lot of money that would have gone to China is now looking for another home,’ he said. ‘When they’re coming to Asia, more and more of the key London and New York players now want to deploy capital in Singapore.’
According to figures gathered by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Singapore has, for the first time in 19 years, overtaken Hong Kong as a host city for foreign banks. Commenting on this shift, Brereton noted that a concurrent ‘legal exodus’ has been gathering pace as lawyers followed the private equity firms, funds and banks moving down to Singapore over the past few months.
‘Hong Kong has obviously become more difficult in recent years for a number of reasons, but the Singapore government is quite entrepreneurial in its efforts to make the country a hub. We’ve seen this with arbitration and debt restructuring, and now a sensible regulatory environment is encouraging fund managers to set up shop here,’ he noted.
In line with that trend, Sidley has in recent weeks bolstered its showing in Singapore with major hires. Global finance and private equity partner Daniel Lindsey joined the firm from Goodwin’s Hong Kong office, while Yuet Ming Tham – who, along with a team of seven lawyers, rejoined the firm in Singapore following a five-month stint at McDermott Will & Emery – has become global co-chair of the white collar: government litigation and investigations practice.
Lindsey commented: ‘A number of funds have increased their presence in Singapore recently. The relocation presented a great opportunity to be in front of them. Singapore is already a major legal hub in the region. This is clearly driven by a need to service clients here and, with a growing PE presence in Singapore, I expect Singapore to continue to build its reputation as an attractive location for talented lawyers who want to work on PE transactions and financings.’
Tham told Legal Business: ‘Moving to Singapore doesn’t mean I give up practicing Hong Kong law. Far from it. I am qualified in four jurisdictions, and this is not about moving my practice from Hong Kong to Singapore. We will continue to have team members based in our Hong Kong office.’
Alluding to the restrictions posed by Hong Kong’s ongoing travel restrictions, Tham noted: ‘It is a priority to be close to where many of our client contacts are, and to be able to travel to see our clients (which are mostly US and European multinationals) is important.’