Watiga's Expanded FIS Relationship Targets Scalability

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 9 June 2023

Watiga's Expanded FIS Relationship Targets Scalability

With the growth of its administration business over the past few years, including new family office structures, Watiga has chosen to expand its service offering for portfolio accounting, particularly with respect to liquid portfolio assets. We talk to the firm, and FIS, in Singapore.

A move by Watiga, the Singapore-based provider of trust, fund, loan and corporate administration services, to widen its pact with financial services group FIS® will allow Watiga to increase the scalability of its business, its founder and managing director has told this publication. 

Two weeks ago, Watiga announced that under its arrangement, the business is integrating FIS Investment Accounting Manager for its client accounting engine (formerly InvestOne).

The relationship has developed as Watiga has moved to not just work with corporates, investment businesses and other firms, but also to handle the private wealth affairs of the people behind these organisations, Matt Richards, CEO of Watiga and its founder, a native of Australia who has lived in Singapore for many years, said. Richards set out his approach when WealthBriefingAsia visited his offices in Singapore. WBA also met with Francois Denimal, MD, capital markets at FIS.

There are three broad “verticals” in the Watiga stable of operations: Watiga Trust, a licensed trust company; Watiga Asia, a corporate services firm, and Watiga Legal, a Singapore law firm that’s licensed by the city-state.

The range of services across these businesses is considerable, ranging from employee stock option plans; loan and fund administration and transfer registry; through to the legal side of family office establishment, private equity and trust and wealth management. 

Working with FIS
Since 2020, Watiga has used FIS Private Capital Suite (formerly Investran) to deliver fund and trust administration for investment vehicles, including investor reporting, capital calls and allocation management for its clients throughout Southeast Asia. Watiga Trust secured a trust company licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 2016. 

The FIS/Watiga extended agreement enables Watiga to cover both private and liquid markets in a co-ordinated way, Denimal said. “It [Watiga] can have a single data source and the ability to grow the client business, improve client satisfaction and service. We create a background infrastructure that can be leveraged for growth,” he continued.

Richards said Watiga “believes in investing in scalability.” “It was becoming inefficient for us to put portfolio reporting into just one part of FIS. We wanted to double down and expand it,” he said. 

“We are quite `high touch’ in terms of our client interactions,” Richards said. “We’re known for being able to deal with complexity of asset classes, range of counterparties and the things that are not easy to get from a traditional trustee. Banks are not keen to take on traditional operating company structures, but we can do that.” 

WBA asked Richards if his firm saw opportunities in Singapore’s Variable Capital Company structure that was introduced in January 2020. (VCCs provide flexibility in issuing and redeeming shares. They can also pay dividends out of capital; they can be set up as a single standalone fund or as an umbrella fund with two or more sub-funds, each holding a portfolio of segregated assets and liabilities.)

Watiga primarily uses unit trusts for its own fund structures so the arrival of the VCC hasn’t been the “game-changer” for the firm as it has been for the wider sector, Richards said. In the first version of the VCC, these structures needed to have a fund manager sponsoring the VCC. However, under proposed VCC “version two” entities, it may be that a licensed trustee could sponsor them, including single-family offices. That would create more opportunities, Richards said.

Denimal said the Asian fund management industry appears keen to ride a wave of rising activity, and he also noted the “massive” growth of single-family offices in the region.

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