UK firm Smith & Williamson (S&W)
has taken a significant minority interest in Singapore-based Nexia
TS to increase the amount of cross-border listing work between Asia
and Europe.

The buy-in will allow both firms to grow
private wealth management business.

UK firm BDO Stoy Hayward previously made a
similar move with a “modest” financial investment in BDO’s Indian
firm BDO Haribhakti last year.

S&W chairman Gareth Pearce is to join the
Nexia TS board with the UK firm receiving a return as a shareholder
depending on Nexia TS’s profitability.

The UK firm has about 1,500 staff and reported
operating income of £170 million ($242 million) in the year to
April 2008. Nexia TS has 90 staff in Singapore and Shanghai with
fee income of $8 million in the year to December 2008.

Pearce said international work has become
increasingly important to S&W and the investment provides an
excellent bridge to the Asian markets.

He said the majority of S&W’s new
assurance and corporate finance work between 2007 and mid-2008
stemmed from abroad.

“We do see, as do many other people, that
economic power and wealth is moving East and we felt that this was
a very good place for us to be,” he said.

“Despite the onset of more difficult economic
times, we believe it is important to respond to opportunities as
they arise. We are keen to develop our exposure to the Far East and
to align ourselves with a successful and growing international
practice.”

In the short to medium term, Pearce said
opportunities lie in corporate finance work linked with Catalist,
Singapore’s sponsor-supervised secondary capital market modelled on
the UK’s alternative investment market (AIM). There is also plenty
of work helping Asian businesses list on the AIM.

S&W is currently a sponsor on the London
AIM. Pearce said the firms will consider becoming a sponsor on
Catalist this year either through Nexia TS or as a joint venture
between Nexia TS and S&W.

In the longer term, S&W is looking at
using Singapore as a base to attract new private client
opportunities for its investment management arm.

Nexia TS managing director Henry Tan said his
firm is aiming to expand its business in three areas through the
arrangement.

In the short term, they will focus on helping
businesses in Asia to tap funds in Europe or the UK through markets
like the AIM, but also aiding smaller companies in Europe list on
Singapore’s exchanges.

In the medium term, Nexia TS wants to draw on
S&W’s strength in tax and serving private clients in wealth
management. It will also look to introduce insolvency and recovery
services.

Tan said the Singaporean firm has grown 20 to
25 percent per annum recently but he is cautious to forecast
similar figures in the current economic crisis. He estimated his
firm currently ranks among Singapore’s top 10, with an aim to be
within the top eight firms within the next five years.