Harneys becomes latest offshore firm to launch in Singapore

Offshore firm Harneys is bolstering its Asian presence with a Singapore office, relocating two Hong Kong partners to the jurisdiction to lead the venture.

The Singapore base will be led by the firm’s global banking head Colin Riegels, alongside funds partner Lisa Pearce. Both are moving from Hong Kong and will be joined by another four lawyers, including former Allen & Overy duo counsel Shari Hawke and senior associate Richard Griffiths.

Harneys becomes the seventh offshore firm to have a presence in Singapore. Conyers Dill & Pearman was the first to launch in the jurisdiction in 2001. Isle of Man firm Cains followed some seven years later (21 July 2008) and Walkers moved in the following year (29 January 2009).

The past three years have seen a mini-rush of offshore launches in Singapore, with Channel Islands firms Collas Crill (26 May 2011) and Bedell Cristin (25 July 2012) as well as Maples and Calder (10 September 2012) all opening there.

Riegels said there were “two prongs” to the firm’s decision to move into Singapore – Harneys’ expansion in Hong Kong in recent years to a 20-lawyer office, and Singapore’s growth as a jurisdiction for private wealth in particular.

“At the moment [our Asia strategy] has been entirely focused on our Hong Kong office, so we’re trying to push that model out on a wider basis,” Riegels explained. “Singapore is the obvious next step. We’ve historically done a huge amount of Singapore work over the years and clients want to be able to instruct offshore lawyers in their own town.”

The lawyers staffing the office advise on British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands law.

Riegels said he was confident that Harneys would be able to grow its offering from Singapore in line with the jurisdiction’s use for finance and private client structures.

”I see the size of the pie growing in Singapore in terms of the offshore space,” he said.