Business

MAS to ease rules for venture capital managers

Criteria of fitness and propriety to stay, other requirements will be dropped


No minimum capital, no relevant experience or audit required: The bar has been lowered for venture capitalists, who will soon just have to be "fit and proper" if they want to set up shop here.

The slimmed-down set of rules is part of a broader strategy to make it easier for start-ups to get funding.

The proposed rule changes for the booming venture capital (VC) industry were outlined yesterday by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Once the new framework is in place - the MAS is targeting July - VC funds will be able to obtain a licence within weeks. It takes about 2½ months under the current process.

The MAS hopes the reforms will attract more VC managers here and spur them to play a greater role in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation.

There are 29 VC managers here now.

Mr Lee Boon Ngiap, MAS' assistant managing director of capital markets, said in a statement: "The proposed simplified regulatory regime for VC managers recognises the lower risks they pose, given their business model and sophisticated investor base. It will allow new VC managers a faster time to market and reduce their ongoing compliance burden."
 One change involves simplifying the authorisation process for VC managers, focusing primarily on the criteria of fitness and propriety. That will mean checking if the directors of a VC fund have criminal records or any negative regulatory issues that call into question their honesty and integrity, but other criteria will be dropped.

So the MAS will no longer require VC managers to have directors and representatives with at least five years of relevant experience in fund management.

VC managers will also no longer be subject to the capital requirements and business conduct rules that now apply to fund managers in general, and they will not have to meet certain capital requirements.

They will also not have to undergo independent valuations and internal audits or submit audited financial statements to MAS.

Mr B. Paul Santos, the managing partner of VC manager Wavemaker Partners, said a lot of these valuations and audits do not give a meaningful picture of a VC manager's performance anyway.

"Too much time and money are wasted figuring out holding values of start-up portfolios...

"The only time the values are real are when the companies are wound up or are sold or listed."

The MAS noted that VC managers are different from other fund managers as they manage funds that are typically invested only in unlisted business ventures and are offered only to accredited and/or institutional investors.

These differences make some fund-management rules that are now imposed on VC managers less relevant, MAS said.

Vickers Venture Partners managing director Damian Tan said the lighter rules will lower VCs' compliance costs, which means they can put their capital to better use.

The public consultation paper is available on the MAS website. Public consultation ends on March 15.


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