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How Anton Casey is making life tough for arrogant expat bankers in Singapore



If you’re an expat banker in Singapore, you are strongly advised to keep a low profile over the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays – above all, avoid any behaviour that could mark you out as arrogant or out of touch with local Singaporeans.

Blame Anton Casey, a British wealth manager who works for boutique firm Crossinvest in Singapore. Casey is facing a torrent of online abuse this week from Singaporeans incensed about his offensive Facebook posts – which mock a “retard” taxi driver and the “poor people” who ride underground MRT trains – and his YouTube video, in which he lampoons his local critics for being raised “a wuss”.

His comments, for which he has apologised, are also ill-timed. They are helping to fuel the fire of anti-immigrant sentiment in wealthy Singapore, where foreigners make up about 40% of the population – a percentage second only to Dubai – and are sometimes derided for taking jobs away from locals. Anger boiled over into a rare public protest against government population-growth plans in February last year.

While protests and online anger often target the blue-collar workers who make up the largest chunk of the foreign population (tensions have been recently enflamed by striking Chinese bus drivers and rioting South Asian workers), rich expats routinely come under fire when one of their number breaks the law or behaves badly.

In the minds of some Singaporeans, the words “expat” and “arrogant” go hand in hand. And since the rogue-trading days of Nick Leeson in the mid-1990s, Western financial professionals like Casey have played their part in forging this expat stereotype. Swiss national Juerg Buergin, a former UBS executive director, was sentenced in May last year to four months and three weeks in prison for having sex with an underage prostitute in Singapore. In 2011 stockbroker Robert Dahlberg, a New Zealander, receive five months jail after a boozy brawl with a taxi driver.

In Casey’s case, the angry local backlash on social media and news websites has even included death threats. “It’s sometimes challenging being an expat here when some idiot banker acts like this – you have to fend off some flack,” says an expat wealth-management headhunter in Singapore. “And the death threats are an equally idiotic overreaction. But I wouldn’t treat them too seriously – crazy stuff gets said online in the US and UK too, but at least in Singapore nobody will act on it. Singapore’s still a much safer, more welcoming place that many of the Western countries that expats call home.”

The recruiter adds: “The majority of foreign wealth management professionals in Singapore don’t moan to me about living here and they don’t act arrogantly either. But guys like Casey give all us expats a bad name, especially at a time when some locals are blaming foreigners for population growth and rising living costs. It plays right into current prejudices.”

So why would Porsche-driving Casey, who’s lived in Singapore for 11 years, is married to a former Miss Singapore and lives in exclusive Sentosa Cove, want to denigrate the country where he’s made his millions? “When you get used to certain social status you then sometimes segregate yourself from others through materialism and by having different values,” says Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre in Singapore. “Having such views in turn upholds your new status and strengthens your beliefs that you are better and richer than others. You’ve lost the common touch and you only focus on what is important to you – like money.”

Henry Chamberlain, an expert in organisational psychology and a former head of selection at Standard Chartered, says he has seen expat bankers act inappropriately in Asia because of the “discomfort or fear” they experience living in a country with different cultural values to their own. “It’s the so-called ‘stranger danger’ – when this happens, your natural biases are triggered and you may experience a range of reactions from discomfort to disgust. Extreme responses like Casey’s hint at more than just cultural prejudice; they indicate an attempt to belittle those who are different from him, possibly serving to make him feel better about himself.”

Foreign-based financial professionals, arrogant or not, are finding it tougher to secure jobs in Singapore – a country regarded before the financial crisis as a soft route into Asia, offering low taxes and sun-drenched lifestyles. Banks are under political pressure to employ more locals and from August employers must advertise locally for two weeks, for jobs paying less than S$144k, before they can hire foreigners.

More fundamentally, say recruiters in Singapore, the local financial talent pool is expanding and Singapore’s status as a regional financial hub means Asian client networks and language skills are increasingly important. “I was getting seven or eight applications a week from overseas private bankers two years ago; now I hardly get any – people have cottoned on that their skills aren’t wanted,” says the wealth management headhunter.

Employment prospects are decidedly better for expats already ensconced in the city state. “If you’re working in wealth management already, you have a range of options,” says the headhunter. “But perhaps not for Casey. He may be let go because of this outburst – his clients won’t like the publicity. Unfortunately, his chances of finding work elsewhere are diminished too – it’s a small WM community and some employers might not want to take a risk on him now.”

Crossinvest has condemned Casey’s remarks and launched an investigation.

Not all of the local reaction to Casey’s rant has been of the serious, scathing or deathly sort. Local bar Tuckshop has created a special happy hour in his honour, offering him a special S$120 rate for a pint of beer.


Comments (16)

  1. A couple of observations:

    ‘above all, avoid any behaviour that could mark you out as arrogant or out of touch with local Singaporeans’.

    I find the 60% local Singaporean population highly status aware, and often happy to thrust the symbols of their wealth and status in others’ faces. I’m unclear why the other 40% (like this wealth manager) are meant to follow a different, more humble and pious social code.

    From the little I’ve seen I don’t think Casey was trying to belittle anyone. You don’t become the father of a handicapped child and seek to belittle those less fortunate than your own circle. I saw some of the comments he made on Facebook. These were in private, and to friends.

    What few people seem to care to consider is that they were jokes; you know, light-hearted throw-away witty asides, shared amongst friends, and nothing more, and this discreet privacy got invaded, exploited, and became global news. I wonder what the Facebook comments of some Singaporeans living abroad might look like, if anyone cared to look, and seek to portray them out of context.

    In future how many talented people that SG needs and wants, are now going to say ‘Singapore, move there, you must be joking!’, and simply consider elsewhere regional location, as a result of this whole affair?

  2. “While protests and online anger often target the blue-collar workers who make up the largest chunk of the foreign population”

    Just wanted to point out that Singaporeans are actually unhappy about the amount of foreign white collar workers, not the blue collar ones. Most of us recognize that blue collar jobs(bus drivers, service industry, construction work) aren’t roles that Singaporeans are willing to do, as most have at least a diploma/degree.

    When your country is made up of 40% foreigners, you’ll be equally unhappy too. Before these we were a pretty friendly and welcoming to foreigners.

    In response to Will, if a Chinese wealth banker living in the UK made such posts and remarks on his facebook, wouldn’t it cause a commotion either? I don’t understand how you can even think of it as a joke, calling people who take public transport ‘poor’ is no where near a “light-hearted joke”, as you so claim.

    Besides, everyone knows in this day and age whatever you post on facebook is no longer personal- your boss, company etc judges you on it.

    Yes singaporeans were extreme with their reactions, esp the death threats(if its true). But you don’t need to be a genius to see that with all the unhappiness and resentment brewing, its not the smartest thing to express your opinion of the locals in the country you work in on social media.

  3. To Will:
    Sorry to disappoint you, but Singapore neither NEEDS nor WANTS “talent” like this.
    Maybe the UK or any other Western country can take the Anton Caseys of the world back.
    Since that is your idea of a joke or light-hearted “witty” aside.

  4. “Not all of the local reaction to Casey’s rant has been of the serious, scathing or deathly sort. Local bar Tuckshop has created a special happy hour in his honour, offering him a special S$120 rate for a pint of beer.”

  5. I see where Will’s coming from. As usual Singapore unfortunately acted like the spoilt geek in the playground on this. It should have said: “Tut tut, you’re an arrogant and sad man. What a shame you have to make those comments.”
    Instead it forced a wooden apology from him, clearly not his own words, etc, and now the whole world has seen all this debacle magnify. No way would this have been the official state response in France, Germany, US, UK, Aus etc. (Similar to what Sing did with the Mainland Chinese student who criticized Sing ‘dogs’ etc. In this case, why not ask WHY did he make those comments? Something pushed him to the edge about certain Sing people he had had bad experiences with etc, so why not actually try and understand what he was criticizing instead of throwing in a cluster bomb?).
    I also agree these were his personal ‘joke’ comments, nothing to do with anyone else and they were leaked. So many wealthy Singaporeans would say and feel the same way; materialism is unfortunately the religion there… count the Ferraris and Maseratis.
    So yes, he’s an idiot and doesn’t seem the nicest of individuals, but I think Singapore could have once again played this type of thing far more cleverly instead of making such a show of it as usual.

  6. Those who think they are “rich” superficially, are “poor” deep inside !

  7. Lesson #1: Facebook friends are not really friends. If you can’t say something to a stranger face-to-face, PLEASE DON’T POST IT ON FACEBOOK! Duh!

  8. Thank God that Anston Casey have “dumped” himself into Australia (out of Singapore).

    Guess what he took economy class ticket. OMG. How come he too the poor means which Singaporean have taken. Perhaps he went there cause he is going from one poor place to another taking reference to Anston Casey.

    Those in Australia, do check out Anston Casey as he might be up to his usual self again.

  9. You’d be a fool (either that, or the man himself… or one of his paid sympathizers because he wouldn’t apologize like a real man) if you think that the man made some comments purely as “jokes”. Have you ever been in the same restaurant before as this guy… and seen how he abuses the wait staff? Then you tell me if this guy doesn’t have a bigot problem.

    Also: what “handicapped child” are you talking about? still hiding behind your family instead of wussing up? The kid looks perfectly fine in the picture of him in the train. And as for how he looks in the video… well, gasp, that just shows how he has been taught (oh, the child abuse!) racism! See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cp8kCvDNhIg&google_comment_id=z13kcho5erqqxpvk322ewpk5rkuktjmaj04. Scroll down to read Casey Kwan’s comment, which I shall reproduce here for your benefit:

    “Many naive Singaporeans are either misunderstood that Anton Casey’s son is a retard or that he is an innocent kid who was dragged into the ordeal…
    Im not saying its right to bring the kid into this “flaming” but for those who have not been exposed to Racism practices in US or UK – The “funny face” his kid is making is the common “Chink Look” by racists which was supposed to depict Asians as having buck teeth and small eyes… Wake up guys… Some of you act all self righteous to protect the kid while others thought he has down syndrome… U have been fooled!”

    SpadeObservations Reply
  10. Will and the others like you .. you are no better than Anton with zero sensitivities for the locals .. i suggest you start living in a HDB and experience the stress and pressure of the everyday man before you get on your high horse and speil which smacks of condescension.

    Singapore as with HK is over the top with foreign talent and its high time that country adopts a hire local first and get rid of foreign talent recruiters whom hire their own kind first regardless of talent

  11. DEAR WILL, your comments reflects your jealousy and stupidity. I bet you have never really lived a Singaporean-life before. Travel to any countries in the world which are highly developed and rich such as Switzerland or Japan, you will know that it is very common for locals to walk around with chanels and LVs and to travel around with mercedes, BMWs or lambo. Why? Because luxuries are affordable for rich nations like Singapore. There’s no reasons not to enjoy luxuries when almost all the citizens are empowered with the ability to do so. It is within our comfort zone to spend SGD $5000 for chanel or the cheaper ones like SGD $2000 for LVs. The truth is 90% of Singaporeans can afford luxuries with comfort and ease. It is very easy. I came from a middle class family in Singapore. My family drives a Volk, live in HDB, tour Europe twice a year, loves to splurge in Asia. My mum and sisters are happy to have several gucci, LVs, chanel, hermes and student-brands like coach. This is Singapore. It is normal to walk around with brands. No Singaporeans will be jealous to see others with brands because everyone already has their stocks of luxury brands to play with. Singaporeans appreciate brands – be it bags, cars, watches, food or drinks. But I believe you don’t! Please don’t appear jealous and lousy in front of Singaporeans ok. Live it up, if you cannot then shut up, pack your bags, go back to your rathole!

  12. As a westerner I feel Anton Casey is an arrogant superficial individual who got what he deserved…

  13. Yep, some of these effin’ Westerners DO believe that Asians cannot possibly be “rich” and display ostentatious wealth. ‘cos that will shatter their make-believe fantasy of living the NEO-COLONIALIST LIFE here in Asia. Just like their racist half-baked forefathers did.

    Now I challenged these same pr1cks to call me racist.

  14. Hi all. I am new to this page. Just went in through the entire episode , read all the reactions and got enthused to say my portion a bit. It has been a month over I have landed here for a job. The best thing which I have experienced is starting from my boss to colleagues who are lower in rank than me all have accepted me as their own with big honest smile in their face. I sometimes have felt even my fellow countrymen have failed to come up to my expectations but not the local people for a single instance. I dont know how this gentleman has regarded Singaporeans. It reflects his upbringing. Actually he has not shamed himself. He has made his entire race down in front of the whole world and not Singapore alone. No matter howmuch we react, people of such nature are rare breeds and apprehensive to change. Let them be happy with their ideas and fantasise in their dreamy materialistic world. We know what we are. After all Australia is known down the ages for being a marooner’s island and their residents do try best to keep up that name.
    Regards to all.

  15. The Anton Casey case has just brought to a head a problem that has been developing over a decade . There have been more and more arrogant and socially ignorant expats , largely coming from the financial sectors , and who probably could not make it in their own countries .
    As a retiree, whose family is Singaporean , I am disgusted by the attitudes of the new expats , their quality has been going down for over a decade . If the government had sized its industry and commerce , to its population , and educated citizens in a wide range of professions , they would not need so-called foreign talent . They keep boasting they have the worlds best education system , then why need foreign talent ?
    Unfortunately the spoilt brat expat syndrome is not unique to Singapore , travel around a have a look in other countries , the problem is there also .

  16. Wow..I may be relocating to Sing..Some baggage here, both local and foreign that is not unique. Seen it everywhere i have worked…22 yrs with same firm.. You folks don’t represent the masses on either side. Your whiners and complainers and biggots for the most part, and have nothing better to do than whine on a silly website. I’m hear by accident doing some research on my relocation. I have seen you in Japan, in Seoul, in Hong Kong and in NYC too. Same miserable bigots. It’s 2016. Learn to get along folks.. You have no choice. I am a CULTURAL racist. Im immune to color / race / religion or “gender identification” or other such nonsense. I judge people by one simple rule.. Are you an A$$..le. because they do come in all colors, races, and religions. I will be a guest, and always a guest and that carries special responsibilities to be a good neighbor and a tolerent temporary citizen to those who are hosting me. Period… Oh and by the way.. that clown CASEY IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE of me as a person, a color, or an occupation. If I saw him behave like in the manner I read anywhere near me.. it would have quickly been over. No internet brag. Equally, I would expect that people would not lump me in with that clown. And a Porsche.. is just a car for x sakes. I have one melting into the concrete back in the world. WHO CARES? jobs and business cards and cars and bags don’t define people.. Those who think they do are…CASEYS.. and those who feel threatened…should be HAPPY THEY ARE NOT THAT CLOWN. Hot local GF.. So What? Look at the guy..he’s no catch in any universe…so she cannot be far behind.. END OF STORY.

    I never really think all that hard about what color people are or what hand bags they carry. Live folks… enjoy life. Wear an LV on your head if you want to, and if anyone has a problem with that…so what..I don’t imagine it’s illegal and certainly not dangerous…and if you can’t afford one.. so what, its just a bag! Substitute in a little happiness. Treat the garbage man the same as anyone else..IF you can afford a housekeeper.. YOU DON’T OWN her anymore than your boss owns YOU. This stuff is not hard, work hard and you just might catch a break… sit around an whine.. and you WONT. If you are blessed with fortune…You should be the nicest, most considerate, least combative personality in the world….as you have it made man! its called CLASS. Weakest characters in the world are those with means who abuse those below them, and those below who cry all day at those who may just have worked a little harder than you. If they didn’t, it’s incumbent on the rest of us who did..to show some CLASS, and put those clowns in their place.. Like this guy Casey if what I read was accurate.

    I have lived in many places, and not once did I take anyone’s JOB…quite the opposite. I bring in a foreign specialization that adds new product to my long standing Sing. office. We work together.. and by boss.. is Singaporean, not that give a cr@p. I know him. Good, smart guy.

    I just wasted 30 minutes of life on this. What a waste Reply

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