Chinese Online Brokers on Hiring Sprees in ASEAN

Image credit: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov

Tiger Brokers and Futu Securities, two of China's leading online brokers, are in a bid for local talent in Singapore, the first step in their plan to dominate Southeast Asia, reports Nikkei Asia.

Both companies are backed by major Chinese tech firms — Tiger by Xiaomi, and Futu by Tencent — and see immense potential in the ASEAN region, where a young population and an emerging middle class are increasingly drawn to investing in financial markets.

Singapore presents an attractive opportunity for Chinese brokers looking to expand beyond their home market, as the city-state has a well-developed financial infrastructure and is seen as a gateway to the rest of Southeast Asia.

Tiger's Singapore chief executive, Eng Thiam Choon, told Nikkei Asia that the company is looking to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam for growth. Futu's Singapore managing director Gavin Chia said the company plans to expand its Singapore workforce to around 80 to 100 staff by year-end, from around 40 staff at present, while looking to nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia for growth.

Both companies are making heavy investments in technology, with a focus on mobile trading apps that offer an easy-to-use interface and sophisticated features such as real-time market data and analysis.

Tiger's and Futu are eager to expand abroad while China's authorities tighten their grip on the technology sector due to worries about data management and privacy.

The companies’ expansion plans will likely see them go head-to-head with each other as well as established local players such as UOB Kay Hian and Phillip Capital, which have been around for decades and operate physical branches.

It remains to be seen if the Chinese brokers can make inroads in a region where many still prefer to entrust their savings to more traditional financial institutions. Nonetheless, the entry of these heavyweights is likely to shake up the status quo and provide more choice and competition for investors in Southeast Asia. In fact, Futu and UP Fintech received over 80% of their new clients in the fourth quarter of 2021 from abroad, with Singapore a particularly successful market.

As the battle for talent and market share intensifies, it will be interesting to see how these two companies fare against each other as well as against the incumbents in the coming years.

Image credit: iStockphoto/AndreyPopov