If you have seen the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, you might have wondered if these crazy rich Asians really do exist in Singapore.
If you are an average Singaporean like me, it might seem like a wild idea that there are some Singaporeans who are rich enough to throw bridal parties overseas for their entire bridal party, or to fill Chijmes with bouquets of flowers and style it with calming waters for the wedding runway.
Most rich people in Singapore are rather conservative with flaunting their wealth so the average Singaporean would hardly hear any whispers of such tales. However, it is not just a fable that Kevin Kwon created. Singapore is home to crazy rich people.
In this article, you will find some interesting snippets of the top 10 richest people in Singapore, and some clue as to how they made their fortune.
How Many Millionaires and Billionaires Are There in Singapore?
The wealth, or net worth, per adult in Singapore is amongst the highest in the world. The average mean and median wealth per adult is S$449,543 and S$117,068, respectively.
And in such a small country, did you know that there are 269,925 people in Singapore who are millionaires and a total of 1,361 people who qualified to be considered ultra-high-net-worth individuals?
Ultra-high-net-worth individuals are people who possess a minimum net worth of US$50 million. Forbes Singapore’s 50 Richest List also lists a total of 35 billionaires in Singapore. How did they get so rich?
In the list below, we will look at who the top 10 richest people are and how they derived their wealth.
SIDE NOTE When was the last time you conducted thorough financial planning or reviewed your finances? In this day and age in Singapore, doing so will absolutely improve the quality of life for you and your loved ones. Here are 5 reasons why financial planning is so important.
#10: Wee Chow Yaw (Chairman Emeritus at UOB). Net Worth: $5.3 Billion
Wee Cho Yaw, aged 92, is the son of Wee Kiang Cheng, co-founder of UOB. Wee Cho Yaw was the Director of UOB for 60 years and built his wealth from the banking industry. Apart from managing the bank, Wee invested in real estate and his family currently owns 45 luxury apartments. One little known fact about Wee is that their family owns Haw Par, the maker of the iconic Chinese Tiger Balm Ointment. His oldest son, Wee Ee Chong, has taken over the business and is now the CEO of UOB. Clearly, Wee’s fortune building began from his father’s time. His careful management and leadership of the bank, and investing his own wealth has helped him to become the 384th richest billionaire in the world today.
#9: Kwee Brothers (Pontiac Land). Net Worth: $5.5 Billion
The Kwee Brothers are Singaporeans with roots in Indonesia. The four Kwee Brothers control Pontiac Land, a private company that owns a variety of luxury hotels and iconic buildings. Among these hotels and buildings are the highly-raved Capella Hotel (acquired in 2017) and an iconic tower in France designed by famous French architect, Jean Nouvel. Like Mr. Wee, their fortunes were built thanks to their father, Henry Kwee who was a textile trader and real estate developer. Their net worth looks set to grow on an upward trend – the Kwee Brothers announced their plans to build three resorts in the Maldives under the Capella and Ritz-Carlton chains. Although travel is currently not possible, we can be sure that their resorts would be hot spots once borders open.
#8: Khoo Family (Owners of Goodwood Group of Hotels). Net Worth: $6.3 Billion
Does the name Khoo Teck Puat sound familiar? You got that right – the Khoo Family are the descendants of the famous late banker, Khoo Teck Puat. Their family fortune came from selling their stake in Standard Chartered Bank, which accounts for $4 billion of their net worth. Mavis Khoo-Oei, the daughter of Khoo Teck Puat, currently chairs Goodwood Group of Hotels, and this is their current area of business. The Khoos are not just rich people – they are also invested in the well-being of society. The Khoo Teck Puat Hospital was set up in 2010, under their charitable arm, The Khoo Foundation.
#7: Forrest Xiaodong Li (Founder of Shopee, CEO of Sea). Net Worth: $7.1 Billion
Li Xiaodong is a Chinese-born Singaporean and a self-made billionaire. His first name, Forrest, came about when he was in Stanford and his teacher could not pronounce his name. It was inspired by Forest Grump. After serving in the corporate world, Li took a leap of faith after listening to Steve Jobs. He was inspired by Job’s words – “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” – and started his entrepreneur journey at a small shophouse in Maxwell Road. His personal love for gaming kickstarted his business, and that’s how he started Sea, which is listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Li grew his fortune by stayed adaptable to the changing needs of the world. This was how he moved from the gaming world into the world of e-commerce. Li is also set to enter the financial hub and has applied for a digital banking licence. His advice? “Stay humble. It’s only if you’re able to stay humble that you can serve, run, adapt and commit.”
#6: Kwek Leng Beng (Executive Chairman at Hong Leong Group). Net Worth: $8.8 Billion
Kwek Leng Beng, aged 80, is not only the executive chairman of the famous Hong Leong Group, he is also the executive chairman of City Developments. Hong Leong Group was founded by his father, who interestingly started out his business selling ropes, paint and supplies for rubber plantations in a general trading store. At 80, Kwek is not interested in the average Singaporean’s dream of retirement. He is currently focusing his efforts in expanding overseas, with his eyes set on acquiring assets in the UK, China and Australia.
#5: Robert and Philip Ng (Far East Organisation). Net Worth: $13.2 Billion
Robert and Philip Ng control Far East Organisation, the largest property developer in Singapore. The company was founded by their father, Ng Teng Fong. Ng Teng Fong paved the way for his family’s wealth by going against his own father’s wishes. Their family originally dealt with groceries, and Ng Teng Fong defied his father’s hopes by going into real estate instead. Thanks to his strong-willed nature and passion in pursuing his own interests, his family is the 158th billionaire in the world.
DID YOU KNOW? According to a survey conducted by MoneySense, about 3 out of 10 Singapore residents aged 30 to 59 had not started planning for their future financial needs. This isn't surprising because personal finance can seem complicated and daunting. But really, there are only a few things that you should focus on. Learn how to significantly improve your personal finances with the 7-step "wedding cake" strategy today.
#4: Eduardo Saverin (Co-Founder of Facebook). Net Worth: $14 Billion
Eduardo Saverin, aged 39, is no stranger to Singapore. He made headlines in 2012 when he renounced his citizenship and made our tiny red dot his place of residence. He currently works as a venture capitalist, and has launched the fund, B Capital. His net worth is still mostly derived from his stake in Facebook.
#3: Goh Cheng Liang (Nippon Paint Holdings). Net Worth: $14.8 Billion
Goh Cheng Liang, aged 93, is a self-made billionaire. He started out making paints in a small factory before joining a giant in the field, Nippon Paint, in 1962. His son currently chairs Nippon Paint, and in 2021, purchased $12 billion worth of shares in Nippon.
#2: Li Xiting (Founder and Chairman at Shenzhen Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics). Net Worth: $17.8 Billion
Li Xiting, aged 70, is a self-made billionaire who attributes his success to the growing demand for medical equipment. Li Xiting is a Singapore citizen and currently resides in China. In 1991, he founded Mindray, a firm selling medical technology. They specialise in ventilators, which has become especially precious in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. His wealth looks set to grow as ventilators become even more essential with people needing help to breathe after contracting Covid-19.
#1: Zhang Yong and Shu Ping (Chairman at Haidilao). Net Worth: $19 Billion
Yes, the richest people in Singapore are a power couple who own a business selling food that people cook themselves in a steamy swirling hotpot with a signature broth. Unlike many of the people listed above, Zhang Yong never finished high school. Yet, he has become a self-made billionaire, and the 12th richest person in China. His success can be attributed to his supportive wife and friends who helped him by providing seed money to launch his business. Zhang Yong credits the success of Haidilao to not only providing fresh seafood and their signature spicy dishes, but also the impeccable customer service. Haidilao is best known for their attentive waiting staff and providing free manicures for customers.
What Can We Learn From the Richest People in Singapore?
Looking through the list, most of these people made their fortunes thanks to old money. Their parents or grandparents made good business decisions and most of it came from investing in real estate or banking services. However, there are also many individuals who have made the list pursuing their interests in technology, and even things like paint and food.
Most importantly, the people who made this list share a common trait – they are adaptable, motivated to grow their wealth, and plan ahead. These are traits that we can all adopt to be successful in life.
If you want to fast-track your progress and become a self-made billionaire, you will need to take a leap of faith and see how you can offer a service or product that meets the needs and desires of your target audience.
However, if this seems rather risky to you and you would much prefer to stay employed, wealth is not an unattainable goal. You simply need to go by a different way to get rich. How can you do this?
1) Find out your net worth
Before you can achieve your goals, you will first need to have a good understanding of your current financial position. Do you know your net worth? You can use our free online net worth calculator or our free excel template to track your net worth (FinSnap) to form an accurate picture of what you have.
2) Start your retirement planning now
After knowing your net worth, the next step is to set goals and make a solid plan to achieve it. What would you need to do to retire comfortably? What kind of legacy would you like to leave with the future generation? These are intricate matters that require accurate analysis and careful planning.
Remember, stay humble and stay hungry. It is not impossible to achieve your financial goals and make it to the list of millionaires in Singapore!