This global first initiative led by InvestaX, UBS, State Street, and CMS jointly explored the potential of tokenisation of the Singapore VCC structure (Project e-VCC). PwC Singapore provided VCC regulatory and tax advisory support for Project e-VCC.
InvestaX today announced the outcome of Project e-VCC, which involved examining the technological, legal, and practical feasibility of tokenising the Singapore Variable Capital Company using a blockchain native structure. Through this proof-of-concept, industry participants were able to determine the lifecycle and workflow processes for efficiencies gained using an e-VCC by the relevant stakeholders (i.e. fund manager, fund administrator and investors), and the key considerations for potential tradability of such e-VCC securities on exchanges like InvestaX.
The project also explored VCC fund shares issued directly on either a permissionless /public blockchain or a permissioned/private blockchain. It also compared the benefits of a blockchain- native security token design (“one-tier”) as opposed to a tokenised security (“two-tier”) design.
Globally recognised UBS, State Street, PwC Singapore and CMS brought together practical industry insights across the fund value chain, and in particular, where the use of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) could enable new market opportunities and operating models. The Tezos Foundation and Hashstacs Pte Ltd (STACS) provided support as public and private blockchain protocol providers, respectively, for the PoC.
InvestaX was awarded the PoC grant in September 2020, which provides funding support for experimentation, development and dissemination of nascent innovative technologies in the financial services sector. The PoC grant is part of the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme under the Financial Sector Development Fund administered by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
InvestaX is a leading digital securities investment and trading platform licensed by the MAS for offering end-to-end solutions for the issuance, trading, and custody of digital securities for real estate, private equity and other alternative investments. InvestaX is an early pioneer in the use of blockchain technologies, and works with both issuers as well as investors to use DLT to develop leading technology-driven investment vehicles and products to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and transparency, remove friction, and facilitate secondary market trading in private capital markets.
InvestaX’s CEO, Julian Kwan, said: “We are thrilled to have collaborated with UBS, State Street, CMS Holborn Asia, PwC Singapore as well as our blockchain partners Tezos and STACS on this groundbreaking initiative to bring efficiencies to the fund investment and management industry. These funds in the real estate, private equity, and venture capital world, typically suffer from a lack of liquidity, high barriers to entry, and are burdened with paper-based processes that add to the costs of this competitive industry. By tokenising the VCC, we hope to support Singapore’s ambition of becoming the world’s fund management center as well as the hub for capital markets innovations.”
Thomas Kaegi, Head Asset Management, Singapore & Southeast Asia at UBS Asset Management, said: “UBS is always seeking to provide the best service to our clients, which increasingly is enabled by digital innovation. We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of this proof of concept exploration, through the MAS FSTI program, to investigate the application of distributed ledger technologies to funds and private markets for Singapore.”
Mostapha Tahiri, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Pacific, State Street, said: “We are excited to contribute our knowledge and experience in fund administration operations in Singapore and worldwide to be part of this innovative proof of concept. State Street Digital will extend our two decades of investment servicing experience to institutional investors in Singapore to the digital assets world. We look forward to working innovatively with market participants and regulators in Singapore to create new opportunities and efficient market models for VCCs by leveraging novel technology, such as distributed ledger technology (DLT).”
The PoC determined that in a one-tier approach, record keeping of fund interests, traditionally done by a transfer agent, can now be executed via DLT.
Armin Choksey, Asia Pacific Asset and Wealth Management Market Research Centre Leader, PwC Singapore: “It has been a fantastic opportunity and an eye-opener to go through the various intricacies of tokenised VCC. One can’t assume it to be a straightforward procedure. This POC has helped identify the areas which must be considered at the time of launch as well as operating the tokens. I believe it will have long term benefits for the industry in this area.”
Matt Nortcliff, Partner and Head of Funds – APAC at law firm CMS: “This is a timely and important project and we were delighted that InvestaX invited us to contribute our funds, tech and VCC expertise to the POC. With the ever increasing pace of digital disruption, the law often has to play catch-up; this is both a challenge and an opportunity for Singapore. Projects such as this POC are tremendously important in demonstrating that embracing and championing tokenised fund structures can be a positive step for Singapore and the asset management industry at large.”
Julian Low, Director of Business Development, South East Asia at TZ APAC, said: “Singapore has always been at the forefront of fintech innovation, and with this project, it continues to strengthen its position as a leader in global asset management. We are grateful to be a part of this POC project, as it serves as a testament to the revolutionary potential of distributed ledger technologies (DLT). Now more than ever, enterprises, corporate brands, and governments want to know how to leverage the transformational power of blockchain. Through our 360 degree support system, we want to create meaningful partnerships in the Asia Pacific region and champion digital disruption.”
Benjamin Soh, Managing Director at STACS, said: “As a leading fintech firm in Singapore, STACS plays a key role in unlocking value for the financial industry via our live industry-wide DLT platform for Asset and Wealth Management, End-to-End Digital Securities, and Enhanced ESG Finance. This is a meaningful project and STACS is thrilled to be a technology partner of InvestaX and various partners in the VCC industry, to contribute our DLT solution expertise in ensuring the project’s practicality, scalability, and interoperability.”
Project e-VCC also led to the conclusion that there is nothing explicit in Singapore’s existing laws prohibiting issuance of blockchain-native securities. Such securities would come under the purview of digital tokens that constitute capital market products and be regulated under the Securities and Futures Act. However, the potential application of stamp duty was identified as a hurdle which must be addressed in order to enable secondary trading of e-VCC shares.
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A full versionof the public report of the POC is available HERE. For further information on how to tokenise a VCC, please contact:
Co-Founder and Legal Counsel
S. Alice Chen
Phone: +65 85221342
IC SG Pte Ltd (dba InvestaX) is a Singapore-licensed digital securities investment and trading platform that focuses on private market investments. InvestaX provides end-to-end services for digital securities, from tokenization technology to facilitating primary issuance to fund structuring and lifecycle management of tokens to secondary market trading and liquidity on one platform. At present, InvestaX holds a Capital Markets Services license to deal in securities, and is an Exempt Financial Advisor, as well as an exempt Recognized Market Operator in the MAS sandbox to operate a digital securities trading platform. To date, the company has issued more than 28 private equity offerings that are jointly valued over US$1 billion with 14 successful exits.
UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. UBS's strategy is centered on our leading global wealth management business and our premier universal bank in Switzerland, enhanced by Asset Management and the Investment Bank. The bank focuses on businesses that have a strong competitive position in their targeted markets, are capital efficient, and have an attractive long- term structural growth or profitability outlook.
UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in more than 50 regions and locations, with about 30% of its employees working in the Americas, 31% in Switzerland, 19% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 20% in Asia Pacific. UBS Group AG employs over 68,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
About State Street
State Street (NYSE: STT) is one of the world's leading providers of financial services to institutional investors including investment servicing, investment management and investment research and trading. With $42.6 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration and $3.9 trillion* in assets under management as of June 30, 2021, State Street operates globally in more than 100 geographic markets and employs approximately 39,000 worldwide. For more information, visit State Street's website at www.statestreet.com.
*Assets under management as of June 30, 2021 includes approximately $64 billion of assets with respect to SPDR® products for which State Street Global Advisors Funds Distributors, LLC (SSGA FD) acts solely as the marketing agent. SSGA FD and State Street Global Advisors are affiliated.
CMS is a global law firm with 77 offices across 43 countries world-wide. 4,800 CMS lawyers offer business-focused advice tailored to our clients’ needs, whether in their local market or across multiple jurisdictions. Our Singapore funds team is recognised as a Leading Firm for Investment Funds by Chambers and Legal 500, the two leading law firm directories. The same publications also recognise CMS Singapore as a Leading Firm in the Technology sector.
CMS Singapore has advised on some of the largest VCC fund launches in the market to date and we also advise an ever-increasing number of fund managers and institutional investors on the use and impact of disruptive technologies on their businesses.
About PwC Singapore
At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 155 countries with over 284,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com/sg.