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FROM THE EDITOR About Us
AUDITED CIRCULATION: 22,265 ONLINE READERSHIP: 215,000 monthly uniques through Google Analytics The Singapore Business Review is the highest circulating and best read business magazine in Singapore. Our annual online readership has 2.1 million unique hits, according to Google Analytics. We won the Business Trade Media of the Year Award at the 2017 MPAS Awards. Do reach out to us if you would like us to tell your story to our readers via print & online advertising or events. Publisher & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Tim Charlton production editor Genelie Sta.Ana-De Leon GRAPHIC ARTIST Elizabeth Indoy ADVERTISING CONTACT Rochelle Romero email@example.com
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This is the seventh year that we are rounding up the hottest start ups in Singapore. Fintech is still the overlord of the start up scene. Our annual report found out that there’s a significant jump in average total funding raised by start ups from last year’s $3.2m to this year’s $5.23m. Interestingly, some start ups have also tapped the crypto-space for funding through initial coin offering (ICOs). In fact, one of our featured start ups raised $10m in one funding round. Speaking of ICOs, it’s boom time for this new and highly technical means of fundraising in Singapore. We interviewed industry experts to find out the good, the bad and the ugly side of ICOs. More importantly, we digged deeper into its future as the new lifeblood for start ups seeking to raise financing. Meanwhile, our annual investment banking review reveals that Singapore-domiciled companies tapping the equity capital markets raised $6.9b so far as of mid-December 2017, a 44.0% rise in proceeds compared to 2016, reaching four-year highs. IPOs by Singaporean companies in domestic and overseas stock market also bolstered activity, raising $4.2b as of mid-December, up 52.7% from the year-ago proceeds, as the number of IPOs climbed by nearly half. Overall, analysts forecast a good year for investment banking, but they are also sending out warning signals that investment banks in the region still need to be wary of the rising costs and eroding customer trust that are hounding the industry as a whole.
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Cover Story Fintech still dominates this year’s list
Financial insight Singapore taps into regional deal hunger
INDUSTRY INSIGHT ITS BOOM TIME FOR SINGAPORE’s ICOs
08 Robots at your service in Singapore
22 Are Singapore VCs losing out
32 Legaltech will revolutionise
Singapore’s law firms
09 A good year for Singapore’s banks
24 The digitalisation saga of Singapore
38 Singapore’s top insurers step up
10 New club not for your grandfather
banks: What’s next after the boom?
insurtech game in 2018
12 Will the Singapore Exchange
14 Singapore banks raise their digital
delisting deluge abate in 2018?
26 Economy Watch
Published Bi-monthly on the Second week of the Month by Charlton Media Group 101 Cecil St. #17-09 Tong Eng Building 2 SINGAPORE SingaporeBUSINESS 069533 REVIEW | MARCH 2018
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Property market optimism could lead to overheating: analysts
Singtel’s non-traditional segments eat up 10% of revenue
ComfortDelGro’s Lion City Holdings acquisition to boost profits by 5%
Analysts warn that despite the optimism, Singapore’s en bloc fever and rising land prices could lead to the property market’s instability. Firstly, the intense competition for en bloc deals has driven land prices higher. According to RHB Research, bids are factoring in a 10-40% appreciation in property prices assuming developers achieve their typical profit margin of 10-15%.
Singtel is considered the “digital leader” amongst Asian telcos, because of the growth of its nontraditional services, DBS said in a sector report. It scored 77 for its DBS’ framework for telcos, significantly higher than StarHub and M1, which scored 62 and 32, respectively. DBS said Singtel’s revenue from nontraditional should comprise about 15% of total revenue by 2020.
ComfortDelGro Corporation Ltd’s (CDG) acquisition of Uber’s car rental subsidiary, Lion City Holdings (LCR), could boost its 2018 net profit by up to 5%, brokerage firm UOB Kay Hian said. It could raise its falling driver retention rate and defend its market share. “We view the tie-up positively and see it as a necessity,” said UOB Kay Hian analyst Thai Wei Ying.
Singapore’s brands love zero-budget marketing, here’s why BY CHRIS REED Zero budget marketing took hold in Singapore in 2017 and will run rampant in 2018. Why? Because it works. If you look at more traditional brands like retail giant Zara, they spent zero money on media and yet everyone shops in their stores. How do they do this? They deliver products people want. They analyse trends, they look at what people want, they listen and they constantly change their product range.
E-sports: the new playing field for advertisers in Singapore? BY MICHAEL JAMES RICH With the global e-sports market forecast to hit US$1.5b in the next three years, Singapore is in a unique position to be a hub for this rapidly growing ecosystem. More than 5 percent of the country’s online population now play e-sports, and Singapore’s Online Gaming Association has just launched the first ever e-sports academy where ambitious gamers can train in the hopes of going professional.
MOST READ COMMENTARY Smart ICO guidelines could put Singapore on the path to becoming the world’s first ‘crypto-hub’ BY ANDREW AU Two announcements from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) at the end of 2017 defined the challenges cryptocurrencies pose. MAS announced a series of guidelines designed to regulate the currency, specifically Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), laying the groundwork for further growth in this area. Yet not long after, MAS issued a warning, cautioning against investments.
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Co-published corporate profile
Be on top of your changing needs with lifetime protection AIA Singapore’s new all-in-one investment-linked plan is designed to help you through life’s biggest milestones.
hat should you expect when you’re expecting? The AIA Parenthood and Protection Study 2017 shows that almost seven in 10 mums-to-be grapple with pregnancy jitters, particularly as more women are now conceiving later in life. The study showed that 70% of soonto-be mums are worried that their child will be born with birth defects. 65% of respondents also feared that their child will face developmental and learning disorders when they grow up. The number of women conceiving in their 40s has doubled over the past three decades. More couples are also turning to assisted reproductive technology to conceive, with more than a 20% increase between 2012 and 2015 alone. To help expecting parents overcome these fears, AIA Singapore has launched the AIA Pro Lifetime Protector, an all-in-one investment-linked plan (ILP). The plan has three distinctive riders—the AIA Child Critical Cover, the AIA Double Critical Cover, and the AIA Baby Protector. From as low as S$61a day, policyholders will receive comprehensive coverage for death, disability2, and multi-stage critical illness.5 Policyholders also have the option to reduce their coverage and focus on wealth accumulation in later years. The plan also provides guaranteed protection for the first 10 years no matter how your investments perform 3.
Lifelong protection AIA Singapore is serious about our commitment to help families in Singapore get adequately covered, and we will not shy away from the challenge of developing innovative insurance plans to address the needs of our community. With AIA Pro Lifetime Protector, we want young families to be on top of their changing needs with lifetime protection and be empowered to live life confidently. Together, we can bridge Singapore’s S$462 billion protection gap4. The AIA Child Critical Cover is the first and only in Singapore to cover all three developmental conditions, namely autism, dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This rider provides
coverage for a child’s treatment across an extensive list of 25 child medical conditions until the age of 21. The AIA Child Critical Cover rider can also be converted into a lifelong plan, providing the child guaranteed coverage through adulthood. Meanwhile, the AIA Double Critical Cover provides the highest early critical illness coverage of S$350,000. It is first in the market to provide multi-stage coverage and allows policy holders to claim multiple times, thanks to its standout ‘Power Reset’ feature. This means that the critical illness coverage amount becomes fully restored to 100% after 12 months have passed from the previous claim, allowing policyholders to make multiple claims for 104 critical illnesses and 5 special conditions, at the early, intermediate and critical stages of up to 200% of the coverage amount. The AIA Baby Protector which provides Singapore’s highest cover for an expectant mother and her unborn child including 10 pregnancy complications and 23 congenital illnesses, is available exclusively through the AIA Mum2Baby bundle. Coverage starts from as early as 13 weeks into the pregnancy – from the point of inception for up to three years. The AIA Mum2Baby bundle is a two-in-one plan comprising AIA Pro Lifetime Protector and AIA Baby
Protector. AIA is the only insurer that does not impose birth weight restriction for premature babies admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The bundle gives both the expectant mum and baby S$10,000 coverage against 10 pregnancy complications and 23 congenital illnesses6, respectively. It also provides a S$200 daily hospital care benefit due to various pregnancy and birth complications (up to 30 days). AIA was the first insurer in Singapore to insure IVF pregnancies. It now also covers other assisted reproductive technologies. Customers are not expected to pay more premiums for such pregnancies which are prone to higher risks. Additionally, the plans’ coverage can be subsequently transferred from mother to child within 60 days of birth, ensuring guaranteed coverage from birth through to adulthood – regardless of the baby’s health, and concurrently providing an investment solution that can help grow the child’s future education fund. Derived from the premium based on a 30-year-old male, non-smoker, who purchases AIA Pro Lifetime Protector with Total Disability Accelerator and Double Critical Cover rider of S$100,000 coverage amount. 2 Coverage for total and permanent disability will end at age 70. 3 Your policy and any unit deducting riders will not lapse for the first 10 years regardless of investment performance, as long as all regular premiums are fully paid and no withdrawals have been made. 4 LIA_Protection_Gap_Study_2012 http://www.lia.org.sg/ system/files/news/2012/08/LIA_Protection_Gap_Study_2012_ MediaRelease_3Aug12.pdf 5 For the list of covered conditions, please refer to the respective product summaries. The AIA Double Critical Cover rider will terminate upon payment of 200% of the coverage amount. 6 This benefit will only be paid once. Once a claim is paid, this benefit will terminate. 1
‘AIA Mum2Baby’, a two-in-one plan comprising AIA Pro Lifetime Protector and AIA Baby Protector. AIA Singapore is the only insurer that does not impose birth weight restriction for premature babies admitted into the NICU
“From as low as S$61 a day, policyholders will receive comprehensive coverage for death, disability2, and multistage critical illness.5” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
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EASB East Asia Institute of Management (EASB) is a four-year EduTrust certified private education institution. We offer Diploma, Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, and MBA programmes. Major disciplines include Hospitality and Tourism Management, Business Management, Accounting, Banking & Finance, Medical Bioscience, and many more. For more information, visit www.easb.edu.sg
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
SCCE Over 3,600 compliance professionals around the world have already come to an SCCE Basic Compliance and Ethics Academy to master the fundamentals of managing a compliance and ethics program. The Academy provides three and a half days of classroom-style training, and class size is limited to facilitate interaction amongst the attendees and with the faculty. Learn from experienced practitioners and prepare for the Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional-International (CCEP-I)® exam, which is optional and is offered at the conclusion of the Academy. Join us on 10-13 July for this once-ayear event in Singapore.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on EVENTS AND ADVERTISING
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) organises a series of clinics on the Tripartite Standards (TS) to assist organisations understand what the TS initiative is about, so as to help them adopt and implement the various standards that have been launched to date. For more information about the Tripartite Standards Clinics, visit tafep.sg or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
kaplan singapore Ranked by JobsCentral as the number one Preferred Private Education Institution consecutively in 2012 and 2013, and by AsiaOne People’s Choice Awards in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015, Kaplan Higher Education provides full-time and part-time diplomas, bachelor’s and master’s degrees to individuals looking to pursue careers in various fields. For more information, visit www.kaplan.com.sg
Weâ€™ve helped over 10 0 leading global food and beverage brands build market share. In the food distribution business, Auric is a leading player in Singapore and Malaysia. With our extensive warehousing and distribution penetration, Auric has a direct network of over 8,500 customers and over 100 principals/suppliers. More than just a goods distributor, Auric is involved in a diverse range of businesses, which include food manufacturing, marketing and retailing, as well as food court management. Auric has its own arsenal of iconic consumer brands. This includes SCS, Singapore and Malaysiaâ€™s No. 1 selling butter brand; Sunshine, the first commercially baked bread in the region, with a history spanning over 85 years; Buttercup, Singapore and Malaysiaâ€™s No. 1 selling blended spread; Food Junction; one of the earliest branded food courts in Singapore; and Delifrance, known in Southeast Asia to be the first to introduce cafe-style dining.
FIRST away from their human counterparts, Jeno and Jena support them by doing repetitive tasks and leaving their colleagues to focus on specialised interactions with guests. “Technology will help us revisit and realign our job scopes: the ordinary tasks to autonomous robots, automated machines, and artificial intelligence will allow human colleagues to work on more complex tasks and interact face-to-face with guests,” Sekercioglu said.
ultra rich’s wealth transfer habits
When Singapore’s high net worth individuals, or HNWIs, were asked whether they have a full wealth transfer plan in place, only around a fifth answered in the affirmative, notably lower than the Asia-wide average of around a third. In fact, Singapore’s HNWIs are the least prepared when it comes to having comprehensive wealth transfer plans amongst all Asian countries surveyed, according to RBC Wealth Management’s new Asia Pacific Wealth Transfer Report. This rings alarm bells for wealth management experts who warn that simply having a will in place may no longer be adequate preparation for HNWIs. Tho Gea Hong, head of wealth management Southeast Asia at RBC Wealth Management, explained that with HNW families spreading their wings to take advantage of opportunities around the world, their wealth may be spread across multiple jurisdictions or they may have inheritors living in different countries. This tends to complicate the transfer of wealth since transferring crossborder assets is not as straightforward as onshore assets. “Many are delaying putting in place a proper plan as it is not as straightforward and they do not have precedent knowledge on how to structure it. Some also avoid it as they do not want to think about their eventual demise.”said Hong. The report also noted that a higher percentage of HNW Singaporeans—60% compared to 36% in Asia—also have no conditions attached to the transfer of wealth. Hong said Singapore’s relatively high percentage mirrors more closely to the West, where 74% of families do not have any conditions attached to the transfer of wealth. Singapore respondents also do not make the next generation aware of their wishes and plans for transferring their wealth. Hong said this could leave Singaporean heirs “somewhat adrift” when the time comes to transfer wealth, so early discussions often prove beneficial. 8
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Jeno is equipped with advanced sensors that allow him to navigate the hotel corridors without stumbling
Robots at your service in Singapore hotels
hen guests met Jeno and Jena, the newest staff at two Hotel Jen properties in Singapore, they found the service to be efficient and surprisingly pleasant—a compliment that would have made the employees blush, if only they were not one-metre-tall autonomous robots. “The robot is friendly and a nice surprise when guests are being received at the door,” said Cetin Sekercioglu, executive vice president of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which manages the Hotel Jen brand. “It appeals to our guests as the robots’ characters are created such that they’re not only a team member but also friendly, helpful, and hardworking.” Jeno and Jena can ride the lift, bring meals any time of the day, and make room calls to alert guests when they arrive with their deliveries. Advanced sensors also mean they do not stumble en route to their destinations. It was a welcome bonus that the robots also promised to boost worker productivity and shave costs in the long run. Sekercioglu argued that instead of taking work
Jeno and Jena can ride the lift, bring meals any time of the day, and make room calls to alert guests when they arrive with their deliveries.
Bots at your service Aside from Jeno and Jena, other Singapore hotels have also rolled out their robotic staff last year. M Social Singapore offers robot butler service and its AUSCA restaurant has a robot chef that cooks perfect eggs. Meanwhile, Park Avenue Rochester Hotel has a robot bellhop and housekeeper duo. Yotel Singapore and Sofitel Singapore City Centre were also reported to be fielding interactive robots with delivery and butler functions in the near future. Singapore hotels are fielding robots not only for their task precision but also for the novelty factor to attract the millions of additional inbound tourists set to visit the city-state over the next decade. In 2017, Singapore was the fourth most visited city in the world with 16.6 million visitors, and is expected to overtake London as the third-most visited city in the world by 2025, according to Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Rankings. When asked about the future of robotics in the hotel industry, Sekercioglu said it can only get better from this point, especially as robots expand their functionality in the coming years.
Jena can interact with guests and make room deliveries
FIRST to improve with three interest rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve expected on top of elements including competition and the rise in funding costs outside of Singapore operations.
DBS banks’ branch consultation pods
A good year for Singapore’s banks
ith OCBC putting in place safeguards and contingency measures to deal with the effects of the issues related with the oil and gas sector, Singapore banks look set for an upbeat rhythm in 2018, with profit margins on an upward trend on the back of rising interest rates and healthy loan growth. DBS Group Research mentioned that whilst Singapore banks have had a good run in 2017 with one of the best sector performances to date with collective appreciation at about 30%, the volatile
performance of the oil and gas sector have dented this positive outlook. However, valuations would likely drive up in 2018, according to DBS, with the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (SIBOR) rally kicking off, the recovery in the oil and gas sector at the tail end of 2017, a healthy loan portfolio that could be boosted further by the city-state’s relatively upbeat GDP growth at 3%, and the banks’ abilities to keep a clean asset quality trend. According to the DBS report, net interest margin will continue
Loan growth, on the other hand, is recovering and is expected to continue to do so in 2018 at a rate of about 7% to 8%.
Healthy loan growth Loan growth, on the other hand, is recovering and is expected to continue to do so in 2018 at a rate of about 7% to 8%. RHB Securities analyst Leng Seng Choon noted that recent activity in residential property en bloc sales is a contributor to loans expansion. Meanwhile,UOB and OCBC are set for a positive trajectory with OCBC having a sustained strong non-interest income franchise. On the other hand, UOB is underpinned by a recovery in the property market, given the bank’s share of property-related loans.
ASEAN banks: loan growth
Source: Companies, DBS Bank
The Chartist: Singapore beats HK, other global cities in housing affordability Owning a private home in Singapore has never been more attractive or easier, with Singapore private housing affordability improving to its best levels in two decades, said Eli Lee, head of strategy at Bank of Singapore. “Due to falling home prices over the last bear cycle and rising household income, housing affordability in Singapore has improved meaningfully since 2010, with the private home price-to-income ratio falling to 20 year lows,” he said. Singapore’s rising affordability makes it a compelling choice for home buyers compared to other major global cities. Lee said the likes of Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Sydney have seen their home prices and housing affordability worsen between 2010 to 2016. Meanwhile Singapore’s housing-to-income ratio fell to 4.8 from 7.3, whilst Hong Kong’s rose to 18.1 from 11.4.
SG private housing affordability has improved to best levels in 20 years
Sources: URA REALIS, Singstat, , Bank of Singapore estimates
Singapore’s housing-to-income ratio slump vs major peer cities
Sources: JLL , Bloomberg
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
FIRST Ambassador briefing Belgium
Belgium may be noted for its chocolates and being the de-facto capital of the European Union, but when it comes to economic relations with Singapore it is chemicals that dominate a trade relationship worth EUR 7 bn Euros. Belgian career diplomat Andy Detaille has been ambassador to Singapore since July 2017 but is no stranger to the region having started his career in Beijing in 1999. Singapore feels a bit like his homeland of Belgium, according to Detaille, in that they are both gateways to their respective regions (ASEAN and the EU), thanks to the highly developed ports and airports and the importance of the Singapore port for the region. Partner in trade In 2015-2016 total exports from Belgium to Singapore grew to 1.556 billion Euros (+ 19,6 %) whilst exports from Singapore to Belgium were stable at 5.572 billion, resulting in 4.4016 billion euros trade surplus for Singapore. The most important export product from Singapore to Belgium are chemicals (86,2 %), Belgian exports to Singapore are also mostly chemicals (30,8%) followed by machinery and equipment (12,4%) and diamonds (12,2%). The increased exports from Belgium are mainly due to the fact that the European economy is picking up in 2016, with even better figures for 2017. Interestingly both Flanders with Brussels as its Capital and Wallonia have their have their own trade commissioners here in Singapore. Another interesting fact is that Jurong island plays host to 3 major (Flemish) Belgian groups; DEME for dredging, Katoen Natie for logistics and Seghers for waste management (later called Keppel Seghers because it was taken over by the Singapore Keppel group). Singaporean companies interested in exploring opportunities with Belgium can contact the Belgian Luxembourg Business group (www.blbg.org.sg). 10
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
New club not for your grandfather It is often said that great minds think alike, but for the founder of Club 1880, Singapore’s newest elite club, it is in their differences where the real magic happens. March Nicholson along with other co-founders established Club 1880 as a place where he hopes members will interact and engage in conversations that will impact society in a positive way. “Setting it apart is its unique formula of combining a social club and co-working space. It attempts to blur the line between work and life by seamlessly integrating the two concepts within its premises.” For Nicholson, Club 1880 is more than just your typical members club or hobby group. His team focuses on curating a diverse community of members that are creative and passionate, and not necessarily in agreement in their worldview. “I have lived in Asia for 14 years and met many fascinating people purely by chance. Unfortunately, I have never found a conducive environment for them to gather, which was one of the reasons behind my creating 1880,” he said, adding that he had grown up in a household where his parents organised salons where one’s opinions and beliefs were challenged.
Interiors of Club 1880
Hoping to recreate this experience in Singapore, the founder said Club 1880’s membership is by-invitationonly and those who hope to join will need to exhibit a handful of character traits such as curiosity, integrity, creativity, individuality and authenticity. After passing the selection process, members receive access to a selection of exclusive privileges in a curated list of hotels, restaurants, spas, members’ Club 1880’s membership is clubs, luxury products and services by-invitation- worldwide. Members will also be able to pick only and those their preferred activities from an events who hope to join will need calendar packed with intellectual salons, DJ-led parties, wellness talks and to exhibit a cocktail workshops, amongst others. handful of Nicholson recounted past events such character as an auction of 1880’s most interesting traits such personalities, a salon on North Korea as curiosity, featuring people who have visited the integrity, country sharing their experiences. “I am creativity, interested in providing access to great individuality minds to invoke stimulating discourse and and positive change.” said Nicholson. authenticity.
Mobile App Watch
TravelerBuddy adds expense management feature TravelerBuddy’s all-in-one travel management platform offers a way to automatically generate travel itineraries that can be synchronised and shared with colleagues and clients, receive real-time flight alerts, and automatically process and store forwarded booking confirmations and invoices for business trips. Singapore-based Juerg Kaufmann, CEO of TravelerBuddy shared that the app was borne out of his own frustration about the difficulties whilst traveling and the insight that there is no one platform that can serve their complex needs as travelling executives. Recently, an integrated expense management tool was also added to the features which allows for a consultant user to just snap photos of additional receipts and invoices and add them to the trip for future viewing and printing in one single attachment, making reimbursement filing easier and error-free.
Philippe P. Graeppi and Juerg Kaufmann, founders
Will the Singapore Exchange delisting deluge abate in 2018?
hen Global Logistics Properties (GLP) announced its delisting from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) following a privatisation deal led by the consortium Nesta Investment Holdings, it was part of a delisting wave that has been running since 2016 and has shaved off billions in market value from the exchange. But a robust IPO pipeline in 2018 should help replenish that lost value, according to analysts, with issuers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region leading the way and innovations by SGX giving it an edge over rival platforms. “The pipeline for 2018 IPOs by ASEAN issuers looks healthy, with total proceeds raised set to increase if the region’s economies hold up and the capital markets remain conducive,” said Max Loh, EY Asean and Singapore managing partner at Ernst & Young LLP. “The active sectors are likely to include real estate, consumer-facing industries, and technology.” Loh said SGX will need to innovate to remain competitive as a Pan-Asian listing destination amidst aggressive bids for listings in the region from other international exchanges and the continued abundance of cross-border deals in 2018. He noted that the exchange is continuing to build its
niche strengths in the consumer product and REIT sectors and change its rules to better accommodate the listings of digital companies. “SGX, like any other business, will need to be nimble and agile, innovate and embrace disruptive change to be at the forefront in providing value to its stakeholders,” Loh said. Silver lining from fintech start ups Romaine Jackson, head of South East Asia at Dealogic, said one of the key themes in 2018 will be financial technology startup listings, which could also extend into 2019. “‘Will Alibaba look to Singapore in view of dual listing change for subsidiaries instead of Hong Kong or New York?’ is a question on everybody’s mind,” said Jackson, citing the SGX’s move to allow dual listings. Jackson said the dual listing change could be a game changer in favour of SGX, since it “ups the ante on some upcoming technology IPOs that would have gone to Hong Kong. Dual-class shares have a lot of promise in Asia, which hosts many technology startups and family-run companies, where founders want to preserve control.” Genting Hong Kong has announced it would be exiting the exchange in April this year, reportedly explaining that focusing
GLP announced its delisting this January
on a single primary listing in Hong Kong will raise its visibility among North Asian investors, improve the stock’s liquidity, and cut costs from having to maintain the listing in SGX, where it has not raised any funds in the last six years. Loh reckoned delisting is viewed as a strategic alternative by corporates, after taking into consideration the economic environment, the opportunity to extract value via delistings and privatisations, and a chance to consolidate and market accretive acquisitions. Jackson noted that the SGX can do a better job in curbing the delisting trend by making it easier for traders to collaborate and strike a deal, reducing risk of companies going to venture capital or debt markets, and reducing listing fees.
WeWork opens first Singapore coworking hub Another player joins the fray of coworking spaces at the heart of garden city with the opening of WeWork, the world’s largest coworking space provider. Located at beach centre, the space boasts of a perfect blend of art, utility, and productivity – all in close proximity to Singapore’s youthful downtown district. The space features 690 desks and open-air meeting places with ample natural light, splashed with pastel-colored walls and furniture. A stay at WeWork Beach Centre will be reminiscent of traditional Singaporean shophouses, with old storefronts, arched window frames, multicolored shutters, and concrete breeze blocks placed around the office. But the centerpiece of the glass building is its yellow main staircase, spanning WeWork Beach Centre’s three floors. In here, classic meets modern design. Its WeWork’s first venture into Southeast Asia, where residents are expected to increase WeWork’s 200,000-strong members found amongst 212 locations in 20 countries around the world. 12
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Credit Card Satisfaction Top Factors Impacting Credit Card Satisfaction in Singapore
PayNow has levelled the playing field between banks in Singapore
Singapore banks raise their digital game
Mobile Payments Linked to Credit Cards in Other Key Markets
Source: J.D. Power’s Credit Card Satisfaction Study
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
hen the Monetary Authority of Singapore estimated that financial institutions could see a 5% fall in income if they are slow to adopt new technologies, it served as yet another deterrent for banks to remain a digital laggard. Singapore banks are listening to the dire warnings, with executives revealing their digital initiatives this year to stay relevant to their customers. For DBS, staying one step ahead of fintech challengers meant establishing the world’s largest banking application programme service (API) developer platform delivered by a bank in 2017. The bank said the API platform, which includes more than 150 APIs, will boost its ability to innovate digital solutions for clients, from fund transfers and rewards to real-time payments.“Banks will continue to innovate and get closer to the customers through their mobile devices as well as digitalise banking services wherever possible,” said Patrick Yap, CIO, Maybank Singapore, noting that one of Maybank’s latest innovations is launching the industry-wide mobile peer-to-peer fund transfer service PayNow. Meanwhile, the Association of Banks in Singapore is expected to extend PayNow to corporates and businesses in 2018, allowing customers to link their bank accounts
to one mobile number and one NRIC number and transfer funds to anyone. “Peer-to-peer funds transfer is now conducted in real time with PayNow and this has levelled the playing field between the banks in Singapore, regardless of size or branch distribution outreach,” said Maybank’s Yap.
The QR code and social media payments will also be in the spotlight in the coming year, increasing their traction in the digital space.
QR code and social media The QR code and social media payments will also be in the spotlight in the coming year, increasing their traction in the digital space. According to Dennis Khoo, regional head, digital banking, UOB, the QR code will take off in 2018 due to Singapore’s high digital penetration rates. He added that social media payments will see more innovation with the likes of PayKey where customers can basically pay from any social media site or any site at all using a keyboard. Tek Yew Chia, head, financial advisory services practice, KPMG Singapore, said that chief information officers, or CIOs, need to be in an “act fast mode” and create an environment to test new services and digital technology outside of the core banking system. According to Chia, this provides the freedom to iterate quickly and prove the effectiveness of a new service or system, before bringing that service into the main banking business.
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Superble incentivises the exchange of product reviews
uperble boasts of the first platform of its kind where consumers can connect with fellow consumers, share their product recommendations, and make money from discussions. Nicolo Robba, co-founder, Superble, said that their company is about helping people make the right purchasing decisions. The company was born when he and his friends consistently found it difficult to find the right information for products they wanted to buy. According to him, Superble incentivises the exchange of product recommendations and
experiences to make product discovery easier, more genuine, and well informed. “Furthermore, trusting vendors and sponsors (who are paid thousands of dollars by the brands) wasn’t something that we were really keen on. In South East Asia, it is extremely difficult to find genuine recommendations from other users, especially in lifestyle categories such as beauty, fitness, pets, moms, cooking, and others,” Robba added. With just a team of four, Superble manages to work with e-commerce giants Lazada and Amazon to direct quality traffic convertible at very high rates. Robba said that the decision to buy becomes much easier when people find the products on Superble, where the information consumers need is complete and where they are also ready to buy. To grow Superble’s visibility, Robba and his team ran unconventional initiatives on social media, allowing them to reach more than 20,000 followers in less than three months. Superble also ran various seminars with Singapore student clubs, generating more than 1,000 new members and 400 new products recommended.
Zave offers corporate services for SMEs valuation services, amongst others. The platform’s professional services lineup is slated to expand to include company incorporation and company secretary services by April, as well as cross-border support in other jurisdictions around the region starting later this year. “Given the core expertise of an SME and startup is usually not corporate services, it makes Zave is a one-stop shop platform that no sense to in-house these services,” said offers convenient and cost-effective tax Alan Schmoll, founder of Zave who, and accounting services for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It was previously was a director for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong. designed to address two pain points. Zave clients only need to enter The first is moving all communications their UEN (ACRA business registration of unstructured emails to structured number) and they will go through an workflow software, and second is entirely automated onboarding process. dashboarding for the company so they can see at a glance all of their important The platform’s bots can assess the size compliance dates, deadlines, registrations and type of company being onboarded and will create a tailored experience. and exemptions. Once the account is connected with The platform also ensures that its their own version of Xero, either a new SME clients are more fully supported or existing one, the client can start to through the startup’s partnerships with interact with the Zave team on various public accounting firms for highertasks from compliance tasks, to staff value services such as audit, M&A expenses and bills. advisory, and asset and company 16
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Making cryptocurrencies hip with Simple Token
From building loyalty points platforms to tokenising logistics companies, Simple Token has a simple goal: to popularise cryptocurrencies across the world’s automotive, medical, energy industries, and probably beyond. They aim to bring blockchain technology to mainstream businesses and enable these businesses to deploy their own branded crypto-backed token economies minus the legal, regulatory, and technology headaches. Jason Goldberg, CEO and founder of Simple Token said that this benefit will enable businesses to monetise user contributions and content, power peer-to-peer transaction, provide meaningful incentives and rewards, develop transparent loyalty programs, and unleash thousands of new monetisation and supply & demand possibilities. Launched in 2017, Simple Token came out of Pepo, a consumer app company founded in early 2016 by Goldberg and Sunil Khedar, co-founder of Simple Token. Pepo raised $3.7m in venture capital from Goldberg, and outside investors such as Tencent, Greycroft, 500 Startups, Vectr, and Correlation Ventures, the same investors who backed Simple Token. “In August 2017, after months of exploring Blockchain tokenisation for Pepo, our team became convinced that Simple Token was the more important long term challenge to solve rather than just working on Pepo. The only problem was that the company would need $1m of additional money to pursue Simple Token and an ICO,” Goldberg said. Goldberg and his longtime business partner Nishish Shah each loaned the company $500,000 to make the pivot possible, without any guarantees of it working out. Powering cryptocurrencies At present, Goldberg and his team are working with seven companies and talking to 50+ companies worldwide about using Simple Token to power cryptocurrencies for their digital communities rather than follow the challenging, costly and risky path of their own ICO to create a token with market value. Simple Token also recently held its public token sale to create a value for Simple Tokens and to fund the next phase of the project. Goldberg said that they achieved more than 90% of their target for the ICO in the first seven days of the sale, which ended on 1 December 2017.“For us, success would be when we have helped thousands of companies and millions of their customers embrace and benefit from blockchain,” he said.
Within the first seven years from 2010 since B+H Architects launched its regional design centre in Singapore, the company has been involved in projects from the region, including Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Maldives and Australia.
B+H Architects: building the future with virtual reality
Through immersive technology, B+H Architects can take clients to a walk-through of the spaces designed for them.
hen Karen Cvornyek first floated the idea of establishing a branch of the Canadian architecture firm in Singapore, she knew that it would take more than just persuasion to get buy-in from shareholders in Toronto. “The overall culture, values and risk appetite at the Canadian headquarters is still rather conservative,” she says, noting that her partners were extremely cautious on expanding in Asia. “I recognized the need to stay ahead of the curve to leverage on the first-mover advantage – before competitors enter similar markets which results in higher barriers and costs of entry,” she notes. This led her to adapt a three-pronged approach to mitigate business risk. “With the understanding that Singapore has a very established and sophisticated architectural and design profession, B+H is not here to compete head on with established Singaporean firms but to offer specialized services in this market such as Medical Planning and Healthcare architectural and interior design which we have done successfully on the Singapore Ministry of Health projects.” she said. In addition to sector-expertise match, she focused on forging synergistic partnerships with local firms to build up collaborative efforts at project wins and delivery. Lastly, investing in sector research and establishing the firm as innovative thought leader helped strengthen its business foundation for the long haul.
Within the first seven years from 2010 since B+H Architects launched its regional design centre in Singapore, the company has been involved in projects from the region, including Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, India, Maldives and Australia. Design innovation through state-of-art technology Through investments in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR & VR) technologies, B+H Architects creates exciting new opportunities for its clients to experience new spaces, as they exist in the design stage. “At B+H, we pursue design performance and innovation by fusing design with innovative technology to provide added value for our clients. As part of our initiative to engage our clients in the design process, we use a VR Sandbox. Through this immersive technology, we can take our clients through the spaces we’ve designed for them to experience how they would work, first-hand, before they’re even built. This set up also allows us to tweak design details from our clients’ feedback as they experience the space, in real time,” Cvornyek explains. “This type of technology allows us to
play in the space of possibilities. We’re also up-to-speed with the latest in building technology, which allows us to experiment with bold designs while using quantitative and qualitative data to help our clients make smart business decisions that make a positive impact on people,” she adds. More than ten nationalities make up our multicultural team of trained professionals here working on projects in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific, supported by a large production office in Ho Chi Minh City. Dedicated teams collaborate across timezones, languages and cultures to tailor strategies and approaches to suit client’s needs in different markets. Cvornyek was honoured as the Executive of the Year (Architecture) at the Management Excellence Awards. “I am very honoured to be recognized and want to share the success with all my partners and colleagues who have helped and believed in me. We aim to transform spaces, communities, and economies through an entirely new model of consulting. We’ll do this by combining strategic thinking, bold design, and advanced technology with the creative, human energy of an interdisciplinary and multigenerational team,” she says.
“As part of our initiative to engage our clients in the design process, we use a VR Sandbox.” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
FINANCIAL INSIGHT: INVESTMENT BANKING
Deal #1: warehouse operator Global Logistics Properties was sold to China Vanke and a Chinese private equity consortium for $11.5b
Deal #2: Singapore-listed logistics companY CWT was acquired by chinese company HNA Group for $2.1b
Singapore taps into regional deal hunger Despite the dealmaking momentum that looks set to accelerate,investment banks in the region still need to be wary of the rising costs and eroding customer trust that are hounding the industry as a whole.
ingapore-domiciled companies tapping the equity capital markets raised $6.9b so far as of midDecember 2017, a 44.0% rise in proceeds compared to 2016 and reaching four-year highs. Activity picked up during the second half of 2017, raising $5.8b compared to S$1.1b during the first half. IPOs by Singaporean companies in domestic and overseas stock market bolstered activity, raising $4.2b as of mid-December, up 52.7% from the year-ago proceeds, as the number of IPOs climbed by nearly half. In 2017, Singapore also saw a lot of interest from Chinese companies seeking opportunities to align with their government’s Belt and Road economic initiative, said Jan Bellens, global banking and capital markets deputy sector leader at EY. He said these included the sale of warehouse operator Global Logistics Properties to China Vanke and a Chinese private equity consortium for $11.5b, making it one of the biggest transactions in 2017. Other listed Singapore logistics companies sold to Chinese players last year include CWT, which was acquired by HNA Group for $2.1b. Aside from GLP and CWT, other notable privatisation deals in Singapore in 2017 were the acquisitions of Poh Tiong Choon Logistics and Cogent Holdings, according to Edmund Leong, head of group investment banking at United Overseas Bank. Bellens added that Japanese financial services players 18
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
2017 also saw one of the most active years in its bond market, with total issuance volume rising 30% year on year to about S$25b.
looking to expand in the region led to billion-dollar deals. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance acquired Singapore insurer First Capital Insurance for $6.1b, whilst Temasek is selling its majority 73.8% stake in Indonesia Bank’s Bank Danamon to Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ for an acquisition price that would reach $5.9b. 2017 also saw one of the most active years in its bond market, with total issuance volume rising 30% year on year to about S$25b, Leong said, citing Bloomberg data. He added that institutional investors, in search for better absolute yield, have been favouring longer-term bonds instead of the medium-term issuances that used to be more popular. Meanwhile, private banking investors have been selective in mid-cap issuances. “In their search for yield and as they continue to focus on high-grade bonds, both groups of investors have been generally open to subordinated debt in the form of corporate perpetual securities or bank capital issuances,” said Leong. “Issuers are also expected to take advantage of the relatively flat yield curve to issue bonds with longer maturities when they tap the debt markets.” IPOs by Singapore and regional ASEAN companies look set to rise on annual basis in 2018, according to Bellens, with particularly strong opportunities in real estate, consumer industries and technology. “We envision Singapore remaining the hub for IPO activity by ASEAN companies, although Hong Kong will provide some stiff
FINANCIAL INSIGHT: INVESTMENT BANKING competition as an alternative listing hub,” he said. Singapore’s investment banks will also benefit from the robust dealmaking confidence in the region. Bellens cited EY’s Asia-Pacific Capital Confidence Barometer survey released in November 2017, which showed 57% of AsiaPacific companies expect to actively pursue acquisitions in the next 12 months. Across the region, 56% of AsiaPacific companies expect deal completions to rise year on year and 52% forecast that the local M&A market will see improvements in 2018. Trends in investment banking UOB’s Leong said one major trend last year was the sale of businesses through trade sales, with a number of strategic buyers from China capitalising on the Belt and Road initiative, and private equity interest in Singapore-listed entities with strong management teams. “We believe this trend will continue given the abundant liquidity that private equity firms have raised for Asian investments and the strong interest in local companies with an established regional presence,” said Leong. The positive macroeconomic outlook for 2018 will help spur stronger activity in the capital markets and in M&A as companies increase their investments, capital expenditure and acquisitions, said Leong. He expects global equity markets to remain buoyant due to the lack of a hard landing in China, and robust consumer sentiment in the U.S. and China. Stable oil prices will also encourage oil majors to invest again following their deferment of capital expenditure in the last few years. Singapore’s equity market is expected to remain constructive for dividend plays, Leong said, with strong fundamentals and quality assets in industries with a consumer focus, including healthcare, education, food and beverage, technology and security. He explained that entrepreneurs looking to raise capital and private equity firms seeking exit opportunities will be drawn to the strong-performing equity market, with its corresponding higher valuation multiples. For Kim Kit Ow, partner at Bird and Bird ATMD, with the equity markets already being so high, there may be more investor interest in the high-yield debt capital markets space. “The emerging markets in and around our region would certainly benefit from this and parties that wish to raise money may take the opportunity to issue extended tenor bonds,” said Ow. “If there really aren’t that many Any singapore involvement announced M&A Top five target industry
Source: Thomson Reuters
Ho Kok Yong
Kim Kit Ow
other places for people to invest, then there may be some who will definitely flock to this space.” Ow noted that in 2017, uneasiness caused by Brexit and the new U.S. Presidency made many sit out of the bigger investment banking deals, moving instead with a lot of caution. But some of the dealmaking apprehension last year should also ebb as concerns over geopolitical risks lessen in 2018. The growth momentum at the tailend of last year should also be carried forward into 2018, said Ho Kok Yong, financial services industry leader at Deloitte Southeast Asia, noting that this will help equity transactions, particularly IPOs. The catch though is that amidst these growth opportunities, investment banks continue to face a barrage of challenges in costs, competition, and client value. Simply put, those that fail to start transforming their business to the new reality will find it hard to press an advantage. “The speed of transformational change in financial services will not slow down especially with digital innovation being the buzz word around. Customer expectations will continue to rise and investment banks which create value for their customers will thrive in 2018,” said Ho. Cost management and digitisation The client may be king, but cost management remains as a primary concern of investment banks. Bellens said investment banks have spent the recent years grappling with falling revenues whilst managing costs, which have risen due to a heightened need for regulatory compliance and legacy IT maintenance. Cost pressures continue to build up, as reflected in EY’s Investment Banking Quarterly report for the third quarter of 2017 which showed the average cost-toincome ratio for investment banks worsened year on year to 71.1% from 67.9%. “Consequently, investment banks in Asia-Pacific are maintaining a strict focus on managing noncompensation costs – such as legal and restructuring expenses – whilst looking to develop new operating models to leverage information technology (IT), partnerships and industry utilities to improve service and increase efficiencies,” said Bellens. Part of this strategy to innovate their operating model must involve upskilling employees. Bellens said investment banks should become more aggressive in chasing after top talent in IT to help them with their digitalisation initiatives, as well as in attracting hires in key growth sectors such as technology, media and telecoms (TMT). “Although investment banks and Singapore have been reducing headcount, there seems to have been a reversal of late as they selectively seek IT talent to help achieve their digitalisation objectives,” said Bellens. “They are also looking towards hiring to bolster their transaction advisory teams in the TMT sectors, as they prepare for more such listings in 2018.” Fintech collaborations must also be accelerated in order to stay one step ahead of more nimble rivals. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
FINANCIAL INSIGHT: INVESTMENT BANKING hong kong view
Singapore cross-border & domestic M&A
Hong Kong banks’ push for reforms
Source: Thomson Reuters
Bellens said fintechs are already encroaching on consumer banking and are expected to capture market share from investment banks, who need to push back by quickly finalising acquisitions of or collaborations with fintechs. Making better use of the financial ecosystem must be explored as well, which should become more manageable as investment banks strengthen the IT expertise amongst their ranks. For Ho, keeping up with the multitude of changes in the world, especially in the digital technology space, is a must to keep investment banks from being made obsolete. “Investment banks need to innovate and make use of new technologies to ensure that they remain relevant and competitive.” Restoring client trust Bellens reckoned that amongst the key areas of transformation “progressive” investment banks should focus on in the coming months, one of the most important ones is to put a concerted focus on clients’ needs such as how value will be added and how they will be served. “This is particularly important as millennials are rising to positions of influence and have less tolerance for poor conduct, low value add and out-dated service. We expect to see greater competition for customer retention in the future, given their high propensity to switch service providers,” he said. Client trust has eroded due to recent bad press involving scandals, fines and legal settlements, so Bellens said rebuilding client confidence is a top priority, and this means becoming more client-centric instead of productcentric. “They need to demonstrate true value to clients and retain the ability to innovate, yet also ensure they uphold risk management best practices and regulatory adherence.” Trying to be all things to all clients is also an outdated concept that should be shed for specialisation. Leong said it is vital for an investment bank to differentiate its offering from other deal managers in the market so that clients can identify the bank’s areas of expertise that meet the client’s corporate and financial needs. “These areas of expertise could range from structuring or underwriting capabilities to access to key decision makers, from distribution reach to cornerstone or anchor investors,” he said. 20
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Although investment banks and Singapore have been reducing headcount, there seems to have been a reversal of late as they selectively seek IT talent to help achieve their digitalisation objectives.
It was a “generally positive” year for the Hong Kong investment banking landscape in 2017, with Thomson Reuters data revealing announced M&A deals posted strong growth at 169% year on year to $113.6b on the back of larger average deal sizes and a modest rise of 6.7% in the number of deals. On the IPO front, EY research reveals that listings on the HK Exchange remained flat in 2017, at 72 IPOs for both 2016 and 2017. Proceeds fell to $14.8b, down 40% compared with 2016, which was largely due to the Postal Savings Bank of China’s (PSBC) mammoth $7.4b IPO listing in Hong Kong in September 2016.“Hong Kong continues to attract interest from overseas and was the second most active crossborder IPO destination globally, behind only the US,” said Jan Bellens, global banking and capital markets deputy sector leader at EY. “In fact, it enjoyed its highest ever annual proportion of cross-border IPOs in 2017, with 21 out of its 24 cross-border IPOs coming from ASEAN companies.” Ho Kok Yong, financial services industry leader at Deloitte Southeast Asia added that almost all the top investment banks saw growth in fees for 2017, especially in the debt and equity space. Interest rate hikes in 2017 also led to an increase in debt financing deals. “Overall, 2017 was a good year for investment banking,” he said. Notable deals in 2017 Bellens said HKEx attracted a number of technology company IPOs in 2017, and has shown success in turning itself into a listing hub for technology and new economy players like Chinese online car retailer Yixin Group, which raised $867m, and Singaporean gaming company Razer Inc, which raised $529m. Other significant listings included China’s online-only insurer ZhongAN Online P&C Insurance, one of the first major fintech listings in the Hong Kong market, at $1.5b, and e-book publisher China Literature, which raised $1.2b, according to Bellens. In terms of size, the largest deals in 2017 included the IPO of Guotai Junan Securities, which while smaller than the PSBC deal from 2016, managed to raise more than $2.1b and was the sixth largest IPO globally for the year, said Bellens. AIA Group’s US$3b acquisition of CBA’s life insurance business was the largest financial services deal of the year whilst the spin-off of Hong Kong-based Wharf Real Estate Investment, valued at US$23.3b, was the biggest transaction for 2017.
IPO vs Equity Funds raised
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
INDUSTRY INSIGHT 1: INITIAL COIN OFFERING
In June 2017, Fintech startup TenX raised a whopping $80m in ICOs, rounding up in the world’s Top Ten ICO funding last year.
Are Singapore VCs losing out to ICOs? Funds raised by ICOs have already overtaken angel and seed venture capital (VC) funding, raising more than US$550m for issuers globally, compared to the US$300m raised from VC firms by June of last year.
n June, Singaporean fintech startup TenX raised close to US$80m from a token sale, making them one of the most succesful start ups globally to launch an initial coin offering (ICO). TenX aims to bring bitcoin into the real world by converting cryptocurrency into fiat money in a physical Visabacked card, noted TenX founder Dr. Julian Hosp. As more startups like TenX utilise these virtual currencies as a more innovative alternative to raising capital and expanding their operations, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) published a paper offering general guidance on the regulation of digital token sales. ICOs, particularly, are increasingly becoming mainstream as a way for startups to raise funds, with 200 ICOs raising over US$3.3b globally last year. Studies indicate that Singapore is currently the third largest ICO hub in the world after the United States and Switzerland
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
and this situation will likely ride on an upward trajectory given the policy and regulatory backing by the Singaporean government through MAS. Notable deals in 2017 Singapore Business Review rounded up the biggest ICOs of 2017 by Singaporean raisers, and whilst we cannot verify all funding quantums, we believe the table pretty much sums up the most talked about ICOs in 2017. Some of the notable deals in 2017 include US-Singaporean startup Quoine which raised US105m in funding. Nizam Ismail, partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing also cited Aptoide, an app store with 200 million users, which successfully raised US$15m out of Singapore. They are considered the first app store to use blockchain. There is also Megax, a Singapore-based company that set up an e-commerce fashion ecosystem. Based on our compiled
Part of the allure of ICOs is its liquidity, speed, and the amount of interest currently generated by cryptocurrencies.
list, these major deals amounted to US$381.42m in funding, with average funding around US$25.43m. “As MAS has been very upfront about what they will regulate regarding ICOs, this has made Singapore at the forefront of the ICO space,” said Anson Zeall, chairman of ACCESS, Singapore’s leading industry association promoting cryptocurrency and blockchain. “ACCESS members have raised over US$220m worth of fund in the form of cryptocurrencies. And obviously there’s more now.” How it works Alex Buelau, CEO and co-founder of Coinschedule, a website that monitors the ICO industry and provides a platform for its users to find the best ICOs to join, explained that the process of how startup firms pursue ICOs is through the creation of cryptographic tokens on top of an existing blockchain platform. “Startups that are raising funds would
industry insight 1: INITIAL COIN OFFERING Singapore’s 15 biggest ICO raisers in 2017 1
Enjin Coin US$12m
Indorse almost US$10m
Kyber Network US$48-50m
Hubii Network US$6.56m
Digix DAO US$5.56m
Source: Singapore Business Review, ICOWatchlist, Coinschedule
be raising in bitcoin and ether for example, and the investors will receive the newly minted tokens.” Basically, ICOs work mainly with blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies—which MAS has been intensely focusing on lately with their guidelines and research papers—that startups use to sell tradeable, cryptocurrency-like digital tokens, noted Ismail. “The digital coins or tokens generated in an ICO are blockchain-based ledger entries, the ‘ownership’ of which is tied to a cryptographically secure key that allows the holder of the key to add additional entries,” he said. “These companies sell these tokens to people around the world in exchange for an established cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or ethereum within a certain time period,” Buelau said. “The company ends up with all the investment received in an established and liquid cryptocurrency, which they can exchange for currency, whilst the ICO participants end up with the tokens they purchased which may appreciate over time in case the company succeeds.” Hosp noted that for startups to be able to maximise the benefits of an ICO, particularly in raising funds, they have to focus on three things: legal, tech, and marketing. “If you have those three things, you’ll probably have a good ICO. You have to have a legally and financially strong structure to avoid problems afterwards. The second is the tech, you need to set up the smart contract, you need to have your token.
Basically, you need to create your own cryptocurrency,” she explained. “I think the key on the marketing side, because there’s so many ICOs now, you need to find a way how you can stand out.” ICOs versus VCs Such is the growth of ICOs—also called token sales and crowd sales— that industry experts and observers have termed these as 2017’s biggest tech trend, given that funds raised by ICOs have already overtaken angel and seed venture capital funding for the first time, raising more than US$550m for issuers globally, compared to the US$300m raised from venture capital firms by June of last year. However, this has not fazed many investors and startups to dabble in these cryptocurrencies to raise funds. Part of the allure of ICOs is its liquidity, speed, and the amount of interest currently generated by cryptocurrencies. Zeall noted that the main difference of ICOs and VCs, particularly in the Southeast Asian region, is that VC investors are very risk averse. This is apart from the fact that with ICOs, investors don’t necessarily own shares in the firm, but they have liquidity of the value of the coins or tokens from the ICOs. From a venture capital standpoint, Chua Kee Lock, Group CEO of Temasek-backed venture capital firm Vertex Ventures noted, “ICOs can be either utility-based or equity-based. The latter is being regulated and restricted in several jurisdictions, hence the viability is still unclear.
Chua Kee Lock
Utility-based ICOs will likely get more traction and many VCs are reviewing opportunities in relevant utility-based ones.” “Many VCs would like to see successful precedents first before investing in you, which makes it very ironic,” he noted. “However, in the crypto space, the investors are very forward thinking, and that’s what most startups are like in the blockchain space,” said Zeall. Looking ahead Industry observers and experts are in agreement that ICOs will redefine the startup and capital investment landscape in Singapore in the next few years, although they also note that there are accompanying risks that cryptocurrencies and this new industry brings. On how regulation is necessary, Julian Peh, co-founder of luxury platform for crypto-affluents Aditus noted, “No legitimate company operating should expect to be operating in a legal vacuum, this is not good for anyone, and not good for the space. MAS has been extremely pragmatic and collaborative in its approach so far, and this has made Singapore a forerunner in the ICO space globally.” On the other hand, Ismail notes on how the market may dictate the future of ICOs. “ICOs, if done properly and responsibly, are efficient ways of raising funds for enterprises. We may see more regulations for ICOs in the future, and that will largely depend on how the market behaves,” said Ismail. “Already, we are seeing the market introducing market-driven initiatives to require more accountability and security for ICO offerings.” Some of the concerns include multisignature wallets, independent escrow arrangements to hold tokens, anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism checks. “Bear in mind, there will be a lot of bad tokens, as well as a handful of good ones,” concluded Zeall. “I urge the public to only invest when they understand what the blockchain technology is about, and do excessive due diligence on the tokens and founders.” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
INdustry INsight 2: banks
After the boom of digital banking, what now?
The digitalisation saga of Singapore banks: What’s next after the boom? As the country’s economy goes up, the banking sector braces for further digital breakthrough.
hilst many banks in the city feel that they are able to ride the fintech tide, many of them have yet to actually catch up to the latest digital trends. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) estimates that financial institutions that are slow to adopt new technologies could experience income slashes of up to 5%, as fintech payment channels increase to 10% in the next two years and then 50% in five years. Nevertheless, analysts forecast a positive year ahead for the banking sector, on the back of manufacturing and services growth, as well as a sustained momentum from the previous year. Given their large customer bases, financial expertise, and accumulated resources, banks should be able to take advantage of these economic prospects to further drive innovation and encourage creativity within their companies. 24
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Tek Yew Chia, head, financial advisory services practice, KPMG Singapore, said that chief information officers (CIOs) need to be in an ‘act fast mode’ and create an environment to test new services and digital technology outside of the core banking system. According to Chia, this provides the freedom to iterate quickly and prove the effectiveness of a new service or system, before bringing that service into the main banking business. Digital leaders Over the course of the coming year, more banks will experiment with artificial intelligence (AI), particularly robotics, in preparation for application in mainstream channels. Patrick Yap, CIO, Maybank Singapore, said that the chatbot will play a more central role alongside the sales team and the call centre. He added that cloud computing will also
Banks will continue to innovate and get closer to the customers through their mobile devices.
be a primary focus where cost in IT storage could be used. “Banks will continue to innovate and get closer to the customers through their mobile devices, as well as digitise banking services wherever possible. Firms and service providers will continue to ask for application programme interface (API) connections to the banks whilst the banking industry works towards tapping APIs for payment, authentication and many other areas,” Yap added.
Time to come up with new banking technology
INdustry INsight 2: banks In 2017, one of the biggest feats for Singapore banks is DBS’s launch of the world’s largest banking API developer platform delivered by a bank. According to DBS, the API platform will allow them to boost the bank’s lead in innovating digital solutions for its clients. From fund transfers to rewards and real-time payments, the platform includes more than 150 APIs and growing. Yap said, “Generally speaking, some of the key digital technologies that Singapore banks have adopted include mobile banking, cloud computing, robotic process automation, chatbots, data analytics and social media engagement. At Maybank, we have been delving into these technologies, the latest being the industry-wide mobile peer-to-peer fund transfer service PayNow since mid-2017.” What’s to come On a wider scale, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) is expected to extend PayNow, the first peer-topeer fund transfer service in the city, to corporates and businesses in 2018. PayNow allows its customers to link their bank accounts to one mobile number and one NRIC number and proceed with fund transfer to anyone. To date, seven retail banks in Singapore have offered PayNow: Citibank, DBS, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC, Standard Chartered Bank, and UOB. “Peer-to-peer funds transfer is now conducted in real time with PayNow and this has levelled the playing field between the banks in Singapore, regardless of size or branch distribution outreach. The PayNow platform also provides many innovative ideas for banks to ride on and make the payment process simpler for customers. More importantly, Singapore needs to respond effectively to the mobile payment solutions that are so prevalent and successfully used in other parts of the world,” Yap added The QR code and social media payments will also be in the spotlight in the coming year, increasing their traction in the digital space. According to Dennis Khoo, regional head, digital banking, UOB, the QR
code will take off in 2018 due to Singapore’s high digital penetration rates. He added that social media payments will see more innovation with the likes of PayKey where customers can basically pay from any social media site or any site at all using a keyboard. Social media has also played a huge role in determining the direction that banks will take. “With the advent of social media platforms, banks can choose to become more attuned to what customers care about through the conversations in the social media space, those who leverage on such insights will be able to provide more responsive customer engagement,” Yap said. UOB is also set to invest in the coming years and roll out the muchawaited NFC capability, which will make payments faster and more secure. Khoo said that UOB is also looking into both categorisation software as well as new engagement tools, especially leverage-learning machine technologies. On the other hand, banks also need to ensure that their employees are up to task alongside their peers in other banks and considering the huge skills shortage in the digital space. DBS, for instance, has announced that it is investing $20m to train its existing workforce in digital banking and emerging technologies, via an artificial intelligence-powered e-learning platform, curated curriculum, and module delivery. Dethroning cash as king Despite the rise of digital payments and mobile banking, the question remains as to whether Singapore is ready to transform into a totally Smart Nation. Yap believes that traditional channels will be here to stay for much longer than most think, as many customers in the city still prefer banking with a human interface. The new channels and solutions may extend the bank’s services to more customers, but many long-time clients might probably stick to the processes that they are used to. Khoo said, “It’s a question of ‘when.’ The slower the society adopts
Tek Yew Chia
it maybe because you have segments of the population that cannot afford a device to allow a phone to be a bank, or you have older population who are not used to doing it this way. So it’s not really a question of ‘if.’ It’s a question of ‘when.’ And the ‘when’ in banking plays out over a long period of time because we don’t like to force people to use the channels.” Whilst traditional and digital channels are expected to coexist for a while, banks have to definitely step up their game to compete effectively in the digital landscape. According to Yap, banks need to do more straightthrough processing (STP) to shorten transaction-related processing time. Banks have to remember that the key is to compete by doing the same thing cheaper, better and faster using data analytics. Side-by-side with fintech On the upside, Singapore banks will find it less difficult to rise above the fintech boom. Khoo said that the growth of fintechs will be very specific to a country and how it has evolved. For instance, fintechs are taking up a big chunk of China due to the country’s size and collection of many large provinces and big cities as well as its level of underdevelopment in the payments space. Meanwhile, fintechs targeted India because of the country’s unique and favourable regulatory requirements. “Banks should be mindful of the competitive landscape. As such, banks have to be on par with or a notch better than the technology firms who have started to provide banking services, Yap said. “Some measures include improving internal processes, embracing technologies to distil customer insights, and engaging customers wherever they are.”
The digital boom is just the start
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
The tourism rebound is helping fuel a broader economic recovery in recent quarters
Singapore’s slight tilt towards broad-based growth A more balanced expansion is in the cards for Singapore in 2018, raising optimism for a sustained recovery following a better-than-expected 2017.
f the Singapore economy spent 2017 being buoyed by a strong manufacturing sector, then 2018 will see the growth contribution start to become more broadly distributed amongst the sectors. Notably, the services sector that accounts for nearly two-thirds of the economy has shown signs of recovery in 2017 and should be sustained in 2018, according to Mohamed Faiz Nagutha, ASEAN economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) amidst stronger government focus on strengthening areas such as healthcare and retail. A more balanced expansion is in the cards for Singapore in 2018, raising optimism for a sustained recovery following a better-than-expected 2017 and despite forecasts of slower export growth. “However, we are encouraged by the positive signs in sectoral growth distribution—especially the improvements in services and its attendant spillovers to the labour market,” Nagutha said, citing advanced government estimates in early January. He forecasts 2018 growth to register at an above-trend 26
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The economy is still on the mend despite headline GDP growth racing ahead to 3.5% in 2017.
rate of 3.3%, notably also higher than the consensus of 2.8%. The manufacturing sector drove most of the uplift in 2017 on the back of a global trade rebound, growing an estimated 10.5% and contributing 1.9 percentage points to growth, which would be its highest level since 2010. Services is estimated to have improved to 2.5% growth in 2017 from 1% in 2016, which should pave the way “for a more balanced growth profile going forward,” said Nagutha, citing fourth quarter GDP advance estimates. He noted that the resurgence in services offset a likely slowdown in manufacturing and the continued
decline in construction output. Services firms also hold an optimistic business outlook, based on the most recent government survey. In the fourth quarter of 2017, a net weighted balance of +9% of firms in the services sector expects more favourable business conditions for October 2017 to March 2018 compared with April to September 2017. These signs of growth broadening out to services and other industries had led economists to upgrade their full-year forecasts for 2017. Singapore will also count on improving business services and retail to pick up the growth slack amidst expectations by International Enterprise Singapore that export growth will decelerate in 2018. As the uplift in services promises to nurture a more broad-based growth in 2018 and given the most recent advance GDP estimates, Nagutha expects the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to keep its policy stance unchanged. Nagutha said inflation prints in the months leading up to the next policy meeting will be crucial, as well as the fourth quarter labour market report and more-detailed preliminary GDP estimates. He added that the FY2018 budget, amidst growing murmurs of possible higher taxes, will also be closely monitored. “Any adjustments to the GST will have a direct impact on inflation, but we expect the MAS to look through this ‘policy shock’,” said Nagutha. “Given the brighter economic outlook, we think fiscal support is likely to take a backseat this year and instead, policy measures will likely focus on longer-term goals which include investing in human capital, healthcare, and transport.”
Labor market slack is diminishing gradually
Source: BofA Merril Lynch Global Research estimates, CEIC, Haver
Nanyang Old Coffee: A taste of home in every cup
The secret to brewing success is consistency, marked by customer satisfaction and a never-ending pursuit for passion and innovation, all whilst bringing Singapore Traditional Coffee to the fore.
im Eng Lam is very enthusiastic about “Singapore Traditional Coffee” and with his great passion he founded Nanyang Old Coffee. Over the years, he has always believed that Traditional Culture and Business can be developed at the same time. Having the company development plan in conjunction with the traditional culture not only enriched the connotation of the company but also promote the traditional coffee of Singapore. After being awarded “The Best Traditional
Coffee“ in Singapore and having many requests from customers, Nanyang Old Coffee developed the Instant premix coffee that resembles our Singapore Traditional Coffee. The product quickly became the favourite of tourists, not only it is a uniquely product of Singapore but also a wonderful gift pack as a souvenir. To date, Nanyang Old Coffee has developed a range of 11 house brand products that includes Instant Teh Tarik, cooking and chilli sauces. Nanyang Old Coffee is glad to receive the
award for “The Best Product Designed in Singapore”. Its recognition is a motivation for us to do better and make Singapore proud of its own Singapore products.
“Nanyang Old Coffee has developed 11 house brand products.”
Nanyang Old Coffee Chinatown Shop
Three instant beverages
Lim Eng Lam
eNERGY AND pOWER
Premium solar panels with superior performance
REC’s TwinPeak product range combines new and ground-breaking developments that ensure it can compete strongly on power with monocrystalline products on the market.
mployed across a whole range of products, REC’s innovative TwinPeak Technology is a cutting edge solar module development for high panel efficiency and high power products. Based on a polysilicon cell platform, REC’s TwinPeak product range combines new and ground-breaking developments that ensure it can compete strongly on power with monocrystalline products on the market. Rec Twin Peak 2 Building on the existing REC TwinPeak platform of half-cut cells using PERC and a split junction box design, the implementation of new larger wafer production techniques (156.75 mm) provides an increase in the amount of light captured by the cells and an increase in current. The further use of five bus bars reduces internal cell resistance for increased overall module power. At module level, REC TwinPeak 2 technology delivers an extra 20 Wp with nominal power of up to 295 Wp on a 60-cell
platform (also available in a fully-black variant for residential rooftops). On a 72-cell platform, the technology gives up to 30 Wp more than standard mc-Si modules with watt classes reaching a world-record
REC Tuas Singapore Integrated Factory
350 Wp. The implementation of this in REC’s distinctive TwinPeak design enables the modules to generate electricity even when partially shaded – especially useful in cases of inter-row shading in an array.
singapore’s hottest startups 2018
This year’s hottest startups average funding is $5.23m compared to $3.2m last year.
Fintech reign in 2018 hottest startups list This year’s crop of hottest startups were mostly funded by traditional venture capitalists, but one tapped the potential of the initial coin offering space and successfully raised US$10m in one round.
his is Singapore Business Review’s seventh edition of the hottest startups issue. To compile the list, we first looked at the startups that we featured on our website, sbr.com.sg. We filtered the list by the amount of funding raised. We then ran the list to a group of accelerators, incubators, and venture capitalilsts. This year saw a mix of traditionally VC funded startups, however, new entrants this year 1.
Founders: Edward Chen Funding: oBike raised $45m in series B round last August 2017 led by Grishin Robotics. It also had an undisclosed seed funding in November 2016 from Zhizhuo Capital. Start of operations: 2017 oBike is a leading bike-sharing platform that offers an accessible and eco-friendly alternative mode of transport. Its wide network of bicycles can be accessed through its mobile app which locates the nearest available bike. Scanning a QR code unlocks the bike and manually locking it at designated public parking areas ends the trip. Reserving an oBike is also possible and payment can be made via credit and debit cards. 28
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are cryptocurrency-backed blockchain platforms. This year’s hottest startups average funding is $5.23m compared to $3.2m last year. We don’t claim that this is the most comprehensive list, and whilst we have tried to verify funding quantums, we cannot verify all amounts declared. Enjoy the read, send feedback or send your start up pitches to email@example.com. 2.
Founders: Prajit Nanu, Michael Bermingham Funding: InstaREM has approximately US$18.54m after it raised US$13m in series B funding led by GSR Ventures and SBIFMO. The company also won US$37,000 after scoring third place in the Singapore Fintech Awards. Start of operations: 2014 InstaREM (short for instant remittance) provides fast and costeffective digital cross-border payment services. Banks, Corporates and Consumers use InstaReM rails to send funds to 40+ countries. InstaReM has 130+ people and is licensed in Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, US, Europe and Canada and awaiting approvals in Japan and Indonesia.
singapore’s hottest startups 2018 6.
3. Indorse Founders: David Moskowitz, Gaurang Torvekar Funding: US$10m in its initial coin offering. 5000 users are currently registered on its platform. Start of operations: 2017 Blockchain-powered Indorse is a decentralized social network for professionals. Unlike traditional social media platforms, users are encouraged to verify or ‘indorse’ a professional claim they make about themselves - from their skills to their educational history and in turn, are awarded for endorsing the skill sets of others using an internal rewards system. By utilizing blockchain technology in particular Ethereum as compute engine and BigChainDB and Inter Planetary File System as storage mechanism, Indorse achieves autonomy and optimum transparency with its community as all endorsements are recorded. 4. SingX
Founders: Dmitry Voronenko, Elena Ionenko Funding: Total funding closed at US$3.6m after it raised US$2m in recent round of funding last 2017. Start of operations: 2014 Fintech startup Turnkey Lender is a cloud-based loan management system that provides end-to-end lending business automation technology to non-bank lenders and small banks. It brings the same level of automation and credit risk management technology that conventional financial institutions like banks offer, for smaller players at a more affordable price. It uses machine learning and data analytics to understand potential loan applicants. Their cloud platform enables automation for all stages of a loan’s life cycle online application, borrower evaluation and scoring, underwriting, servicing, collection, reporting and administration. 7. StashAway Founders: Michael Ferrario, Freddy Lim, Nino Ulsamer Funding: Raised US$3.1m from the Rozario family last May in addition to US$516,2000 from angel investors Start of operations: 2016
Founders: Atul Garg, Kula Kulendaran, Vineet Nagrani Funding: SingX has raised US$7m in funding, led by senior bankers and high net worth individuals from Singapore and Hong Kong. SingX also won US$74,000 for the Global Singapore FinTech Awards 2017. Start of operations: 2017 SingX is a fintech cross-border money transfer company that boasts of competitive and transparent rate charges. Senders can make local transfers to SingX’s shared platform and the company makes a local transfer to the receiver’s bank account for no overhead charges. The startup is licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. 5.
Founders: Kiren Tanna Funding: Has US$8m after raising US$4.1m in series A funding from SBI Investment, RedBadge Pacific and Asia Pacific Internet Group last April 2017 Start of operations: 2015 Calling itself the Uber for budget hotels, ZEN Rooms is on a mission to disrupt the hotel industry by offering value-for-money accommodation for budget travellers. The startup offers prices as low as US$10 a night for a room with complete amenities and no hidden fees. It does this by partnering with smaller hotels as opposed to luxury hotel chains to build its room network which it spruces up to offer standardized services. It then takes a small commission out of each successful hotel booking. With the backing of Rocket Internet, ZEN Rooms currently operates in key vacation areas in seven countries including Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand.
StashAway manages personalized investment portfolios by focusing on optimising asset allocations to manage risks and maximise returns in any given economic condition. Unlike traditional invetment options, its sophisticated investment framework imposes no minimum balance with the goal of helping individuals manage their savings and achieve their personal financial goals. Customers also have flexible deposit plans where they can ivnest once, every day or anything in between and can withdraw any time. 8.
Founders: Ted Poh Chen Wei, Lim Jun Roong, Jacky Chong Foh Wooi Funding: Has raised around US$1.7m after its undisclosed preseries A funding from Savills valued the startup at US$1.5m Start of operations: 2016 Online property management platform Pegaxis is a B2B marketplace that helps realtors obtain quotations in a structured, transparent and trackable manner. It claims to be the first and only B2B property management marketplace in Singapore. Pegaxis’ additional services include templates for keeping track of contracts, improving efficiency, accountability and transparency in all areas to deliver significant cost savings to its clients. Pegaxis currently services 260 residential properties through 8 management companies.
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
singapore’s hottest startups 2018 9. Hmlet
Founders: Yoan Kamalski, Zenos Schmickrath Funding: Raised US$1.5m in November 2017 in a seed round led by Aurum Investments Start of operations: 2016 Deriving its name off a term that means a small settlement or village, Hmlet is a tech co-living rental startup that helps the mobile workforce find rental homes at flexible leases. It does this by first leasing properties in city centers then refurbishing them into hip co-living spaces which it then sub-lets to tenants on a monthly basis. It primarily targets young professionals who are more likely to lead more mobile lifestyles. Hmlet, which claims to be 30% cheaper than renting traditional flats, also has a system that matches users to the right homes and flatmates with similar personalities using tenant profiles. Hmlet has around 200 members in Tokyo and Singapore.
Whizpace, which is a spin off from Singapore’s national research lab A*STAR, leverages the technology of TV White Space (TVWS) or unused radio frequencies in TV broadcast bands to provide wireless broadband connectivity. TVWS, touted as ‘Super Wi-Fi’, is able to provide better internet coverage than traditional Wi-Fi. As TVWS is non-weather dependent and operates in sub-GHz frequencies, they are able to travel up to 10 kilometers and penetrate through obstacles for connecting people and IoT devices.
Founders: Dimitri Kouchnirenko, Morgan Terigi Funding: US$1.5m after raising US$1m from angel investors last July 2017 and US$500,000 in seed funding last 2016 Start of operations: 2016
Founders: Peter Barcak Funding: Raised over US$1m following an oversubscribed pre-series A round led by Fintonia Group with additional participation from a group of Asian institutional investors.
incomlend acts as a marketplace where invoices can serve as an alternative source of funding. Suppliers in need of funds can directly sell their invoices for cash. This allows SMEs to provide for their various capital needs including rent and salary payments as well as funds to grow their business operations without collateral or personal guarantees. The platform is flexible as it allows users to adjust financing conditions according to their needs. Incomlend is also international as it allows the selling of both export and domestic invoices in multiple currencies and countries. 11.
The Fifth Collection
Founders: Nejla Matam, Michael Finn Funding: Secured US$1.4m in seed funding in 2016 from Europe and Asia venture capitalists including Florian Fenner and Chris Evdemon Start of operations: 2014 The Fifth Collection is the leading authentication-focused luxury trading platform in Asia. With the tagline “intelligent luxury”, the company boasts a breakthrough AI-powered authentication technology that takes 260x magnified images of the surface material, stitching and hardware of branded luxury items to create a “visual genome” that can be compared with a proprietary database of millions of microscopic images of authentic and counterfeit items, guaranteeing authenticity. By enabling its customers to buy and sell high-end branded fashion easily and safely, it provides a smart and environmentally-sustainable alternative for fashion. 30
Founders: Dr Ser Wah Oh, Pankaj Sharma Funding: Whizpace raised around US$900,000 in pre-series A funding from Spring Seeds Capital Start of operations: 2016
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Start of operations: 2016
CredoLab’s app provides highly predictive credit scoring solutions for consumer lenders based on mobile phone data. It respects customer privacy by obtaining metadata with full customer consent and guaranteed data anonymity. CredoLab extracts a unique and anonymous digital footprint from the user’s mobile phone which is then turned into predictive credit scorecards. The credit profiles can then be shown to lenders should the time come that the user will require a loan. 14. soCash Founders: Rekha Hari Funding: soCash has around US$1.2m as a result of its combined funding rounds. It raised US$600,000 in a venture round March 2017 and is also the first fintech startup to receive a Financial Sector Technology & Innovation grant from MAS in 2016 Start of operations: 2015 soCash is a Singapore-based FinTech company that aims to improves cash distribution and liquidity management by creating the largest cash network in the world powered by mobile devices. The goal is to convert every shop and customer into a virtual cash distribution network starting in Asia. The company is the first recipient of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s FTSI Grant under the Proof of Concept scheme.
singaporeâ€™s hottest startups 2018 15. Bambu Founders: Ned Philips, Aki Ranin Funding: Has an estimatino of US$1m after funding from Franklin Templeton and Wavemaker Partners in August 2017. It also raised US$400,000 in a seed round. Start of operations: 2016 Bambu is a B2B robo-advisor that provides businesses with automated, technology-augmented and algorithm-based portfolio management services. It offers digital strategy and backend integration services with a full suite of products tailored for various market segments, at highly competitive costs. Its White Label Robo, for instance, offers suitable investment strategies for B2B clients. Intelligent Advisory, on the other hand, recommends relevant investment ideas for the private client segment.
18. EngageRocket Founders: Chee Tung Leong, Dorothy Yiu Funding: Raised US$343,000 from investors in March 2017 Start of operations: 2016 HR startup EngageRocket is a cloud-based software that helps leaders and organisations make better people decisions using real-time data. Through cultural change, organisational transformation, mergers and acquisitions and other key events, companies use EngageRocket to analyse and act on employee feedback. This raises their employee engagement and productivity, and serves as an early warning system for talent attrition. The startup does all the heavy lifting - from people analytics to data cuts to heatmap analysis - so that HR managers can focus their energies on making informed decisions for the workplace.
Founders: Kendrick Wong, Lai Xin Chu Funding: Raised US$500,000 in seed funding led by Cocoon Capital, SPH Media Fund, Quest Ventures and TinkBig Ventures Start of operations: 2017
Founders: Ashley Kee, Ng Zhong Qin, Thia Jian Wei Funding: Has US$250K in seed funding last September 2016 Start of operations: 2016
Event and e-ticketing platform Hapz aggregates information on all the hottest entertainment, arts and sporting events in the city-state. Its selling point lies in its dynamic pricing system which allows eventgoers to name the price they are willing to pay to attend a desired event which may range from concerts, wine-tasting, yoga, bouldering, beach festivals and animal encounters. In addition to providing a more flexible booking experience for eventgoers, Hapz also caters to event organizers as they can similarly set and adjust their event price range for their tickets based on buyer demand. 17. Peoplewave Founders: Damien Cummings Funding: Raised US$500,000 in seed round from investors including ChapmanCG and Halkin Capital 2. Start of operations: 2017 Peoplewave is a cloud-based HR software that addresses common paint points in people management through its full suite of product offerings. Its banner product, First 100 Days app, provides for a more structured new hire onboarding. Performance Wave, on the other hand, is a data-driven platform for employee performance appraisal that uses a proprietary algorithm with insights derived from various internal stakeholders which allows for greater transparency in job performance reviews. Lastly, HR Command Centre is smart dashboard that allows a company to view its real-time performance and key HR metrics like turnover rates.
Insurtech startup Bandboo allows users to obtain comprehensive insurance coverage at competitive costs. Members choose from an annual or monthly payment plan which they can draw out of if they are retrenched. At the end of the one-year membership, the remaining balance is divided equally amongst members for a 100% unconditional rebate of premiums not used to pay out claims. As the platform is powered by blockchain technology, all transactions are transparent and trackable as customers have full access to information on required monthly payouts and premiums. 20. Hook Coffee Founders: Faye Sit, Ernest Ting Funding: Raised US$225,000 as a result of two funding rounds. The startup was also a recipient of the SPRING ACE startup grant. Start of operations: 2016 Hook Coffee is the artisanal answer to your daily coffee fix. The startup offers coffee subscription services as it roasts and delivers fresh coffee for under $1.40 a cup with free customer delivery and all within seven days of roasting. Users are given the option to choose the coffee type and how it will be brewed - whole, ground, drip coffee bags or Nespresso compatible pods - giving the user complete control over the beverageâ€™s frequency and taste. Hook Coffee also works directly with coffee farmers to source sustainably grown beans and deliver higher and fairer profits to farmers.
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
legal industry survey
Launch of Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP), Photo from IMDA
Law firms are riding the digital wave in Singapore
The launch of Singapore’s first legaltech accelerator is just the beginning of the law industry’s transformation as it forays into digitalisation.
llen & Gledhill retains the top spot in the Singapore Business Review’s 25 Largest Law Firms with 386 legal professionals last year, compared to 372 in 2016, followed by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP with 366 legal professionals in 2017, a 5.5% increase from the 347 recorded in 2016 Rounding out the top 5 are Wong Partnership with 302 legal professionals in 2017, unchanged since 2016, whilst Drew & Napier LLC and Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP saw declines in the number of their legal professionals year-on-year to 256 and 200, respectively. Previous figures (in 2016) for the top 4 and top 5 largest law firms in Singapore were 267 and 206 legal professionals, respectively. Total number of lawyers dropped by 11.7% from last year’s 2,855 to this year’s 2,520. Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC suffered the biggest decline with its total headcount slashed by 11. The decision of the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) to launch the Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) in early January, a two-year pilot programme to encourage 32
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
The January announcement also saw the launch of two of the three components of FLIP, particularly the Legal Innovations Lab and a virtual collaboration platform called LawNet Community.
the adoption of technology, drive innovation, and create a vibrant ecosystem for legal technology in the city-state, marks the continuous efforts to bring the legal sector in Singapore to the next frontier: the technology space. This transition is, by all means and purposes, a necessary move as the legal landscape in Singapore looks to cement its position in the Asia-Pacific region. The rise and integration of technological tools in the legal industry, often termed as “legal tech” is gaining ground in Singapore as more law firms find ways to get ahead of the competition and provide more effective and convenient legal services to its clients. Philip Jeyaretnam, global vice chair and regional CEO of Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP, noted that technology can revolutionise the legal space in Singapore—and, possibly, beyond. “In the past year, law firms have increasingly adopted the latest tools to improve operations as technological advances continue to change the way lawyers work,” he said. “Legaltech can revolutionise the client-lawyer relationship—allowing workers to
work faster, use fewer resources, and collaborate seamlessly with clients.” This is echoed by Winston Seow, Partner from Withers KhattharWong. “The keyword for the legal sector in 2017 was technology. A greater emphasis was placed on the adoption of technology into the legal sector and using innovation to grow the sector,” he said. The launch of FLIP, first announced by Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in July last year, is a testament to this. Basically, FLIP will allow—in three different components—legal stakeholders and policy makers to support the development of a model for the delivery of legal services in the future economy. SAL’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer Paul Neo noted that the legal community in Singapore is already warmly embracing legal tech initiatives like FLIP. The January announcement also saw the launch of two of the three components of FLIP, particularly the Legal Innovations Lab and a virtual collaboration platform called LawNet Community. The third component, which is considered Southeast Asia’s first legal tech accelerator to groom promising legal tech startups, is slated for launch in April. Rise of legaltech Adrian Chan, partner and head of corporate at Lee & Lee, noted that technological advances will reap long-term benefits despite the perceived disadvantages in shouldering the costs of being at the forefront of the implementation of these technologies. “These inexorable trends in technological advancement may see a slow initial take-up rate in Singapore, as sometimes there is a ‘firstmover disadvantage’ when the advancements speed up and overtake a firm’s prior investments, making early investments obsolete too early,” he said. Chan, however, noted that there will be widespread adoption when the technology stabilises and the
legal industry survey
FLIP’s legal innovation lab will be housed at the Collision 8 coworking space.
playing field levels up. “This is to be welcomed as this means more productive legal practices which translate into cost efficiencies for clients,” he explained. Some of these avant-garde areas where legal tech is and will continue to flourish include the review of documents to assess relevance and “red flags”, contract automation, and the automatic “tagging” of precedents and expertise to help lawyers scale up their legal practice. For instance, Paul Landless, partner for Clifford Chance, shared that his firm’s legal experts are already blazing trails in advising on legal tech issues including antitrust, data privacy and cybersecurity, and financial regulation, amongst others. This is on top of the potential of technology to revolutionise the way lawyers and clients interact and do business with one another. Jeyaretnam noted that despite the rise of technology, at the very heart of the industry is helping people with their legal issues. “Regardless, the essence of the profession remains unchanged— which is to facilitate transactions and then manage disputes,” he elaborated. “Lawyers will continue to serve clients as trusted advisors, advocates, and problem-solvers.” Seow agreed, saying that with time, lawyers may start to incorporate such technologies into their practice and daily work. “We have seen the introduction of technology used to automate legal paperwork. While such a tool will not be able to replace a lawyer completely, it can help speed up tedious amount of administrative work, but leaving the final decision
and judgment to the lawyers. Such technology would free up lawyers’ time, and enable them to focus on advisory work,” he said. Another early technology that should be looked at and can have a significant effect to the legal industry moving forward, is blockchain technology. Jeyaretnam noted that blockchain technology may potentially overhaul the processes currently in place at government registries, financial institutions, and even the execution of contracts, particularly in the realm of contract law in the case of the legal industry. “Singapore aims to be not just a regional leader in the field of legaltech, but a world class player in this field,” said Lee & Lee’s Chan. This is echoed by Jeyaretnam, saying that Singapore provides a stable and supportive environment for legaltech efforts to flourish, particularly with the launch of the
FLIP initiative. Seow also emphasised Singapore’s long-placed focus on pragmatism and efficiency. “As such, if the use of legaltech contributes to the efficiency and efficacy at which lawyers serve their clients, there can be no doubt that it will be incorporated into the daily work of lawyers,” he said. But the rise of technology in the legal industry may also pose risks and threats to the professionals within the community and even disadvantage the whole sector itself. So how can these technologies be regulated and used in the most beneficial way? Traditional skills The Dentons Rodyk senior official noted tips including the need for lawyers to remain committed to handling clients’ evolving needs, particularly with their embracing of technological advances and innovation. “Lawyers should therefore ensure they are able to diligently and competently engage widely-used technologies and client-specific technologies in enhancing their services to clients,” he said, adding that lawyers should not uncritically rely on technology solutions and continue to employ traditional lawyering skills to confirm the accuracy of the results. Lastly, Jeyaretnam noted that lawyers should ensure compliance with data protection laws of the various jurisdictions in which they operate, as well as data security best practices— especially considering the sensitive nature of legal work.
As of January, 31 participants have signed up for FLIP.
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
LEGAL INDUSTRY SURVEY 2017
2017 Legal Professionals
2016 Legal Professionals
Allen & Gledhill
LEE KIM SHIN
Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP
LEE ENG BENG
NG WAI KING
Drew & Napier LLC
DAVINDER SINGH, SC - Exec Chairman CAVINDER BULL, SC - CEO
Dentons Rodyk & Davidson LLP
PHILIP JEYARETNAM, SC
Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow
RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP
tan chong huat
Lee & Lee
kWA KIM LI
DEBORAH BARKER, SC
Shook Lin & Bok LLP
sARJIT SINGH GILL, SC
Eversheds Harry Elias
TSMP Law Corporation
THIO SHEN YI, SC STEFANIE YUEN THIO
Allen & Overy**
Norton Rose (Asia) LLP
Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC
ng joo khin
Herbert Smith Freehills*
Bird & Bird ATMD LLP
Lorraine anne tay sandra seah
Tan Kok Quan Partnership
marina chin eddee ng
Tan Peng Chin LLC
WONG LIANG KOK LIM jo see
Colin Ng & Partners LLP
Latham & Watkins LLP
Kelvin Chia Partnership
DATA ACCURATE AS OF OCTOBER 31, 2017 * DATA RETAINED FROM 2016 ** NON-DISCLOSURE POLICY on staff numbers but admits headcount remains the same
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
11/1/18 9:20 am
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LEGAL INDUSTRY SURVEY
Singapore’s 20 legal luminaries aged 40-and-under in 2017
ow on its fourth year, Singapore Business Review’s list of lawyers aged 40 and under in 2017 puts together 20 legal luminaries at the top of their fields. We asked the law firms from our law firm rankings to put forward the names of their promising lawyers aged 40 and under. Out of over a hundred nominees, we selected one lawyer per firm who stood out based on his or her achievements with specialisations ranging from disputes resolution and litigation, mergers and acquisitions, finance, and construction to intellectual property, copyright, media law, family law, and energy. Read about lawyers advising multinational companies on billion-dollar mergers and acquisitions to legal elites diving head on into disputes, as well as advocates of pro bono work in family matters. These lawyers are arranged from oldest to youngest. 1
Baldev Bhinder, 38, Partner, Joseph Tan Jude Benny Baldev leads the Energy, Resources, and Infrastructure team of Joseph Tan Jude Benny. He is particularly experienced in the Oil and Gas and Commodities sectors, with a specialisation in cross-border disputes and international arbitration, notably those connected with India and Indonesia. Baldev is also an active arbitrator and is one of the youngest Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in the United Kingdom. 2 Oscar Franklin Tan, 38, Senior Associate, DLA Piper Oscar is a New York- and Philippinequalified M&A lawyer with DLA Piper, handling complex cross-border transactions with values from US$100m to over US$1b. He was awarded the “JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World” (TOYP) in 2017. Oscar is a registered foreign lawyer in Singapore. 3
Daniel Tay, 38, Partner, Chan Neo LLP Daniel is experienced in commercial disputes, specialises in the engineering 36
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
and construction, hospitality, luxury boutique, retail, commercial and residential real estate sectors, and advises on construction arbitration and adjudication disputes. He is co-author of the LexisNexis Construction Arbitration and Litigation modules and was appointed in 2017 to the Inquiry Panel of the Law Society. 4
Amarjit Kaur, 37, Lead Senior Associate, Morgan Lewis Stamford Amarjit represents clients on a broad range of civil and commercial litigation matters, including professional liability, employment, and large-scale construction disputes. Her practice includes advising Fortune 500 companies on key employment issues in cross-border transactions, global restructuring, and company disposals. Amarjit spearheaded Morgan Lewis’ pro bono programme in Singapore, recognised as a leading programme by Law Society’s Pro Bono Services. 5 Kelvin Teo, 37, Counsel, Cavenagh Law LLP (in a formal law alliance with Clifford Chance) Kelvin specialises in the resolution of disputes arising out of regional infrastructure, construction and energy projects, by way of arbitration, adjudication, and litigation He is recognised as a ‘next generation lawyer’ in The Legal 500 (Asia Pacific) 2018 for International Arbitration, Dispute Resolution, and for Construction where he is ‘recommended’ for his ‘great in-depth industry knowledge’. 6
Alex Tan, 35, Principal, Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow Alex’s practice specialises in corporate transactional matters
with a particular focus on domestic and cross-border M&A transactions. He advises a broad range of clients on corporate acquisitions and divestitures, transactional and restructuring matters with an emphasis in the Singaporean, Indonesian, and Vietnamese M&A market. 7 Favian Tan, 34, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP Favian has years of experience in local and cross-border corporate transactions, involving both private and public companies. He is involved in share and asset acquisitions and disposals, privatisations, joint ventures and private equity investments, as well as advising on general corporate and commercial matters. Favian is active in mergers and acquisitions transactions, and has represented major companies in significant cross-border transactions. 8
Lishi Fong, 34, Of Counsel, Norton Rose Fulbright Lishi specialises in international banking with experience in syndicated and secured bank financings, acquisition finance, debt restructurings, refinancings and structured trade, and commodities finance. Lishi’s experience in the field has led to her advising on a number of high profile deals during the past 12 months. She sits in a banking and finance team that has won “Trade Finance Law Firm of the Year” for seven consecutive years. 9
John Tan, 33, Senior Associate, Withers KhattarWong John’s legal expertise is in the real estate sector, which includes advising on banking and finance and corporate real estate transactions. He has been involved in over 15 industrial building property deals in the past two years, representing vendors, purchasers, banks and investors. 10 Shobna Chandran, 33, Partner, Dentons Rodyk and Davidson Shobna has more than 10 years of experience in managing and leading
LEGAL INDUSTRY SURVEY high-value litigation, arbitration, and contentious regulatory and advisory matters. Her practice focuses on complex crossborder litigation and arbitration matters in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She also does high stakes contentious regulatory and advisory work including managing global investigations by regulators. 11 Kelvin Koh Li Qun, 32, Associate Director, TSMP Law Corporation Kelvin specialises in corporate and commercial dispute resolution and international arbitration. He advises and represents parties on several aspects such as shareholders disputes, trust litigation, regulatory matters, and employment disputes. His passion lies in education. He taught trust law at NUS and collaborated with Hwa Chong Institution on an urban farming community outreach project. 12 Adam Richardson, 32, Senior Associate, HFW Adam is a commodities practitioner with a focus on international trade and shipping matters.His work includes both contentious work, with a particular focus on international arbitration matters, and noncontentious work, including drafting and reviewing trade and shipping contracts and advising on structured trade finance matters. His experience as in-house legal counsel in two international commodity trading companies and the commodity trading desk of an international bank gives Adam a deep understanding of the trading business. 13 Darren Chan 32, Associate Director, Fortis Law Corporation Darren is active in various litigation matters but specialises in family law. He handles mediation, negotiation and dispute resolution at the State Courts, Family Court, Syariah Court, High Court and
Court of Appeal. He is a family lawyer with multi-linguistic skills, and thus able to effectively communicate with both local and international clients in divorce proceedings. 14 Mohan Gopalan, 32, Associate Director, Drew & Napier LLC Mohan specialises in insolvency and debt restructuring. He regularly advises debtors, creditors and insolvency officeholders on transactional and litigation aspects of insolvency and debt restructuring. He is involved in many significant cross-border debt restructurings, earning him recognition as a “Next Generation Lawyer” by Asia Pacific Legal 500. and received “Rising Star” award and “Notable Practitioner” ranking from IFLR. 15 Mark Teng, 31, Senior Associate Infinitus Law Corporation Mark practices intellectual property (“IP”), technology and media law. He serves on the Law Society of Singapore’s IP Practice Committee, an International Trademark Association Leadership Committee, and also founded a non-profit organisation of young lawyers in private and public sectors which aims to enhance public education in IP law called ProTIPs.sg. 16 May Kim Ho, 31, Director, Selvam LLC May Kim is active in commercial litigation and arbitration in complex corporate, commercial, and fraud cases. She has successfully mediated a considerable number of cases and appears regularly before the High Court of Singapore. 17 Liane Lim, 30, Partner, Lee & Lee Liane advises on public and private mergers and acquisitions. Her other key areas of focus include private equity issues; corporate restructuring and joint ventures. She also handles standard debt
transactions, including debt restructuring, loan agreements, guarantees, and standard security documents; equity capital market transactions; general regulatory issues under the Securities and Futures Act and the rules of the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited; and other general corporate and commercial matters. 18
Jolie Giouw, 30, Counsel, Bird and Bird AMTD Jolie’s expertise includes advising on corporate and commercial matters, particularly on equity capital markets, private equity investments, as well as public and private mergers and acquisitions. She also advises on the regulatory and licensing regimes relating to the fund management and financial advisory sectors. 19 Yi Wayn Ng, 29, Senior Associate, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Yi Wayn specialises in corporate mergers and acquisitions and has represented global and regional clients in the TMC, Education and Healthcare sectors. She regularly advises clients on crossborder acquisitions and disposals, investments, restructurings and equitycapital-market transactions. She is also a contributing author for the Lexis®Library’s International Corporate Procedures for Singapore. 20
Alcina Lynn Chew, 28, Of Counsel, Tan Kok Quan Partnership Alcina is a disputes practitioner who has represented clients across a wide spectrum of industry sectors at all levels before the State Courts, High Court, and the Court of Appeal. She has also represented clients in mediation, both institutional and ad hoc, and arbitration. Over the past year, Alcina has been involved in a number of headlinemaking cases. She represented United Overseas Bank Ltd (UOB) in its claims for fraud against a property developer grant of mortgage loans amounting to S$181 million. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
insurance industry survey individuals in taking charge of their health and financial future will become increasingly important with the rise of the gig economy, as individuals with short-term employment contracts will be more reliant on individual insurance for sustained protection for the long term,” Teow said.
askPRU allows more than 3,600 of Prudential’s financial consultants to assist clients within seconds.
Insurtech challenges firms Quite late to the digital party, insurers find room for startup collaboration.
ingapore Business Review’s Insurance Industry Survey saw a reshuffling in the top five companies over the course of 2017. AIA Singapore Private Limited held on to the top spot with assets numbered at around $39b up from an estimated $38b in the previous year. Second placer NTUC Income Insurance Cooperative Limited fell to fourth place with a total number of assets rounded off at $7b Meanwhile, Prudential Assurance Co. Singapore (PTE) Ltd steps up one notch from third place in 2016 to second place, hitting $33b estimated total assets, a little over a 10% increase from an estimated $29b assets in the previous year. The Great Eastern Life Assurance Company moves another notch up too, on the back of a 10% increase in assets from an estimated $29b to an estimated $32b. Manulife retains fifth spot with an estimated total number of assets at $7b. Faced with an increasingly older population and a growing pool of startups, Singapore’s insurance bigwigs are under increasing pressure to compete and step up to the digital challenge. Singaporeans are living to an average age of 82, eight years of which are spent in dire health amidst rising healthcare and 38
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
“There is only space for two or three big real estate agencies in the country,”
caregiving costs. To make matters worse, Singapore’s citizen old-age support ratio is estimated to reach a record-low of 2.4 in 2030, after having dropped to 4.4 in 2017 compared to 4.7 in 2016. To close these gaps, insurance executives have finally decided to ride the innovation bandwagon and transform their demand for roles, now with an emphasis on web and app developers, digital specialists, and data scientists, amongst others. Patrick Teow, chief executive officer, AIA Singapore, said that insurers are faced with a huge amount of big data at their disposal. With the continuing rise of technology and the Internet of Things, Teow said that the future could see insurers being able to collect and analyse this data with such granularity to allow them to monitor the health and risk-taking behaviours of individuals. They can then use this data to the advantage of both parties, and adjust policy coverage and premiums for each individual in a timely manner. “Technology enables better customisation at both the corporate and individual level. This creates an opportunity for insurers to empower individuals and companies to take charge of their own health and financial future. This role of
Collaboration is key Reputed to be a very traditional sector, the insurance industry saw innovation as a key sector theme in 2017. According to Arvind Mathur, chief technology officer, Prudential Life Singapore, insurtech startups have shown that change and innovation are possible in an industry that has largely done the same thing for decades. “They have shown us, that in this industry (and any industry for that matter) that is dramatically being reshaped by technology, the only way to survive and thrive is by re-thinking business models, questioning every limitation, and having innovative, accountable, empowered, and collaborative people working together to invest in the future. We have absorbed those values into our culture at Prudential,” Mathur added. True to its word, Prudential launched the PRU Fintegrate Partnership Programme to offer partnership opportunities with global fintech startups to codevelop solutions for customers. According to Mathur, they are convinced that the programme will result in faster development of solutions to enrich the customer experience. For them, it is necessary to collaborate with insurtechs for agility and innovation as 2018 is expected to see more cross-industry collaboration and emerging solutions that will definitely transform the day-to-day operations of insurers. In the lead up to greater collaboration with insurtechs, Prudential has begun using newto-the-industry capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and data analytics to help its people work smarter and provide better services to its clients. Prudential
insurance industry survey 40% of Singaporeans intend to DIY, or are undecided about whether they intend to hire an agent for their next property transaction.
Arvind Mathur, Prudential Singapore CTO
launched askPRU, an industry-first chatbot, in order to provide roundthe-clock access to policy-specific information. askPRU allows more than 3,600 of Prudential’s financial consultants to assist clients within seconds, compared to minutes on the phone or hours for a trip to the customer service center. Mathur said that with askPRU, the call volume to the Customer Service Centre dropped by a staggering 30%. “Claims automation is another area we are focusing on. The process of claims submission, assessment and settlement can be rather laborious. With artificial intelligence, we can reduce the amount of work and time spent on processing claims. In 2017, we began trialing an industry-first machine-learning based e-claims solution designed to help reduce claims assessment times from days to seconds,” Mathur added. AIA Singapore is also working on its own chatbot, following an internal launch in 2017. The chatbot is already on its second phase of refinements with the help of AI startup Cognicor, which was selected and mentored through the AIA Accelerator Programme. MAIA, a personal chatbot assistant, leverages natural language processing (NLP) and is trained to understand questions keyed in by AIA FSCs. AIA has also launched several other digital solutions ranging from a firstin-the-market digital underwriter through which 90% of new business applications are submitted and instantaneously approved to the AIA eCare app through which customers can get their policy edocuments at the tip of a finger.
What’s up ahead Considering the legacy systems that have been in place in the insurance industry, analysts believe that transformation will come in phases and take a longer time than other industries. Once insurers realise the need to enhance digital capabilities and soon as efficiency gains are seen, the organisation of incumbent firms will likely change as insurers rebuild business processes and adopt new technologies. “Prudential has started to make this shift with the launch of myDNA – a test which provides personalised insights into how an individual’s genes may affect his or her nutrition and fitness needs. From a business efficiency perspective, we expect to see more creative solutions that’ll improve processes and streamline operations in insurance, enabling
Financial Consultants to work smarter and send more time engaging meaningfully with customers, and for customers to receive a better service experience,” Mathur said. Furthermore, AIA Singapore eyes 2020 as the year that the company will be completely paperless and cashless, enabling 100% eTransactions for its clients so they can perform transactions 24/7 via any channel they desire. The banking industry, amongst others, is known to have long offered these solutions and will probably innovate further down the road. The important thing is that insurance incumbents are following suit, and are learning from peers in other sectors. Insurance and pension inclusion Deloitte’s Singapore Fintech Festival 2017 reports that digital transformation can advance insurance and pension inclusion. According to the report, 1.2 billion young, low-income, nonsalaried workers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America lack access to formal pension programmes. There is a need for simple, affordable pension, and insurance solutions that are well-supported by public policy and advocacy. “Another wrinkle is the role of data in managing risk and tailoring the customer experience. Accurate data can be hard to come by, particularly amongst lower-income customers. At the same time, there’s a growing trend to protect data privacy via regulation.
Patrick Teow, AIA Singapore CEO
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Insurance INDUSTRY SURVEY 2017
AIA SINGAPORE PRIVATE LIMITED
PRUDENTIAL ASSURANCE CO. SINGAPORE (PTE) LTD THE GREAT EASTERN LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED
NTUC INCOME INSURANCE CO-OPERATIVE LIMITED
MANULIFE (SINGAPORE) PTE. LTD.
8 9 10 11
GREAT EASTERN GENERAL INSURANCE LIMITED (formerly known as OVERSEAS ASSURANCE CORPORATION LIMITED) TOKIO MARINE LIFE INSURANCE SINGAPORE LTD HSBC INSURANCE (SINGAPORE) PTE. LIMITED TRANSAMERICA LIFE (BERMUDA) LTD. AXA LIFE INSURANCE SINGAPORE PRIVATE LIMITED
ALLIANZ SE, SINGAPORE BRANCH
MUENCHENER RUECKVERSICHERUNGS GESELLSCHAFT
SWISS LIFE (SINGAPORE) PTE. LTD.
SWISS REINSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED
ASIA CAPITAL REINSURANCE GROUP PTE LTD
FIRST CAPITAL INSURANCE LTD OLD MUTUAL INTERNATIONAL ISLE OF MAN LIMITED SINGAPORE BRANCH IAG RE SINGAPORE PTE LTD
PARTNER REINSURANCE ASIA PTE. LTD.
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
RED SWITCH PTE LTD (formerly known as AXA Insurance Singapore PTE LTD) EVEREST REINSURANCE COMPANY ZURICH INTERNATIONAL LIFE LIMITED (S'PORE BRANCH) AIG ASIA PACIFIC INSURANCE PTE. LTD. ODYSSEY REINSURANCE COMPANY FRIENDS PROVIDENT INTERNATIONAL LTD (S'PORE BRANCH) INDIA INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE PTE LTD SCOR GLOBAL LIFE SE SINGAPORE BRANCH ALLIANZ GLOBAL CORPORATE & SPECIALTY AG, S BRANCH MSIG INSURANCE (SINGAPORE) PTE. LTD. XL BERMUDA LTD (merged with XL Re Ltd last June 2016) ALLIED WORLD ASSURANCE COMPANY, LTD, S'PORE BRANCH
General/ Life Life Life General/ Life Life General/ Life General/ Life Life Life Life Life General/ Life General/ Life Life General/ Life General/ Life General
Total Assets (2016) (SGD)
2015 Total Assets
$6b $5b $4b $3b
8 9 10 13
$5b $4b $3b $2b
G20 - 2016
General General/ Life
$900m $900m $900m $900m $800m $800m $700m $700m $600m $600m $500m
22 24 23 20 26 25 28 29 30 39 32
$900m $800m $900m $1b $800m $800m $800m $600m $600m $400m $500m
$500m $400m $400m
31 45 34
$500m $300m $400m
1,289,936 1252318 1,251,090
SCOR REINSURANCE ASIA-PACIFIC PTE LTD
34 35 36
TOKIO MARINE INSURANCE SINGAPORE LTD BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY QBE INSURANCE (SINGAPORE) PTE. LTD.
General Life General General Life General Life General General General General General/ Life General General General
CHUBB INSURANCE SINGAPORE LIMITED*
38 39 40 41 42 43
THE TOA REINSURANCE COMPANY LIMITED XL INSURANCE COMPANY PLC, SINGAPORE BRANCH SOMPO INSURANCE SINGAPORE PTE. LTD. LIBERTY INSURANCE PTE LTD SWISS RE INTERNATIONAL SE, SINGAPORE BRANCH CHINA TAIPING INSURANCE (SINGAPORE) PTE. LTD.
General General General General General General
$400m $400m $400m $400m $400m $300m
35 50 33 36 42 40
ETIQA INSURANCE PTE. LTD.*
45 46 47 48
ENDURANCE SPECIALTY INSURANCE LTD, SINGAPORE BRANCH SINGAPORE REINSURANCE CORPORATION LTD UNITED OVERSEAS INSURANCE LTD AXIS SPECIALTY LIMITED (SINGAPORE BRANCH)
General General General General
$300m $300m $300m $300m
47 43 46 41
$300m $300m $300m $300m
AXA CORPORATE SOLUTIONS ASSURANCE SINGAPORE BRANCH
SIRIUS INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE CORPORATION
-Data obtained from the monetary authority of singapore *Not part of 2016 rankings
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
$400m $200m $500m $400m $300m $300m
2,007,668 1,726,663 1644122
RECOGNISING MOST OUTSTANDING LISTED, INTERNATIONAL and LOCAL the
COMPANIES in SINGAPORE NOMINATE NOW For more informa�on, contact:
JULIE ANNE NUÑEZ email@example.com +65 3158 1386 ext 221
insurance industry survey: Singapore Life
Singapore Life launch event
The Singapore Life story: How to launch a new insurance brand in Singapore Following almost half a century of the same players in the industry, Singapore Life is breaking boundaries and stepping on new grounds in an attempt to breathe new life in Singapore’s evolving insurance industry.
hen Singapore Life officially started its digital operations in October 2017, there was both a sense of relief—and an enduring excitement and belief—permeating from the company’s chief executive officer Walter de Oude. His company’s origins story may sound like any other startup story— a narrative full of hardship, almost-failures, and determination. But according to the man who inspired the company’s rise from the ground up in about three years, it all started with a belief. “The dream was to change the life insurance industry,” de Oude said in an exclusive interview with Insurance
Singapore Life families
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Singapore Life simplifies both the product and life insurance process to remove any deterrent for people to get the protection they need.
Asia. “For us, we absolutely believe that what we are building is good. We believe that what we are building is better than what customers currently have.” Digital transformation strategies and adaptation of insurance companies in Singapore have been gradual. There have been initiatives to use artificial technology and facial recognition in insurance transactions, yet the industry still heavily relies on agents and advisors to process these insurance products. This is where Singapore Life enters as an “insurtech.” Singapore Life, being the newest kid on the block in Singapore’s fast-paced and competitive insurance industry, is trying to break that mold by offering technologyfocused and modern offerings of insurance products to millions of Singaporeans. The company is currently the first one to offer a complete end-to-end life insurance digital process, “from the time you’re getting a quote to actually buying a life insurance can all be done digitally with no human intervention at all.” de Oude is consistent in emphasising about the need to change and modernise the city-state’s insurance industry, so customers can receive better services and experiences. He noted that, “Singapore Life simplifies both the product and life insurance process to remove any deterrent for
insurance industry survey: Singapore Life
The Singapore Life team at the launch event in July 2017
people to get the protection they need. We take the efficiencies from technology to offer better value to the insurance journey—making it more efficient, transparent and flexible to their needs.” But Singapore Life’s milestones didn’t start when the company’s doors opened for its first customers around two months ago. But over the three years of the group’s evolution as a reliable and trusted life insurance company. In April 2017, Singapore Life announced that it has raised a sizeable funding of around US$50m for its series A round—considered the largest ever by a Singaporebased insurtech company. This is a highly significant development for a company who was struggling to meet eye to eye with prospective investors in the early days of its existence. In June 2017, Singapore Life had also become the first fully licenced direct life insurer to be approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) over the last 47 years. During the interview, de Oude wittingly didn’t deny that pursuing the establishment of Singapore Life has, in one way or another, had other industry veterans describe him as a “certain kind of crazy.” “Building a life insurance business is not an easy thing. It’s complicated. If it was easy, lots of people would do it and the fact that Singapore Life is the first life insurance company to be given a licence in 47 years is a testament to the fact that it is not easy,” he said adding that dealing with the regulator—in this case, MAS—sort of keeps a company on its toes as the regulator wants to know that the company has the ability to execute the business operations in a meaningful and dependable way. Banking on technology Whilst the company has been partially operating in a direct manner since June for its high net worth customer segment and private banks, Singapore Life’s crown jewel is its reliance and championing of the use of technology to provide better products, services, and experience to customers. “Technology is move so fast that you have to be incredibly nimble in order to do that. Within our own architecture, we take the best technologies that are available in the market and put them together,” he said. Singapore Life’s number one selling point is the convenience it provides to its customers through its online platform and the utilisation of other cutting-edge
In April 2017, Singapore Life announced that it has raised a sizeable funding of around US$50m for its series A round— considered the largest ever by a Singaporebased insurtech company.
technologies to ease the insurance process for customers. Starting with its products and services for the high net worth and private banks segments, Singapore Life now offer life insurance plans including term insurance and critical insurance available for application and sale online. This is on top of products that consist of universal life policies and variable universal life for the HNW sector. “The change in customer behaviour towards digital execution, the digital life, the digital way of doing things. Life insurance is no different. The whole industry will move in a digital direction and what we’ve done is to empower that change,” he said. de Oude noted that Singapore life don’t do agency work where an agent represents one company to sell one product although they do work with a lot of independent financial advisers, and they are helping them execute those sales or to manage the advisers’ clients’ insurance needs completely digitally and efficiently. “Whether you want to go to an independent financial adviser or by online, it should be completely your choice as a customer,” he said. Currently, Singapore Life’s products and business consist of 80% direct and 20% still coming through advise, although given the company’s early operations, the numbers are still bound to change. This insistence to push the boundaries of the citystate’s insurance industry status quo was not a walk in the park. But this difficulty has made Singapore Life an increasingly respected player in the industry—all within the span of a few months. This belief goes through all the levels of the company’s operations. de Oude said that this determination is rooted on the belief that they can build a much better life insurance company than what is currently existing in the market; to be able to build a good platform to deliver good insurance products and services to millions of Singaporeans. Making a difference de Oude’s persistence to establish Singapore Life came with a question that lingered in his mind: how can I make a real difference? “As the previous chief executive officer of HSBC Singapore’s insurance business, I was faced with a choice in my career whether I’m going to be the CEO of big companies like HSBC—and in fact, I had a very strong career ahead of me. I had a fantastic job with
The Singapore Life team
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
insurance industry survey: Singapore Life HSBC and highly regarded,” he said. “But you get to a point in your life where you think to yourself, it must be more than just this. Surely the world needs something better. When I’m old and looking back at my life, and looking at what I’ve been able to achieve, am I happy to say I ran the world’s biggest life insurance company as CEO or did I really make a difference by creating something new, something aspirational, something that I can be proud of, something that will last longer than me,” de Oude explained. It also helps that the whole management team, not just de Oude, has been embracing technology and forwardthinking innovations with open arms. The thought processes in the firm, according to Singapore Life’s CEO is not how easy it is to implement technology. The view, instead, is the other way around, or how easy it is to rip out technology because of how fast and easy current technologies become obsolete and get replaced by newer, fancier, and more powerful ones in a matter of months. “Now I want to be in a position where we’re staying at the cutting edge of technological advancement,” he said. “When something better comes along, I can just replace it as we go and be able to add new things.” de Oude’s commitment to making a difference is also deeply rooted on his commitment and passion to Asia as a region—where he moved to at the turn of the millennium—and particularly to Singapore, the place he currently calls home. He explained that the existence of Singapore Life is mutual—Singapore as a brand has helped his company gain trust and credibility points, and in turn, his firm aims to provide Singaporeans a life insurance alternative that is more convenient and provides a better service and experience. “Everyone believes in the Singapore brand and in the regulatory framework of Singapore,” he said. “Therefore, the existence of a company like Singapore Life within the broad framework of Singapore’s regulatory environment and MAS, people get comfortable with the brand immediately,” de Oude said. Singapore Life currently offers a much more convenient life insurance alternative for Singaporeans, with products generally cheaper at the moment than most other industry competitors. This is possible, according to the Singapore Life CEO, because of the implementation of technological efficiency which turns a better value for customers. “We
Singapore Life brand campaign
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
Singapore Life office
Singapore Life currently offers a much cheaper and more convenient life insurance alternative for Singaporeans, with products 3% cheaper at the moment than most other industry competitors.
can run a life insurance company with a fraction of a number of people,” he noted. A story of marriage Singapore Life’s US$50 million initial fundraising was a record breaker for the insurtech company in the city-state, but getting investors at first was no easy task. “Starting a new life insurance company is a difficult thing to do, and to find investors that back you in a way that you want to run the business is difficult,” de Oude said. He said the company, particularly the management team, approached about 200 different investors over two to three years, with various degrees of successes and failures. De Oude said that the initial thinking and strategy was to get a big, established life insurance company that wants to do digital operations in their portfolio, and actually got good initial feedback and discussions with a number of these sizeable firms. However, things didn’t end smoothly. “What happened was, by the time we got to the end of the road, it’s deal-making time. The decision makers in these big insurance companies all said that they can do it themselves and that they don’t need to invest in a new business to do it,” he said, adding that the deals often fell apart for that reason. Some other investors promised the world but couldn’t deliver, but most felt that early stage investment was a challenge. Throughout Singapore Life’s early days, there were also some instances when after six months of negotiating and coming into terms, the investors suddenly wanted to insert certain clauses that weren’t discussed before or is not exactly aligned with the vision of the management and the whole business. From Singapore Life’s experiences, de Oude shared two valuable insights on finding investors and the relationship that will come out of that transaction: treat the relationship as marriage and don’t compromise your original plans with the investors, especially if you don’t think it’s for the best of the company. “Have absolute alignment with the interest of the founders and the interest of the investors. You’re not just accepting money from an investor, you’re actually getting married. And that marriage has to be long-term, and there can’t be avenues for either one party to take advantage of the other,” he noted. This principle, according to de Oude, has led him and some of the original brains behind Singapore Life to walk
insurance industry survey: Singapore Life brand & marketing
Singapore Life reinforces new life
Singapore Life office
away from investors who, after 6 months of efforts, don’t have the same goals and aspirations as the business itself. Singapore Life’s current shareholders include Chong Sing Fintech Group Ltd—a Hong Kong Stock Exchangelisted integrated fintech group with a focus on 24/7 online financial services to small and medium-sized enterprises, merchants, and individuals in China and Asia through internet and mobile solutions—and IPGL Limited, a private holding company which focuses on partnering with experienced management teams in the financial services sector. “We have investors who are absolutely committed to the growth of this business … and who support the direction of the management,” he said. “If you don’t have that kind of investor in the business, things don’t go smoothly. Singapore Life has that.” Road ahead Whilst the road just virtually started for Singapore Life, having been in full operations only a couple of months, de Oude have set goals and targets for the road ahead. First, is the $100 million life coverage in the first 100 days of operations or about 1,000 policies, particularly on its early product offerings on high net worth clients and private banks as well as life insurance policies. The company is also looking to be a 5% share player in the market in the next 5 years. Singapore’s total market size is about $2.8 to $3 billion premium. “In the Singaporean context, 5% of that would be $150 million in annual premium so that’s the target,” he said. Singapore Life will also stick to the retail protection business, which can be executed digitally, and the high net worth market which focuses on Singapore as a hub for financial services, which gives an attractive proposition not only to Singaporeans but Indonesians, Chinese, and Asian customers. “They value Singapore as the destination for their wealth and that’s proving to be a very strong position,” he said, while adding that there is also a possibility of expanding the company’s operations to other countries in the Southeast Asian region like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines because of the replicability of Singapore Life’s business structure. For de Oude, “Singapore Life is evidence that the life insurance industry is undergoing change.”
People are looking for a better life insurance experience and are looking for better value.
Apart from making a name for itself as the insurtech in Singapore with the largest fundraising to date, the first life insurance company to be licenced by MAS in 47 years, and the first life insurance firm to offer end-to-end life insurance digital products and services, Singapore Life has also captured the emotions of people in its first ever brand awareness campaign in the city-state. In October 2017, Singapore Life released a new advertising campaign featuring six women—four Chinese, one Indian, and one Malay, showing Singapore’s ethnic diversity—giving live birth on camera to highlight the “rawness and reality” of childbirth and the importance of protecting life. The monochromatic short film shows the struggles of mothers in rearing and delivering a child to this world, highlighting the importance of protecting them by protecting yourself. The video is 2 minutes 45 seconds long and ends with the line that goes, “The moment in life when you realise you need Life,” and then pans to Singapore Life as the brand. “We believe that life is worth celebrating and life is worth protecting and that miracle of birth and all the emotions that are so familiar to us, parents, and all the love and dedication and joy that we get from that family we create is a momentous, important occasion, and it reminds us of how priceless life is,” de Oude said. “Singapore Life wants to be associated with the good part of celebrating life, of celebrating birth, being part of people’s lives,” the Singapore Life CEO said. “We don’t buy life insurance for ourselves, we buy it for others, for those that would struggle if we were no longer there.” A successful campaign de Oude said that the brand and marketing campaign has been a roaring success for the company in terms of letting people know who they are as a company and what they’re offering, as well as what they value most as their core principle in serving the people. “That is translating into activity and sales, which we’re thrilled with.” “What we’re finding, and this is a critical thing, is that people are looking for better life insurance experience and are looking for better value. We have been absolutely true to deliver that aspiration for clients and we’re seeing that traction coming through in the early days of activity that we’ve seen,” he noted. “We feel empowered. We feel well-accepted by customers and the market. We will grow strength to strength,” de Oude concluded.
Singapore Life office
SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
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Management Excellence Awards 2018
Rachel Chan of Ohsosom
Singapore Business Review congratulates the following winners:
Lim Eng Lam of Nanyang Old Coffee
ingapore Business Review honoured nine top business leaders across several industries during its 3rd Management Excellence Awards (MEA). This year’s winners were judged by Henry Tan, managing director at NEXIA TS; Lim Wei Wei, partner at Baker Tilly TFW; Foo Yuet Min, director for dispute resolution at Drew & Napier; and Azman Jaafar, deputy managing director for RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP. The event coincides with the magazine’s 4th Business Rankings Awards (BRA), putting into the limelight companies that made it to the SBR industry ranking lists. SBR also recognised outstanding young professionals aged 40 and under from across various fields. Meanwhile, the most exceptional products in Singapore that prove to be industry game changers were also lauded at the Made in Singapore and Designed in Singapore Awards.
Executives of the Year Architecture-Karen Cvornyek, B+H Architects (Singapore) Pte Ltd Pharmaceuticals-Raman Singh, Mundipharma Education-Zeenath Kuraisha, Asia Pacific Sales & Marketing Academy Pte Ltd Talent Development and Engagement-Joseph Wong, TRAININGGEARASIA PTE LTD Logistics-Syed Ali Ridha Madihid, iCommerce Asia Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Championship Human Resource Technology-Kannan Chettiar, AVVANZ Innovators of the Year Business Services-Angela Sim, Ence Marketing Insurance-AIA Singapore Team, AIA Singapore
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Team of the Year Market Research Consulting-Consulting Group – Asia Insight Employee Engagement of the Year Banking-Royal Bank of Scotland Made in Singapore Awards Energy & Power - REC TWINPEAK 2 SERIESREC Group Designed in Singapore Awards Beverage - Singapore Old Coffee, Nanyang Old Coffee Pte Ltd Designed in Singapore Awards Apparel (Women) - Yoga leggings, Ohsosom Pte Ltd
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Ng Chong Hin of Consulting Group – Asia Insight
Most Notable Chief Marketing Officers Aged 40 and under Benny Chow, Firefly Photography Pte. Ltd Marcus Loh, PSB Academy Roy Ang, Withers KhattarWong Jordan Lai, Z-Power Automation Pte Ltd Most Influential Lawyers Aged 40 and under Sui Yi Siong, Eversheds Harry Elias Amit Ramkrishn Dhume, Colin Ng & Partners LLP Tan Tho Eng Darren, TSMP Law Corporation 46
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Yong Hong Sen of AIA Singapore
Clemence Lee Wei Qiang of Jones Lang Lasalle Dhume Amit Ramkrishn Property Consultants Pte Ltd of Colin Ng & Partners LLP
Benny Chow Chun Thai of Firefly Photography Pte. Ltd.
Lee Cheow Yeh of ONG&ONG Pte Ltd
Jordan Lai of Z-Power Automation Pte Ltd
Lim Chai Hwa of Management Development Institute of Singapore
Lim Jiahui of CPG Consultants Pte Ltd
Most Revolutionary Architects aged 40 and Under
Most Notable Chief Marketing Officer Aged 40 and Under
Marcus Loh of PSB Academy
Most Influential Lawyers Aged 40 and Under
Tan Tho Eng Darren of TSMP Roy Ang of Withers Law Corporation KhattarWong
Sui Yi Siong of Eversheds Harry Elias
Joseph Wong of TRAININGGEARASIA PTE LTD
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Shankar Sridhara of REC Group
Woon Chung Yen of DP Architects SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2018
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Karen Cvornyek of B+H Architects (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Rachel Chan and Bernard Johnsom of Ohsosom
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Published on Feb 28, 2018