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Can rig builders

stay afloat?

Default spike looms in 2016

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Interview with SGX’s

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influential lawyers

Tan Boon Gin


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SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 1


CONTENTS

32

CoVER STORY Singapore’s 20 hottest startups to watch out for in 2016

FIRST 08 Property price drop could

FIRST 22 Confidence crisis hits Noble

REGULAR 26 Financial Insight

12 Can rig builders stay afloat if Sete

28 Economic Insight

14 Singaporean lenders face headwinds

16 The 40 most influential lawyers aged 40 and under

Published Bi-monthly on the Second week of the Month by Charlton Media Group 101 Cecil St. #17-09 Tong Eng Building 2 Singapore SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 069533

36 International tie-ups put pressure on local firms

10 Expats fly to dream city Brasil goes bust?

24

People Profile SGX’s Tan on regulation, shareholder activism and whistle-blowing

RANKINGS

trigger easing

09 One-two punch for the economy

48

event coverage: Meet the movers and shakers in Singapore’s cutthroat business scene

38 Legal Briefing 42 CMO Briefing

40 Structural issues put pressure on insurers’ margins

OPINION 54 MediShield Life and employee healthcare

56 Here’s how fitness will improve performance management

For the latest business news from Singapore visit the website

www.sbr.com.sg


News from sbr.com.sg Daily news from Singapore most read

ECONOMY

Singapore dollar approaching band limit after recent slide Singapore’s dollar slid to a six-year low after China’s central bank reduced its reference rate for the yuan by the most since August. Barclays Plc said further declines are set to slow, according to a report by Bloomberg. The MAS guides the SGD against an undisclosed basket of currencies of its trading partners and competitors. It’s “pretty close to the bottom end of the band” based on Barclays’s calculations.

AVIATION

BOC Aviation continues plane buying spree with US$3b Airbus order Singapore-based BOC Aviation revealed that it has placed an order for 30 Airbus A320 planes in December. This latest order comprises 18 A320 NEO family and 12 A320 CEO family aircraft. “This order underscores our continued confidence in the reliability of the A320 family,” said Robert Martin, CEO of BOC Aviation. BOC Aviation is an aircraft company with a portfolio of 270 managed aircraft.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

HDB resale volume dips 4.3% in December HDB resale volume dipped by 4.3% in December 2015, according to the SRX Property Price Index. Only 1,404 HDB flats were sold in December 2015, marking a slight pullback from November 2015’s 1,467 transacted units. Resale volume also picked up by 8.4% YoY compared to 1,295 units resold in December. It’s plunged 61.4%, compared to its previous peak of 3,649 units recorded last May 2010.

The WITTMANN Group

T

he WITTMANN Group is a worldwide leader in the manufacturing of injection molding machines, robots and peripheral equipment for the plastics industry. Headquartered in Vienna/Austria, the WITTMANN Group consists of two main divisions, WITTMANN BATTENFELD and WITTMANN, which operates 10 production facilities in 7 countries, including 30 direct subsidiary offices located in all major plastics markets around the world. WITTMANN BATTENFELD focuses on independent market growth in the manufacturing of state-of-the art injection molding machines and process technology, providing a modern and comprehensive range of machinery in a modular design that meets the actual and future requirements of the plastic injection molding market. WITTMANN’s product range includes robots and automation systems, material handling systems, dryers, gravimetric and volumetric blenders, granulators, mold temperature controllers and chillers. With this comprehensive range of peripheral equipment, WITTMANN can provide plastics processors with solutions that cover all production requirements, ranging from autonomous work cells to integrated plantwide systems.

The syndication of the WITTMANN Group has led to connectivity between all product lines, providing the advantage plastics processors have been looking for in terms of a seamless integration of injection molding machines, automation and auxiliary equipment – all occurring at a progressive rate.

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Agenda PEOPLE | PLACES | SERVICES | OPPORTUNITIES

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Taking its name from a bay side town in Sydney, Australia, Wooloomooloo Steakhouse is situated in a stunning locale with impressive views of the city. Comprising 6,300 sq ft of wining and dining space, the stylish restaurant promises a memorable dining experience with its premium steak selection, Australian-inspired offerings, as well as an outstanding range of wines and cocktails. The 140-seater restaurant also hones a semi-private dining area that is created using chain link curtains, aiming to provide diners a more intimate spot for private occasions. Address: 2 Stamford Road, Level 3 Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore 178882 Contact Number: 6338 0261 Email: woo-singapore@wooloo-mooloo.com

OPPORTUNITIES

OPPORTUNITIES

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FIRST soften the risks of a sharper-thanwarranted price correction, with spill-overs to the banking sector and economy given uncertainties in the financial markets and headwinds,” says Song. Song also cites MAS data which show Singapore home prices have seen relatively lower price rises since March 2010 at 14% compared with rises seen in regional peers like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Korea. Private home prices have been declining since the latter half of 2013, which has led MAS to believe sector risks are waning.

tap and shop

Residents of the city-state might be saying goodbye to physical currency faster than expected as Singaporeans warm up to mCommerce or “mobile commerce”, with half of online shoppers choosing to make their purchases via mobile device within the last year. According to Visa’s latest Consumer Payment Attitudes survey, half of respondents say that they regularly shop via mobile, with 20% preferring mobile commerce over online channels. Additionally, the survey said that the categories that are increasingly being purchased via mobile devices in Singapore include movie tickets (35%), food delivery (32%), and fashion and accessories (20%). Also illustrating the meteoric rise of mCommerce in the city-state, almost half of the respondents say they began making purchases via their mobile devices only a year ago. Card over cash The survey also shows that Singaporeans are moving away from cash, with 76% of respondents saying they prefer the use of payment cards overall rather than cash. “This is a significant increase as compared to 2014 where 58 per cent of respondents prefer to use their payment cards instead of cash. In addition, almost half (49%) of respondents report having more payment cards,” it said. Meanwhile, the survey added that more than 70% of consumers in Singapore shop online at least once a month, compared to 59% in the previous year. The relatively small island nation is also leading southeast Asia in terms of online shopping uptake, well ahead of the regional average of 68%.

8 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Economic conditions are dragging prices down xxx

Property price drop could trigger easing

W

hen the Singapore government rolled out its property cooling measures, it sought to temper the skyrocketing home prices across the island, but analysts predict some policy easing as early as 2017, especially if further price falls hit the market. “While home price corrections have slowed down, we believe deteriorating economic conditions could push prices down by another 4-6% in 2016. This could set the stage for a progressive loosening of policy measures in early 2017,” says Derrick Heng, analyst at Maybank Kim Eng. Plummeting prices Heng reckons property developers like Wing Tai and CityDev that have the largest exposure to Singapore’s residential market stand to benefit the most if such policy loosening occurs, which will become more likely if the economic environment worsens. The peak vacancy rate of 10% in 2016 coupled with expected Fed rate hikes will push down prices another 5-8% in the first half of 2016, says Tricia Song, analyst, Asia ex-Japan real estate at Barclays. “By then the government may be ready for some policy easing to

Deteriorating economic conditions could push prices down by another 4-6% in 2016. This could set the stage for a progressive loosening of policy measures in early 2017.

Three major factors For his part, OCBC analyst Eli Lee expects private residential prices to dip 5-15% in 2016-2017, and primary residential sales to remain muted at between 6,000-9,000 units. He also projects residential rentals levels to fall 8%-15% over 2016-17, and vacancy levels to increase from 7.8% currently to about 10% by end-2017. Lee reckons three major factors will sway Singapore’s domestic residential prices in 2016-17. The first two factors – a significant physical oversupply and rising floating mortgage rates amid higher interest rates in the US – should further drive down prices. But a third factor of potential curbs reversals after price declines reach double-digits in the second half of 2016 should soften the impact of the first two factors. “That said, a price crash in excess of 20% is improbable, in our view,” says Lee. “Given the high price elasticity of demand in the housing market; that is, we will likely see significant buyer demand coming into the market at lower price points.”

Physical oversupply situation to persist over 2016-17

Source: URA, OIR


FIRST EM Asia exports and advanced economies imports (% y-o-y)

Source: CPB, HSBC

New year, old challenges for Singapore

One-two punch for the economy

A

brand new 2016 may have arrived for Singapore and the rest of Asia, but old challenges remain in the Year of the Monkey as China’s slackening growth, coupled with internal employment woes, are expected to hound the city-state this year. Despite remaining the region’s economic powerhouse, China has been the subject of concern lately, particularly in the area of exports and manufacturing. “As growth on the mainland continues to slow, the region increasingly feels the pinch. Lower commodity prices, for example, are

not lifting growth in Asia, hurting exporters while failing to spur spending elsewhere,” says Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC. “Then there’s weaker Chinese appetite for machinery and consumer goods, which is keeping a lid on trade even as shipments to the West are stabilising,” Neumann adds. At home, a new labour policy is also poised to squeeze the country’s services and manufacturing sectors, notes Andrew Wood, head of Asia country risk research at BMI Research, noting that the tightening

Singapore’s economy is expected only to grow this year by as little as 1.8% versus a 2.1% forecast in 2015.

of work pass criteria at all levels is expected to continue with the ruling People’s Action Party winning a fresh mandate in last year’s election. Guarded forecasts “Singapore will remain mired in a slow growth environment over the near future as external and domestic factors continue to act as a drag on economic activity,” Wood says. “Regardless of a potential easing of fiscal policy, Singapore’s economy will likely remain mired in a period of below-trend growth over the near-to-medium term.” HSBC believes the major risk for Singapore this year to be weak growth from major trading partners such as China and Malaysia, as well as the broader ASEAN region. As a result, Singapore’s economy is expected only to grow this year by as little as 1.8% versus a 2.1% forecast in 2015.

The Chartist: Mid-tier hotels brace for the worst as supply floods in 2016 Hoteliers will be scratching their heads this year looking for occupants for their empty hotel rooms as Singapore’s alreadysaturated hospitality market becomes even more crowded. In fact, 4,000 new hotel rooms will be added to the market at a time when arrivals are just starting to mount a bounce back, analysts from OCBC say. OCBC says while visitors from China and India continue to grow, rising by 20% and 21.5% respectively, an 8.7% decline in visitors from Indonesia continues to dampen the growth, making it harder for hotels to find clients. However, recovery in Chinese arrivals is expected to continue in 2016, and together with a boost from an increased number of large conferences, should improve tourist arrivals by 3%.

Soft November RevPAR performance

Increased room supply a challenge for 2016

Source: OCBC

Source: OCBC

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 9


FIRST

Expats fly to dream city

Survey

Pay raises for Gen Y

W

hen Australian Simon Hyett moved to Singapore around 14 years ago, he wanted to explore Asia and experience the thrill of working in a new country. But part of what kept Hyett and his family rooted here for so long instead of moving back to Sydney are the low income tax and high expat integration. “Singapore kills it in terms of lifestyle and cost of living,” says Hyett. “Singapore maintains generously low personal income tax levels,” he adds. “It is perhaps the most integrated city in Asia in terms of cohesion, and professional and social fraternisation between our hosts and expats.” Millions of expats would love to also move to Singapore because of the same reasons that has kept Hyett, according to recent expat surveys.

Singapore is an expat’s dream city

thirds (67%) of expats recognise an improvement in their overall quality of life from moving to Singapore. Many like Hyett also settle for the long-term as almost half (46%) of expat respondents have been there for City of dreams over five years. Singapore is one of the top ten cities Despite its great career prospects that expats dream of moving to, and attractive expat lifestyle, reveals a recent Inter Nations survey Singapore’s cost of living is rising fast, conducted among 14,000 expats which could pose a concern for newer worldwide. New York topped the expats. list, closely followed by London, ECA International’s cost of living Barcelona, Sydney and San Francisco. survey showed Singapore is the But Singapore stood out as the 5th most popular destination among male world’s 18th most expensive location, moving up 8 places from its 24th expats. An HSBC Explorer survey finds two position globally.

Singapore “offers strong career progression opportunities and an exceptional quality of life” as a global finance centre.

Mobile App Watch

Withdraw cash digitally with GoSwiff’s new mobile app Consumers won’t have to worry about limited access to ATMs and bank branches. Aimed at helping to boost mobile transactions through mobile point of sale or mPOS, global mobile payments and marketing services provider, GoSwiff launched its new payment application. According to GoSwiff’s COO, Stefano Diemmi, at a time when increasing numbers of merchants and consumers are looking to make payments digitally, their latest app allows them to do this faster and more efficiently. Stefano explains that rather than solving problems, their latest app offers a number of new features and opportunities for those using it. Some of the key highlights include a new user interface which has an intuitive design to make the payment experience for the consumer even smoother, and cash advances allowing cardholders to withdraw cash up to a certain limit through the mobile application. 10 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Singapore’s Generation Y employees want pay rises, and they want them now—or else. According to a survey by specialist recruitment firm, Robert Half, the most common response for the city-state’s Gen Y employees who are denied a pay rise is to start packing up and looking for another job, with four in ten respondents aged between 18 and 34 saying they will walk if they don’t get the boost in pay they want. In contrast, Robert Half says the most common response for Generation X employees (those aged 35 to 55) was to wait for the next performance review and to ask for a pay rise again. Meanwhile, baby boomers (those aged 55 and above) also expressed more willingness to wait, with 42% saying they will ask again at the time of their next performance review. Not whiners Meanwhile, only 6% of Generation Y employees said they would take no action when denied a pay rise, compared to 8% of Gen X employees and 10% of baby boomers. This may sound like a problem to employers the good news is that Singapore employees are not whiners, as only 4% of employees admitted to responding by complaining about their boss’s decision to colleagues, friends, or their spouse. According to Stella Tang, managing director of Robert Half Singapore, the disparity between the reactions of different generations indicate different priorities. “Generation Y is ambitious and wants to keep their careers moving forward.


co-published Corporate profile

AIA Singapore’s Digital Underwriter: a quicker and easier way to get insured In a market where innovation is inevitable, AIA Singapore proves its solutions can stand out.

W

ith technology taking over nearly every aspect of Singaporean life, it now comes as no surprise that even businesses such as insurance companies are taking the lead with easier and faster transactions, harnessing digital avenues to make transactions easier and more efficient. Aiming to simplify the insurance purchase process, AIA Singapore, for instance, launched the country’s first digital underwriting module last October. This module comes as the average Singaporean is underinsured and the protection gap for working adult population in Singapore is estimated to be S$462 billion, according to the protection gap analysis commissioned by the Life Insurance Association (LIA).1 In addition, every two in five Singaporeans now own a tablet computer compared to one in three in 2012, according to a 2013 Straits Times report—indicating that Singaporeans, now well-versed in the latest technology, are now receptive to going online for their business, including insurance. “In today’s fast-paced world, we know the importance of making it easy for customers to do business with us and we are committed to provide the best possible service at their time of need. This is a step in the right direction for us as The Real Life Company with a vision to be Singapore’s undisputed number one insurer on every measure,” shares Patrick Teow, Chief Executive Officer of AIA Singapore, describing the company’s new digital underwriting service, which recently won the Innovator of the Year Award for the

Financial Services Industry, for the Singapore Business Review Excellence Awards 2015. Breakthrough solutions The new digital service, AIA Singapore claims, is part of its commitment to improve Singaporeans’ lives via innovative solutions that bridge the country’s protection gap and to offer a holistic customer experience. With AIA’s digital underwriter, customers now answer and submit insurance application forms digitally, effectively bidding farewell to the days of old when manually filling up lengthy and generic insurance forms was very much the norm. “Leveraging iPoS’s (interactive point-ofsales) leading technology, the company’s underwriting questions have been simplified and personalised to suit specific profiles, which can reduce the number of questions customers need to answer by more than half,” AIA Singapore says. Transactions are faster: thanks to on-thespot, electronic underwriting, which allows for instant confirmation of results for standard insurance applications, once underwriting is completed and policy contracts issued — a much faster turnover time compared to the current waiting time of up to three days. “This will remove the anxiety and frustration customers sometimes experience while waiting days for a verdict on their applications,” AIA Singapore notes.

But while transactions are faster, they are no less dynamic or responsive. The AIA digital underwriter “will respond to any additional disclosure from customers and ask supplementary questions,” in order to expedite the underwriting process for standard insurance applications. Transactions are also more convenient: by going online, customers can simply browse through streamlined and personalised policy questions with a “cleaner, slicker” design for use on digital devices such as tablets, thus enhancing productivity for customers who are always on the go. Aside from improving the process of applying for insurance for customers, AIA’s enhanced iPoS with the new digital underwriter also gives more than 4,000 AIA Financial Services Consultants (AIA FSCs) a distinct advantage by further simplifying the business process for them. “AIA FSCs will also spend less time on administrative matters and more time on providing quality advice to meet customers’ protection and financial needs, and our underwriters can focus more on handling complex cases and expedite the approval of customer applications,” AIA Singapore says. Exemplifying commitment At the end of the day, what exactly drives AIA Singapore’s commitment to constantly offer new and innovative products for its customers? “AIA is pursuing a culture of innovation as part of our commitment to anticipate and provide the best possible service to meet the changing needs of our customers. We will continue to roll out this technology in other AIA markets as we lead the way and set new standards for efficiency, productivity and customer experience in the industry” Sim Preston, Group Chief Operations Officer of AIA Group, said. Moving forward, AIA will continue to introduce innovative products and services to help ensure that customers remain financially secured and protected. Developing the game-changing digital underwriter in iPoS is a continuative innovation to iPoS, which was launched in 2012. iPoS in AIA Singapore was recognised as Innovation of the Year 2013 Award at the 17th Asia Insurance Industry Awards. LIA – 2012 Protection Gap Study Singapore; www.lia.org.sg/.../LIA_ Protection_Gap_Study_2012_Report_28Aug12.pdf

1

“The new digital service is part of its commitment to improve lives via innovative solutions.” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 11


FIRST

Can rig builders stay afloat if Sete Brasil goes bust?

S

ete Brasil might just end up going under, and analysts fear that Singapore’s largest rig builders might also go under if their biggest customer goes belly-up. After winning several contracts from Sete Brasil in the rig-building boom of 2012, both Keppel Corporation and Sembcorp Marine now stand to lose billions of dollars from their order books if the corruption-riddled company decides to cancel the projects. Keppel has a $2.4b outstanding orderbook for Sete Brasil projects, while SMM has a $4.5b outstanding orderbook for the projects.

gearing for the rig builders. “The prospects of Keppel and SMM receiving payments now look increasingly bleak. If they need to make impairments to inventories, equity value will compress, leading to much higher gearings. These could trigger banking covenants forcing the companies to raise equity. Dividends will be cut,” Yeak warns.

Order cancellations The cancellation of all Sete Brasil contracts is now a plausible scenario, Yeak notes. Ho adds that the six remaining rigs which have not yet started construction are now more Sinking revenues vulnerable to cancellation than ever. “If Sete Brasil were to file for chapter 11, “Up until now, the widely-held view was Singapore rig builders are likely to make that Sete Brasil would scale down its 29-rig revenue reversals and impairments. program to 15, of which 13 will be from Singapore rig builders might have to Keppel and SMM. In our view, the worstnegotiate with Petrobras on the rigs orders case scenario of almost all rig contracts and charter contracts,” says DBS analyst Pei being eventually terminated may now be a Hwa Ho. possibility,” Yeak says. Ho is particularly wary of the possibility The rig builders have not been paid since that the rig builders will have to finance the November 2014, after Sete Brasil failed rigs for Petrobras. Ho estimates that the to secure long-term financing from state remaining values for rigs under construction development bank, BNDES after a slew of by Keppel and SMM are $1bn and $1.5bn, corruption charges. Since then, Sete Brasil respectively. Maybank Kim Eng analyst, has been working on a restructuring plan, Yeak Chee Keong notes that Sete Brasil’s including reducing the newbuild program potential bankruptcy will result in higher from 29 rigs, and roping in equity partners

Order cancellations pile up on rig builders

to jointly own the rigs, among others. However, as at the time of writing, Sete Brasil’s investors are due to meet to decide whether or not the company will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Despite the risks, all is not yet lost for the rig builders. Ho notes that the seven rigs which have already commenced construction are at lower risks. This is because Keppel and SMM are the only players who can deliver the local-content compliant rigs customised to Petrobras’ field.

OFFICE WATCH

Workcentral’s two unique office environments Located in the heart of Orchard Road is Workcentral, a new coworking space hued in a soothing, cool grey palette, and energised with Pantone colour accents. Founded by siblings Mark and Paul Lee, Workcentral highlights two unique environments - the “focussed office” and the “living rooms.” If you prefer to work in a cool office environment or in a cosier space reminiscent of home, Workcentral bills to offer both kinds of atmosphere. According to Paul, Workcentral features ergonomic executive chairs and lounge areas for those waiting for long hours to fly by. It also has hot desks arranged in opposing rows, allowing teams to sit together and communicate easily,while the three meeting rooms and one boardroom are smartly fitted out with UHD LED displays, projectors and teleconferencing equipment.

12 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Working Area

Executive Boardroom

MeetingArea

Concierge


co-published Corporate profile

3E Accounting proves the success of a team lies in sharing common goals and visions The rapidly-expanding 3E Accounting won the Executive of the Year award.

Lawrence Chai, managing director of 3E Accounting, with Singapore Business Review publisher Tim Charlton

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awrence Chai, the Managing Director of 3E Accounting Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based CPA firm offering a comprehensive set of services to new start-ups and enterprises in Singapore, has recently received the Executive of the Year – Financial Services Award at The 2015 Singapore Business Review Management Excellence Award Ceremony held on 2nd December, 2015. The decision to present the award was made by a jury comprising of four judges, all of whom are leading some of the biggest businesses in Asia. The ceremony was held at Casuarina Ballroom of Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore. The panel of judges to review the nomination changes every year. The 2015 panel were some of the most esteemed names in accounting industry including Dr. Janson Yap, Regional Managing Director – Innovation Leader of Deloitte Asia Pacific & SEA, Henry Tan, Managing Director of NEXIA TS, Adrian Chan, Partner – Head of Corporate of Lee & Lee and Azman Jaafar, Deputy Managing Partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP. Hard work and leadership The Managing Director of 3E Accounting Pte Ltd expressed great excitement regarding their recent achievement at the SBR Management Excellence Awards and

attributed the success to the efforts and hard work of the firm’s leadership. He said, “It is great news for the whole team and while all of us worked really hard, the credit should go to the whole team. Our team share a common vision which is hard to find in local businesses these days. Each and every one of them believe in serving with excellence and delivering high quality of services to clients. They want our clients to grow because that is where our success lies. No matter how idealistic this vision may sound, it is working for us and for our clients.” In 2014, 3E Accounting Pte. Ltd. successfully ventured into the Malaysian business scene with plans of further global growth. 3E Accounting PLT, Malaysia was founded by Yivon Yau and Stephanie Chua who brought forward the concept of ensuring businesses success by focusing on 3Es: efficiency, effectiveness, and economy. With this approach, the company has helped plenty of small businesses, startups, and enterprises establish, improve, and even expand their

“The firm has brought forth a unique approach that works seamlessly and effectively.”

operations in Malaysia. Sharing the prospective growth plan for the company, the Managing Director stated, “We are planning to look into expanding into Hong Kong and China after we have established all our ASEAN members. Our next target will be to venture into the wider Asia and global market.” He further speculated that the award will further establish a trust between businesses and corporate service providers, and highlighted the significance of such recognition and awards. About 3E Accounting 3E Accounting Ptd Ltd is a corporate service provider offering a wide range of consulting and accounting related services to businesses in Singapore. Founded by highly experienced CPAs and business consultants, Lawrence Chai and Stephanie Chua, the firm has brought forth a unique approach that works seamlessly and effectively for all kinds of businesses including new start-ups and even multinational corporations looking for opportunities in the region.

CONTACT Company Name: 3E Accounting Pte Ltd Phone Number: +65 6690 9262 Email: info@3ecpa.com.sg

3E Accounting team

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 13


FIRST NUMBERS

singapore job forecast

Banks grapple with anemic loan growth

Singaporean lenders face headwinds

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anks to struggle with loan growth slowing and regulators looking to implement cooling measures 2015 has been a challenging year for the Singaporean banking sector as banks find it increasingly more difficult to grow their lending books. November’s loan growth print was at 1.4% versus 9.1% in the previous year, and was mainly dragged by business loans which had seen a 2.3% contraction year-to-date. The main drags were manufacturing, commerce and other loans, which were lower by -2.3%, -5.1% and -8.0% which eclipsed the healthy loan growth in construction and mortgages. CIMB banking analyst, Kenneth Ng noted that this environment of lower loan growth may be the new norm. They are forecasting that loan growth is likely to stay in the low single-digit range moving forward, and for loan demand to remain weak. This is likely to be offset by the higher net interest margins (NIM) that will be brought about by a rising interest rate environment, which may help keep returns on equity steady. Scrambling for new sources Morgan Stanley’s ASEAN bank research team forecasts that overall loan growth will be 1.6% in 2016 14 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

and 0.7% in 2017, which in their contrary view will put pressure on banks’ net interest margins and consequently challenge them to generate returns. Singaporean banks are also likely to face difficulty finding new sources of lending growth given weak underlying drivers. According to Shirley Crystal Chua, CEO & managing director of Golden Equator Capital, “a significant portion of Singapore banks’ loan component is made up of oil and commodities companies. Given the current 12-year low oil prices and price expectations to remain at these levels, we expect loan growth to be even slower in 2016.” She also notes that housing demand, and demand for construction, in turn, are expected to tone down.

Overall loan growth will be 1.6% in 2016 and 0.7% in 2017, which in their contrary view will put pressure on banks’ net interest margins.

YTD system loan growth in 2014 vs 2015

Source: CIMB Research, company

Source: Manpower Group


co-published Corporate profile

Norbreeze Group primed for innovation

Find out who their new acquisitions are and how their Strategy 2020 works.

Joe & The Juice at Chevron House

Norbreeze Management Team, Singapore

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anish duo Anders Peter Juel Sauerberg, CEO of Norbreeze Group, and his wife, Anne Trads Hansen, have been introducing international accessible luxury brands into SouthEast Asia for the past 10 years. They have successfully launched brands such as Pandora, Philip Stein, Skagen, Bering and Cath Kidston into the region. Norbreeze is excited to be starting off 2016 with their strongest portfolio yet. Their recent acquisitions and partnerships in 2015 include Daniel Wellington, Monica Vinader, Danish F&B lifestyle brand Joe & the Juice, and the Group’s own e-commerce establishment, Cocomi. “For over a decade, Norbreeze Group has focused on incubating brands into success with sustainable growth returns,” Anders Peter says. “So we are very excited to do the same and grow our business with the new brands acquired.” The new brands were selected after careful consideration and analysis for their compelling category growth, market potential, and ability to provide unique experiences to their consumers in the region. In tandem with the new acquisitions and partnerships, Norbreeze Group has embarked on a new phase of business optimisation with the

implementation of Strategy 2020. The new direction steers the business away from the initial start-up, family-owned structure to one that is prepared for commercial growth, durable with an openness to attract future investors. Norbreeze Group’s Strategy 2020 will include optimising and introducing innovation of their business operations. There are plans to expand with the aim of reinforcing their position as the Asian retail specialist. With Strategy 2020 in place, the group is determined to grow their brand portfolio by identifying, developing and acquiring high potential new-to-market brands. Strategy 2020 will refresh and clearly re-define the Group’s business direction with motivated employees, compelling consumer shopping experiences and a strong corporate culture. A diverse portfolio Cocomi was launched in 2015 to diversify and incorporate e-commerce into the business. The online store offers sunglasses, watches and jewelry in the accessible luxury category across

local and international markets. Cocomi now carries over 130 brands and is now live in nine markets globally including Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, The Philippines and United Kingdom. It opened its first brick and mortar store in Raffles City last year. The proliferation of platforms and services means that people can shop and be connected in a variety of ways, true to Norbreeze Group’s 2020 vision. As its key partner for Singapore and Macau, Norbreeze Group has seen Daniel Wellington dominate the market with their minimalist designs and successful social media strategies. The brand took Singapore by storm, gaining quick popularity among chic influencers and young consumers. British luxury jewelry designer, Monica Vinader, is known for its eclectic and uniquely personalized jewelry. Its exceptional quality, directional designs, and accessibility has made it a favourite among red carpet regulars and royalty. Last December, the first Monica Vinader store opened in Singapore’s ION Orchard, and its second outlet opens in Takashimaya Department Store in March. Joe & the Juice is the award winning brand across the globe that has seen their juice bars gaining a stronghold in major cities, such a New York, London and Copenhagen. Norbreeze Group is now the sole partner for Joe & the Juice across SouthEast Asia, Hong Kong and Macau. Launching these brands in a challenging retail landscape was no barrier for Norbreeze Group. The Group in its true ambitious form, seized the opportunity to open three new retail stores across three brands last December to great consumer reception. Norbreeze Group is continuously looking at new, exciting business opportunities that support their Strategy 2020. With that, the Group continues to bring to the region accessible luxury brands and distinct retail concepts as they strive towards meeting their business objectives by 2020.

“With Strategy 2020 in place, the group is determined to grow their brand portfolio.” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 15


FIRST

The 40 most influential lawyers aged 40 and under

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ingapore’s most influential lawyers aged 40 and under is now on its second year. Due to the overwhelming response to the inaugural list aimed at identifying the city’s power elite in the legal sector, Singapore Business Review doubled the number of lawyers to 40 this year. The list recognizes the 40 young lawyers in the city-state who have shaped the legal industry inside and outside the courtroom, or on the negotiating table. They were selected from a hundred nominees based on three main criteria: thought leadership, influence, and success. Lawyers who have risen through the ranks to secure themselves top level positions at their respective law firms had the advantage in the selection process. Next to them are those who made a name by acting on some of the country’s most controversial cases or advising on one of the major transaction deals in Singapore or abroad. Some may be familiar names as they are most sought after for their legal inputs on certain public and corporate issues. The youngest in the list are two male lawyers aged 30. One is from Tan Kok Quan Partnership who began his legal career as a Justice’s Law Clerk to the Chief Justice and Judges of the Singapore Court. The other one from Peter Low, meanwhile, has built a profile as one of the most recognizable faces of public interest, media and employment litigation in Singapore. They are arranged from the youngest to the oldest.

1 Calvin Liang, 30, Senior Associate, Tan Kok Quan Partnership In 2015, Calvin has successfully acted as lead counsel in an appeal involving offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The case involved one of the largest illegal “U-turn” schemes where Singapore immigration officers received bribes in exchange for extending the social visit passes of foreign performance artists. The case involved novel points of law on the interaction between private sector and public sector corruption. 16 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

2 Zheng Xi Choo, 30, Director, Peter Low Zheng X handles a diverse range of clients. He is a lead counsel in a case involving a former Managing Director and ex-Director of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Pte Ltd in resisting Springboard injunctions in a first-of-a-kind case in Singapore, involving a team move of 17 employees. He convinced the Singapore High Court to adopt a legal test from Hong Kong and Australia instead of the position in the UK. He is presently acting for 37 former insurances professionals in a rare representative action lawsuit against one of Singapore’s largest insurers.

5 Charmian Aw, 33, Director, Telecommunications, Media and Technology, Drew & Napier Charmian assisted in advising the Infocommunications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) on regulatory matters including the review of the Telecoms and Postal Competition Codes; and on competition and regulatory issues concerning infrastructure and open access to untra high speed broadband network Singapore’s Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network fibreto-home project, as well as reviewing the dominant licensee’s Reference Interconnection Offer.

3 Lee Xin Mei, 32, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore Xin Mei acted as lead counsel to GMG Global, a company listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange in its acquisition of approximately 35% of the shares in the capital of Siat SA (which holds investments in various entities incorporated in Africa, namely Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Gabon) for S$350 million. She also acted as Singapore counsel to Julius Baer in its global acquisition of the wealth management business of Merrill Lynch.

6 Tan Shijie, 33, Partner, Rodyk & Davidson Shijie acted for MGPA in its acquisition of the two significant Marina Bay sites at a record high of over $2 billion for one of the sites. This is where Asia Square Tower 1 and Asia Square Tower 2 now stand. She also acted for Mercatus Co-operative Ltd in its acquisition from a Pramerica Asia fund of a 50% stake in ‘Nex’, the highly popular Serangoon-located shopping mall at S$1.65 billion, making it possibly the biggest property investment deal of that year.

4 Jonathan Lee, 32, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore Jonathan is involved in some the country’s high profile litigation. He acted for the estate of the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore. He also acted for the Monitoring Committee of TT International in a unique attempt to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal. Jonathan also successfully acted for OCBC in recovering a debt of RM 7m owed by an individual on the basis of an oral agreement entered into by the parties.

7 Michelle Yong, 33, Partner, Marine and International Trade, Stephenson Harwood (Singapore) Alliance Being dual-qualified in both Singapore and the UK has placed her well to advise on international shipping disputes as well as act in Singapore-based arbitrations. Michelle advised Opus Offshore on the acquisition of the ‘Songa Mercur’ and ‘Songa Venus’, two semi-submersible drilling units totalling over US$200 million, and their existing commitments from Songa Offshore SE.


FIRST 8 Jeremy Tan, 33, Senior Associate, Norton Rose Fulbright Jeremy has advised the Singapore Government on the S$2 billion implementation of the National Electronic Health Records which facilitates the seamless sharing of patient records across all hospitals and clinics in Singapore. He was actively involved in negotiations with the vendors and the structuring of the project.

12 Paul Tan, 34, Equity Partner, Rajah & Tann Paul’s recent major cases include co-counselling in a claim against an African state for failing to secure the client’s investments. He is also the lead counsel for only the second case to be heard before the newly-minted Singapore International Commercial Court in a significant investment dispute involving Indonesian and Chinese parties.

Chong Eng Wee, 35, Partner, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Eng Wee is qualified to advise on the laws of Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. He has advised on a reverse takeover by a Singapore main board listed company of a PRC property developer for S$600 million; a leading property conglomerate’s S$477 million joint venture with another property conglomerate.

9 Brian Ng, 33, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore In 2015, Brian advised Fairfax Financial Holdings in its strategic investment into HOSElisted BIDV Insurance Corporation for approximately US$60 million. In 2014, he advised Anhui Conch Cement Company Limited in the US$250 million acquisition of one of the largest cement producers in Vietnam.

13 Lee Weilin, 34, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore Weilin led a banking transaction worth about S$1billion in relation to the development of an iconic project which comprised of commercial facilities, hotel and other attractions and acted for an offeror in a takeover of a company listed on the Main Board of SGX worth approximately S$1.9 billion.

17 Scott Clements, 35, Deputy Head, Competition & Regulatory Practice, Drew & Napier Scott has extensive experience in relation to contentious competition law matters. He was involved in the first set of appeals made to the Competition Appeal Board in respect of a cartel matter and in the appeal of the first ever “abuse of dominance” case.

Foo Yuet Min, 33, Director, Dispute Resolution, Drew & Napier Yuet Min successfully represented an international group of companies in the oil and gas industry to recover more than $20 million under a series of medium to longterm contracts with a Middle Eastern party, worth several hundred million US Dollars.

14 Kenneth Szeto, 35, Head of Assets & Project Finance Practice Group, Colin Ng & Partner Kenneth is one of the few specialist real estate and financing lawyers of his generation. He represented OCBC as lender of a $216 million term loan facility for a subsidiary of the Fragrance Group to partially finance the acquisition of a prime site hotel cum office building known as “Tower 15”.

18 Jaikanth Shankar, 35, Director, Dispute Resolution, Drew & Napier Jaikanth defended Indonesian coal mining company, PT Bayan Resources Tbk and Singapore company, Bayan International , in a US$800 million joint venture dispute that would be the first case heard in the newly established Singapore International Commercial Court.

Allen Tan, 34, Principal, Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow Allen advised a global brand name on restructuring its Asian operations which span 18 jurisdictions, setting up headquarters operations in Singapore, and factoring direct and indirect tax issues and planning in the relevant jurisdictions. He also represented a leading Fortune 500 multinational corporation in planning its global tax structure.

15 Dominic Chan, 35, Senior Associate Director, Characterist In Solvadis Commodity Chemicals GmbH v Affert Resources Pte Ltd case in 2014, Dominic has successfully obtained a worldwide Mareva Injunction (for US$5.76 million) in aid of foreign arbitration proceedings. The Defendant’s application to discharge the Mareva Injunction was successfully resisted before the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

19 Vikna Rajah, 36, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore In 2015, Vikna acted as lead counsel for CIT before the Court of Appeal in a landmark case involving the exchange of information between the Singapore and Japanese tax authorities. This is one of the few cases in the world in relation to exchange of information between national tax authorities to go before a country’s apex court.

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 17


FIRST 20 Chen Xi Cecilia, 36, Partner (Foreign Lawyer), Corporate Capital Markets / M&A, Rajah&Tann Singapore Chen Xi has acted as counsel in a variety of high profile crossborder transactions, such as GIC’s real estate investment in various cities in China, Changi Airport’s airport joint venture in China, and Jurong Port’s port construction, development and operation in China. Currently, she is involved in the proposed listing of Jiangling Chasis, which could become the first Chinese company to list on the SGX mainboard under the direct listing framework.

23 Aloysius Tan, 37, Counsel, Allen & Overy Aloysius has substantial experience advising on a multitude of transactions involving major corporates/ entities in the Asia Pacific region, such as Singapore real estate players CapitaLand, Keppel Land, Ascott REIT, Ascendas REIT, Suntec REIT, Hong Kong blue chip companies, Cheung Kong, Hutchison Whampoa, Bank of East Asia, government-linked institutions,Temasek and Khazanah, financial institutions, DBS, OCBC, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and private equity players such as Och Ziff, amongst others.

26 Melissa Ng, 37, Partner, Clifford Chance Melissa is known for her work on M&A, joint venture and divestment transactions. She advised Louis Dreyfus Commodities Asia Pte. Ltd. (LDC) on the sale of shares in Green Eagle Plantations Pte. Ltd. and various Indonesian companies to PT Rajawali Corpora for an aggregate consideration of US$328million. She also advised Star Energy Holdings Pte. Ltd. (SEGPHL) on the sale of 20% of Star Energy Geothermal (SEGPL) to Phoenix Power B.V. (PP), a subsidiary of Thailand’s EGCO Group, for an initial consideration of US$215 million.

21 Benedict Teo, 36, Director, Dispute Resolution, Drew & Napier Benedict has advised and acted for major international and local companies. Benedict acted for a subsidiary of a foreign publiclisted company in a US$560 million claim against a state government for breach of a development agreement relating to the construction of a waterfront city. He also acted for a private land developer against a state government and successfully recovered almost US$70 million in damages for breach of an agreement relating to a large-scale residential development.

24 Joseph Lee, 37, Partner, Rodyck & Davidson Joseph acted for Federal Express Services in a claim for loss of cargo by Smart Modular Technologies. The case is significant for the observations made by the Court with respect to the duty of bailees and its relationship to the doctrine of fundamental breach. He also represented the Singapore Tourism Board in a dispute with a concert organizer over the disbursement of sponsorship sums. The decision is significant for its enunciation of principles relating to a Quistclose trust and the piercing of the corporate veil.

27 Karnan Thirupathy, 38, Partner, Kennedys Legal Solutions Karnan acted for a major US defence contractor in the arrest of the ”Asian Atlas” – a heavy-lift semisubmersible – in HK for claims arising out of an allision in the Mississippi. It was the first case of its kind in HK where a vessel was arrested for a contingent financial liability. He acted for the owners of the “Hyundai Fortune” in one of SG’s leading cases on the enforceability of foreign exclusive jurisdiction clauses. He acted for sellers in an international trade dispute involving shipments of scrap metal from Argentina to China worth over US$100 million.

22 Ong Ken Loon, 37, Director, Drew & Napier Ken Loon recently disputed the property tax assessment on a unique and multiuse property and successfully negotiated a property tax refund in excess of S$100 million. She also led to landmark case law, including “AQQ v Comptroller of Income [2014] 2 SLR 847” in which she appealed against the decision of the Income Tax Board of Review and the High Court in the first Singapore case on the application of the general anti-avoidance provision in the Income Tax Act.

25 Tom Platts, 37, Partner, Stephenson Harwood (Singapore) Alliance Tom advised GDF Suez on its acquisition of Keppel FMO in Singapore and Qatar. He also advised Myanmar Investments Int’l. on its USD30M consortium investment with LIM Advisors in HK into Apollo Towers, a Myanmar-based telecom towers company; and Digicel Group on its high-profile disposal of MTC - a ground-breaking, innovative and large piece of M&A in respect of the group’s towers business in Myanmar.

28 Arvin Lee, 38, Partner and Head of China-Related Disputes, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Arvin is one of the youngest Singaporean arbitration lawyers to have appointments at two highly selective international arbitration institutions – the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board, and the Beijing Arbitration Commission. He secured repeat instructions from the senior management of a public-listed group to act for them in an arbitration where the provisional claim amount is between USD20m–30m.

18 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016


FIRST 29 Kabir Singh, 38, Partner, Clifford Chance Kabir recently advised a Dubai-based conglomerate in two SIAC arbitrations against a BVI entity backed by an Indian promoter, involving a power plant in India worth over US$1B. He advised a major ibank in two arbitrations in India against a prominent Indian family, involving breaches of an investment agreement.

33 Andy Ferris, 39, Co-Head , International Debt Capital Markets, Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee Andy is also the Head of Hogan Lovells’ Malaysia desk . He advised the Royal Bank of Scotland (“RBS”) and BNP Paribas on the update of and drawdown of €700 million, €650 million and £600 million notes under the APT Pipelines US$5 billion Euro Medium Term Note (“EMTN”) Program.

37 Yvonne Tang, 39, Director, Intellectual Property, Drew & Napier Yvonne has successfully represented Hai Tong in the High Court and Court of Appeal in a trade mark infringement/passingoff action against Ventree Singapore Pte Ltd and SKY (sued as a firm), to stop them from infringing Hai Tong’s “Rose Lady” mark by using the mark “Lady Rose” for the same products.

30 Chester Toh, 38, Equity Partner & Head of Integrated Regulatory Practice, Rajah & Tann Singapore; Director, Rajah & Tann NK Legal Myanmar Company Chester was advisor to Coca-Cola on its landmark investment into Myanmar, following the lifting of the US sanctions. He also advised OCBC on its successful bid for a foreign banking licence in Myanmar.

34 Emmanuel Hadjidakis, 39, Principal, Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow Emmanuel led a crossborder team in SG, Kuala Lumpur, HK and London to advise the lenders on the GBP1.35 billion financing of the Battersea Power Station. This is one of the largest real estate financings in the UK in recent years and comprised a mix of conventional and Islamic financing.

38 Elaine Seow E-Lin, 40, Head of the Corporate Practice, Braddell Brothers Elaine practised in London in the early days of her career and remains on the roll of solicitors of England and Wales. Ellaine’s clients, include a few prominent local names in the food and beverage industry in Singapore, overseas and foreign law firms.

31 Benjamin Cheong, 38, Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore Benjamin worked on many matters, several of them on a pro-bono basis) which purport to improve the lives of people through technology. These matters include advising an electronic payment service provider on the rollout of e-commerce payment systems in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

35 Vicky Münzer-Jones, 39, Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright Vicky advised Suzlon Energy on the restructuring of its foreign currency convertible bonds. She advised the establishment of a US$5bn trust certificate issuance program launched by Gold Reserve Sukuk, the second to be launched by an Islamic financial institution.

39 Lim Siau Wen, 40, Director, Intellectual Property, Drew & Napier Siau Wen handled the “Weir Warman Ltd v Research & Development Pty Ltd [2007] 2 SLR(R) 1073” case where she successfully defended Weir Warman Ltd in the High Court against a trademark invalidation and revocation action that was based on allegations of bad faith and non-use.

32 Voon Jiet Chia, 38, Director, Dispute Resolution, Drew & Napier Voon Jiet is a co-counsel in an international arbitration between a Singapore governmentlinked company and an Australian listed company in a dispute arising out of a major infrastructure project. The dispute comprised various claims in excess of S$85 million, and involved numerous technical experts.

36 Terence Quek, 39, Equity Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore Terence acted for Delaware North Companies and Singapore Food Industries, which set up a joint venture company to enter into a 21-year contract with Singapore Sports Hub to operate premium restaurants, food and beverage outlets and a central kitchen at the integrated multi-purpose stadium and aquatic arena at Kallang.

40 Chan Wei Meng, 40, Director, Drew & Napier Following the dramatic collapse of the OWB Bunker Group, Wei Meng and the team are advising ING Bank N.V. and ricewaterhouseCoopers Singapore, who are the security agent of a syndicate of lenders to the OWB Bunker Group and receivers for security assets relating to the Singapore entities of the OW Bunker Group. The assets are valued at USD490 million. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 19


startups

Visual Loft takes the eyewear industry from offline to online

A marketing automation platform

stores that buyers can consult with after purchasing.

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n the digital world, money can buy almost everything. Eyeglasses are the exception. Glasses are unlike manufactured goods such as watches or clothing where people can buy goods based solely on the model and pictures. When purchasing glasses, customers need to know their prescriptions or have their eyes checked by optometrists before purchasing. Startup Visual Loft offers a solution. Visual Loft claims to have a good system of affiliated stores around Singapore to do refraction eye checks for people who don’t know how to buy prescription glasses online. They also have optometrists in individual

Try your glasses at home Another unique point for Visual Loft is that it has a home try-on service where people can select up to five pairs of glasses which they might want to try. These will get sent to their homes for the customer’s convenience for an administrative charge of $15. However, the $15 will be waived when they made a purchase. Founder Lester Lee Soon Peow said that one of the craziest things that they have done is to convince an elderly woman to use her smartphone to buy glasses online. She required multifocal lenses and getting progressive glasses, even at a retail shop wasn’t an easy step, requiring a bit of data input. However, Visual Loft made it easy for her to select the frames she liked. Following that, she just needed to step into an affiliated store for eyechecks. With $100,000 in funding at hand, Visual Loft continues to look for investors so the company can expand overseas. Lester believes that with the right systems, expansion will be underway within the next three years.

Get your homes cleaned up with ProperHands operations from billing to scheduling, and even provides back ups when a cleaner can’t make it. This makes the experience for the customer and cleaner completely seamless. A complete solution ProperHands provides home and office cleaning services through intelligent and automated matching of freelance cleaners to customers. The s societies such as Singapore platform is a complete solution for become increasingly affluent, home-owners and office managers to there is also an increase in find and retain high-quality cleaners the demand for part-time cleaning without the risk of hiring illegals. services. Most of the part-time Founders Wayne Soh, 30 and cleaners are freelancers who get Benjamin Koe, 35 started the recommended. ProperHands takes company with some personal funds, this dynamic and organises the match- but quickly got $50,000 from the iJAM making so it’s easy for customers to Programme followed by an additional find a cleaner and easy for cleaners $200,000 from Crystal Horse to find customers. It manages all Investments and Tri5 Ventures.

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hen Quan Manh Truong, Phuong Anh Ha, and Duong Dzung built a website builder platform as their first startup, it allowed them to work with 90,000 customers. With this large amount of people, they realised one problem customers can easily build a beautiful website with web builders and they can also buy advertisements from Facebook or Google to get traffic to their website, but the conversion rate is still very low because they don’t have the marketing mindset. To help them make money from their business, they built Beeketing. Beeketing is a marketing platform that aims to help e-commerce businesses to create sales and marketing campaigns effectively and easily through automation. It was named after the two biggest passions of co-founder Phuong Anh Ha - her pomeranian dog and marketing. The power to sell Beeketing aims to give online shop owners the power to sell effectively in the same way that Amazon does. It is a platform of complementary apps so once customers use one of their apps, they will be attached to the whole platform and it will be hard to move to another solution. Moreover, the platform focuses on building their products for a niche market: small and medium e-commerce businesses, so the whole platform is fully automated and tailored to their needs. After six years of working closely with online sellers, the three founders believe that they know well how hard it is to get their business up and running, and to get everything in the right place. They specialise in making visitors return and become loyal customers. After two of the founders visited the US to talk to customers and investors, surviving on a budget of less than $2k a month, their sacrifice paid off. They have now received funding from 500startups - one of the top accelerators in the US, and have joined their mentor program - 500 Batch 15. To boost their business, the team plans to hire new talent to make more apps and integrate with other platforms. Quan notes that they aim to reach $1m in revenue next year so they are seeking investment to boost paid marketing channels to acquire more users as fast as possible. They also plan to set up a sales and support team in the Philippines.


Our Law Firm was founded in 1994 as Tan Peng Chin & Partners and converted in 2001 to a Law Corporation. Tan Peng Chin LLC (or “TPC Law”) has since 2013 been listed by Singapore Business Review as one of the top 25 largest law firms in Singapore, and is today a fullservice Singapore law firm which also undertakes substantive cross-border work in the AsiaPacific region. TPC Law undertakes the following categories of legal work for our clients: • • • • • • • • • • •

Asset & Wealth Management Banking & Corporate Finance Capital Markets Corporate & Commercial Corporate Governance & Services Employment & Immigration Intellectual Property Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution Mergers & Acquisitions Real Estate, Conveyancing & Construction Restructuring & Corporate Rescues

TPC Law’s core missions continue to be building up a conducive, positive and dynamic working environment to bring out the best in our people, and facilitating cooperation and creating synergy among our lawyers to better provide practical and effective legal solutions for our wide network of local and international clients. For further information or assistance, please contact our Senior Directors:

Lim Jo See

Tel: +65 6622 3821 Email: jslim@tpclaw.com.sg

Chye Kit Min

Tel: +65 6622 3855 Email: chyekm@tpclaw.com.sg

Wong Liang Kok

Tel: +65 6622 3818 Email: wonglk@tpclaw.com.sg SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 21


FIRST The Analysts’ call

What’s the fallout from Noble Agri?

Investors worried over Noble’s cash flow

Confidence crisis hits Noble Group

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hen Noble announced the disposal of its 49% stake in its agri-business to COFCO for US$750 million, it provided a brief shot of market confidence for the company, although many cannot seem to overlook its dreary commodities outlook and flailing business model. Analysts predict the agribusiness disposal will lift earnings in the next two years (see sidebar). Still, unimpressed investors and ratings agencies point out that the company has an array of weaknesses that will be hard to overcome without drastic

It will likely take time before Noble can restore confidence in its business model. action. Despite the potential earnings increase from the agri-sale, investors are fretting about Noble’s cash flows. Its operating cash flows have remained stagnant since 2010, and the bulk of its cash flows since 2006 has been consumed by working capital, according to Ephrem Ravi, analyst at Barclays. Noble’s confidence is further eroded after back-to-back ratings agency blows: Moody’s downgraded Noble Group Ltd’s senior unsecured bond ratings to Ba1 from Baa3 and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) cut the company’s investment credit rating to junk, both occurring a week after each other in late December to early January. 22 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

In explaining the investment credit rating cut, S&P notes that the commodities market is in dire straits and lenders might be more cautious, factors that could complicate the Noble’s fund-raising plans for the next few months, according to Carey Wong, analyst at OCBC Investment Research. Still, Noble management brushed off the downgrade as not having a material impact on its operations, and also countered that another ratings agency, Fitch, affirmed its rating. It will likely take time before Noble can restore confidence in its business model and the valuation of its associates and Level 3 assets following the ratings agency actions, says Mervin Song, analyst at DBS. “Despite Noble strengthening its balance sheet through the proposed disposal of its 49% stake in Noble Agri, sentiment continues to be fragile, given Moody’s decision to downgrade Noble’s credit rating below investment grade,” says Song. Song says Noble can implement a few initiatives to help overcome investor concerns such as a partial or full sale of its associates and Level 3 assets, but this may be in vain if Noble fails to demonstrate a sustained improvement in its free cash flow generation and earnings growth. In order to regain investor confidence, Noble has to increase transparency, says Abhijit Attavar, equity analyst at Jefferies. He reckons the company should also actively consider and implement other cash monetisation deals.

Ephrem Ravi, analyst, Barclays We believe the disposal removes a key drag on its earnings, hence we revise upwards our 2016 and 2017 forecasts by 47-50%. In addition to degearing of the balance sheet that will happen from the cash proceeds of US$750 million, the complete disposal will enable the group to eliminate guarantees on Noble Agri’s loans, thus improving its standing with the credit rating agencies. Mervin Song, analyst, DBS We are positive on the disposal of Noble Agri as it strengthens Noble’s balance sheet and increases the likelihood of the group retaining its investment grade rating with S&P and Fitch. The boost to Noble’s balance sheet may be temporary if Noble decides to invest US$500 million in X2 Resources, the timing of which is still uncertain. In addition, given that Noble has sold its stake in Noble Agri below its stated book value of US$1.3 billion, we believe its critics will use this transaction to reiterate their view that Noble has overstated the value of its assets on its balance sheet. Carey Wong, analyst at OCBC Noble intends to use the cash proceeds to repay outstanding debt. On a pro forma 3Q15 basis, the move will reduce its adjusted net debt to US$1.8 billion; it also reduces its net gearing ratio to 43.1%. In addition, Noble expects its liquidity headroom to improve to US$2.7 billion. Although Noble believes that the sale will result in the group’s rating agency metrics improving comfortably above the investment grade thresholds, new reports suggest that the rating agencies remain rather lukewarm.


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 23


PEOPLE PROFILE

SGX’s Tan on regulation, shareholder activism and whistle-blowing Tan Boon Gin, chief regulatory officer of the Singapore Exchange, says: “An aggressive trading strategy is entirely permissible, as long as it does not cross the line into creating a false market.”

Tan Boon Gin Chief Regulatory Officer Singapore Exchange

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ingapore Business Review caught up with SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin at the inaugural Thomson Reuters ASEAN Regulatory Summit held in November 2015. The local bourse’s top commercial crime buster talked candidly about the difficulties of the job, the pitfalls of blindly following a western compliance system, and his desire to increase shareholder activism in the Singapore market. SBR: Please briefly describe your role as Chief Regulatory Officer at the SGX. We are the frontline securities regulator that admits, supervises and monitors listed companies, brokers and trading on the exchange. This is what attracted me to the job after 10 years of investigating securities offences at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Police Force – the opportunity to make a difference upstream by making early and timely intervention. SBR: You mentioned the

24 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

challenges of private enforcement and the less developed whistle blowing culture in Singapore compared with the US, why do you think that is the case? I put it down to the difference in legal systems and shareholder profile. Class action law suits and the contingency fees have encouraged a more litigious society in the US. The US markets also have a higher proportion of institutional investors, who have the resources and the clout to push for change. In comparison, we have a relatively higher level of retail participation.

the natural forces of supply and demand. An aggressive trading strategy is entirely permissible, as long as it does not cross the line into creating a false market or an un-level playing field. SBR: How do you hope to increase shareholder activism in Singapore? We are engaging with fund managers and other stakeholders including the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) (SIAS) to see how this can be done. We see that SIAS has been active in terms of organising meetings between companies and shareholders and this is an encouraging trend. Part of the process also involves education and SGX is also working closely with SIAS and like-minded partners to raise the standard of both knowledge and awareness among investors. We are hopeful that investors will become better-informed of their rights and participate more actively, particularly at AGMs and EGMs.

SBR: What are the pitfalls of simply following a western compliance system? We cannot embrace a system wholesale when it is predicated on certain market attributes that are not present in our markets. We have to make the necessary adjustments, in terms of the checks and balances and access to information. If private enforcement is more challenging here because of the difference in legal and shareholder profile that I alluded to earlier, then we as the market regulator have to step up public enforcement. If retail participation is higher here, we have to make sure that market disclosures are meaningful to the retail investor. SBR: The SGX regulatory team keeps an important watch on trading activity but do you think there is a risk in hampering the natural competitive aggression of free market activity? You hit the nail on the head by using the term “natural”. We intervene only to ensure that volumes and prices are driven by

We intervene only to ensure that volumes and prices are driven by the natural forces of supply and demand.

SBR: How do you hope to increase the volume of institutional investors here? Both retail and institutional investors are equally important to us. If you look at what we have done recently, we have increased the minimum IPO price, raised admission standards for companies seeking to list on the mainboard and introduced the independent listings committees to improve market structure and processes. We have also commenced a review of our companies’ compliance with the Code of Corporate Governance and issued detailed warnings of unusual trading activity and trends of concern to alert the market.


co-published Corporate profile

Amplitude’s unique growth story backed by founder’s exceptional managerial ability Learn more about how Regina Lee lead Amplitude to success.

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mplitude Inc Holdings Pte Ltd (“Amplitude” or “the Company”) is a regional distributor of fast-moving consumer goods (“FMCG”), particularly processed foods, through specialty stores, supermarkets and online-to-offline platforms. Established in 2010, Amplitude’s unique growth story is backed by exceptional managerial ability. Managerial excellence for growth The success of Amplitude Holdings boils down to the leadership of its maverick Founder and Managing Director, Ms. Regina Lee. From novice fashion entrepreneur to leading regional distributor of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), Regina has used her strong managerial skills to chart an unconventional business journey. Regina began her business career 20 years ago as a fashion buyer and distributor. In its early days, Amplitude sold ladies’ accessories and apparel and dabbled in event management. However, upon seeing the volatility of the fashion industry, Regina decided to expand Amplitude’s horizons. During 2014, she chanced upon a Greek couple and was impressed by the quality of the farm’s honey. After a trip to the Mediterranean to meet the couple in person, Regina realised that she had discovered an opportunity in a new industry: FMCG food products. Inspired, Regina went into business with the couple and began importing premium processed food items for distribution in Asia. She acquired an 80% stake in Greek brand Hellenic Gaia, which today carries ten different ranges of top-grade honey. Starting with honey from Greece and later the Balkan states, Amplitude grew rapidly. Its unique business model involves sourcing products directly from farms, including beekeepers, for processing and packaging on-site in the Mediterranean. Under Amplitude’s in-house brands — flagship Hellenic Gaia — the products are then sold directly to supermarkets and specialty stores. By controlling the entire farm-to-store supply chain, Regina ensures the highest possible product quality as well as a personal touch from her team.

Regina Lee Managing Director Amplitude Inc Holdings

Amplitude aims to be a leading importer and exporter of quality processed foods in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. The company’s turnaround story was recently recognised at the Singapore Business Review Awards where Regina was presented the 2015 award for Executive of the Year in the Food and Beverage category. Regina has been enjoying exceptional success as an individual, having won the title of “New Entrepreneur” at the Entrepreneur of the Year Award (EYA) in Singapore on 14 September 2015. She now plans to expand Amplitude into Europe, USA, India, and the other countries in Southeast Asia. Amplitude’s products Amplitude’s flagship brand, Hellenic Gaia, carries ten different ranges of top-grade Greek honey. Greece is widely recognised as being the Mediterranean’s best source of honey thanks to its microclimate and volcanic soil, which stimulates the production of rich nutrients. The unique biodiversity of its flora imbues Greek honey with a distinctive aroma

and taste, with numerous health and beauty properties. Amplitude ensures supreme product quality by controlling the whole supply chain, from sourcing to processing and packaging by third-party food factories in Greece. The bottled honey is then shipped to customers, specifically in Singapore and Malaysia, and stored in warehouses for swift distribution to leading supermarkets. Amplitude maintains a cost-efficient structure and passes savings to the consumers. All Amplitude products also carry a unique QR security code as proof of quality. In 2015/ 2016, Amplitude expanded its brand to include b33, Bee Culture and Honney B. The Company’s range of products from Greece includes jam, pasta, vinegar, halva and tahini. It also includes extra virgin oil, virgin oil, sesame oil, pure oil, coupe oil (blended oil), bio oil (organic oil), herbal oil (rosemary, lemon, orange, garlic, oregano, chili, basil, truffle), and pomace oil. For more information, please visit: http:// www.amplitudeinc.com.sg/

“Today, Amplitude is a leading importer and exporter of quality processed foods in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 25


FINANCIAL INSIGHT: investment banking

Still no breather for the Investment Banking sector

A possible spike in defaults a new danger in 2016 Industry players expect pressure to build in the early part of this year resulting in a glut of liability management exercises and even defaults.

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f the Singapore investment banking(IB) sector is wishing for a brighter 2016 after the past year’s turbulence, then they may be in for disappointment since more of the same struggles can be expected. Analysts warn that volatility and lacklustre interest will likely persist, the global economy may not be able to shake off its sluggishness, and defaults and regulatory pressure may even rise – all of which should dampen the sector’s prospects. Singapore is coming off a dismal year for IB activity as weak market sentiment, the global economy slowdown, and depressed commodity prices curtailed capital markets and M&A activity in 2015, according to Elaine Tan, senior analyst, deals intelligence at Thomson Reuters. 26 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

The low interest rates of recent years have led to investors chasing higher yields offered by local corporates, which may not be rated.

“With the same factors that affected Singapore in 2015 expected to continue in 2016, the city-state’s equity capital markets could remain volatile and lacklustre with small initial public offerings (IPO) likely to dominate the market,” says Tan. Singapore saw only one Mainboard listing in Singapore Exchange in 2015: BHG Retail REIT raising US$278.5 million (S$394.6 million) in proceeds, and was the city-state’s largest IPO that year. Tan attributes this IPO scarcity and smaller deal sizes to to volatile market conditions, pushing companies instead to the Catalist board instead. Tan says SGX struggled as it faced competition from other stock exchanges, lagging behind regional rival Hong Kong, and even neighboring Thailand in IPO

activity. Follow-on offerings in Singapore totaled US$1.9 billion, down 58.1% from over a year ago. Also, Singapore-listed equity offerings (combined IPOs and secondary offerings) sank 68.6% to US$2.20 billion in 2015, their lowest annual period since 2003 (US$2.16 billion), as the number of new issues fell 37% from 2014. Danger of defaults A new danger in 2016 is a possible spike in defaults, which already reared its head with the first default of Singapore dollar bonds since 2009, due to investors taking on more risk amid a low-interest environment. “There is a second one looming on the horizon,” says Vicky Münzer-Jones, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright in Singapore. “Following a slow year of new issuances, but also in terms of defaults, the sense seems to be that pressure will build in the early part of this year resulting in a glut of liability management exercises and possibly even defaults.” “The low interest rates of recent


FINANCIAL INSIGHT: investment banking years have led to investors chasing higher yields offered by local corporates, which may not be rated.” Münzer-Jones adds, “There are several highly leveraged industries which have been hit hard by depressed commodity prices so some borrowers in, or connected to, the Southeast Asian oil and gas sector will have to consider debt restructurings, including extending maturity or re-negotiating covenants, or face default.” Global challenges Global challenges may further hinder Singapore IB activity, namely in the areas of regulation, digital disruption and cyber security. There is no denying that Singapore continues to remain an attractive hub for deal activity and pockets of opportunities can be found, but taking advantage of these will require investment banks to adopt new strategies and maybe cross their fingers with regards to unpredictable factors like China’s growth performance. “IB in Singapore is impacted by many of the global challenges faced by IB banks in most jurisdictions such as increased capital requirement and regulatory compliance challenges for anti-money laundering and know your customer, among others,” says Thomas Olsen, leader, APAC investment banking at Bain & Company. These challenges pressure return on capitals to as much as 50% in some instances, says Olsen, and also impose significant demands on attention to ensure compliance. Aside from regulatory compliance, digital disruptions and cyber security are two other challenges faced by the Singapore investment banking sector, says Kok Yong Ho, financial services industry leader at Deloitte Southeast Asia. “Digitisation is bringing about new customer expectations and competitions, thereby putting pressure on profitability. Investment banks need to

embrace and adapt to this new trend and explore opportunities to run their business better and more efficiently,” adds Ho. “With increased focus and usage of technology, it will inevitably bring about increased cyber security threats, given how connected we are these days. Investment banks need to manage their IT risks as well in this new environment,” he says further. Investment banks operating in Singapore and the rest of Asia are being forced to re-evaluate their business models given the current host of regulations imposing structural reforms, higher capital and leverage ratios requirements, and declining revenues,says Jan Bellens, Asia-Pacific banking & capital markets leader and global emerging markets leader at EY. “We have already seen a number of international banks like Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered scaling back their presence across the Asian region in the face of escalating costs and insufficient deal flow. This region is proving to be even more difficult for second tier peers that not only lack sufficient scale but can ill-afford to invest in technology and talent to offer top tier integrated services,” says Bellens. With foreign players pulling out, Bellens points out how lower cost regional players have filled in the gap, and many have matured and enhanced their execution capacity to build up presence. “These institutions are not seeking to become the new wave of global players but rather to focus on building out strong regional franchises that would allow them to capture more complex and higher-value business,” says Bellens. Winning in Singapore For all the challenges IB in Singapore faces, some analysts still consider it one of the most attractive hubs for deal activity due to inherent strengths, and attractiveness of local companies to Chinese and Japanese firms

Ashok Lalwani

Ho Kok Yong

Jan Bellens

Thomas Olsen

Vicky Münzer-Jones

seeking mergers and acquisitions (M&A) targets. “Singapore, notwithstanding a slow-moving 2015, continues to be an attractive destination for deal activity, given its strong legal and regulatory framework and macroeconomic and political stability,” says Ashok Lalwani, head of international capital markets group at Baker & McKenzie. Lalwani reckons initiatives such as the ASEAN Economic Community, the One Belt One Road, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreements will help build momentum to transactional activity. “Singapore companies are increasingly becoming attractive M&A targets, as the city-state continues to expand as a regional business hub,” says Lalwani. “As more and more Chinese and Japanese companies go on the acquisition quest to increase their market share, we could see significant deal activity targeting Singapore companies.” Much of Singapore’s fortunes in IB will also depend on how China performs this year. Singapore and Hong Kong are well-positioned to take advantage of high potential growth across the region, but the near term outlook in the region’s IB is highly dependent on China and whether it will grow slowly and thus bog down capital-raising activity, says Olsen. Investment banks that will find most success in tapping into these opportunities and surviving in the current trying environment are the ones capable of optimising capital and costs, says Bellens.

Singapore private equity-related M&A Annual volume comparison

Source: Thomson Reuters

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 27


economic INSIGHT: slowing growth but it may edge back to positive territory before the year ends. “That said, headline CPI inflation may remain flat in 2016 as asset price deflation in housing (especially with private residential prices having fallen for nine straight quarters and official rhetoric hinting at no lifting of cooling measures in the near-term) and private road transport sustains, and the pass-through from the tight labour market into the broader cost environment has been fairly limited,” she says. Given the benign crude oil price movement, the CPI basket components that would contribute positively to inflation are likely to be food, healthcare and education costs, she adds. Analyst Suhaimi Ilias of Maybank Kim Eng says core inflation could pick up in 2016 due to the fading effects of lower oil prices and the budgetary measures, which should allow the MAS to maintain its modest and gradual appreciation stance in 2016.

Weak momentum looms in 2016

2016 growth to remain stuck There might have been a surprise boost in the last quarter of 2015, but that momentum is unlikely to be sustained this year.

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ith a roller-coaster year, Singapore is entering 2016 with low expectations amid a backdrop of cyclical structural changes. Despite a surprise boost in the last quarter of 2015, economist Joseph Incalcaterra of HSBC Global Research says the momentum is unlikely to be sustained this year. “We forecast growth to slow as the trade cycle remains subdued, higher interest rates percolate through the economy, and the property sector continues to deflate,” he says. With that said, Incalcaterra says stable performance from certain services industries coupled with government spending should prevent growth from moderating too much. “After an eventful 2015, we forecast that the MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) will keep policy unchanged in 2016,” he says. Selena Ling of OCBC Bank says the city-state’s 2016 growth will likely remain stuck within the 2-3% percent y-o-y range, with headline gross domestic product (GDP) unlikely 28 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Manufacturing may continue to be in the doldrums and shrink 0.2% y-o-y in 1Q16 and constrain overall GDP growth to 2.4% y-o-y.

deviating from the range in the nearterm. “We expect that manufacturing may continue to be in the doldrums and shrink 0.2% y-o-y in 1Q16 and constrain overall GDP growth to 2.4% y-o-y,” she says. The latest SME business surveys suggest greater caution for the first half of the year, Ling adds. Ling says inflation could remain subdued in 2016, with core inflation picking up slightly. Headline consumer price index (CPI) may stay deflationary in the first half of 2016

Adapting to changes Incalcaterra says the slowdown in global trade has hit Singapore hard given the country’s strong external linkages. “Container throughput, a useful indicator of the trade cycle’s impact on Singapore, has collapsed. The manufacturing sector, reliant on electronics, machinery and energy capex, is in an outright recession. Even the services sector isn’t looking too strong, according to leading indicators,” he says. He adds that the economic restructuring, corresponding to cutbacks in foreign labour, is driving up labour costs and hurting businesses – though the government has offset some of this with budget measures.

Headline inflation has been in negative territory for 13 months

Source: CEIC, HSBC


co-published Corporate profile

RT rebrands to unify, rationalize, and diversify

Find out more about RT’s comprehensive suite of professional services and how the firm’s recent rebranding streamlined its accounting practice.

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ll great organisations have humble beginnings. RT’s journey began in 1974 as a small local firm which were acquired by a team of highly motivated and driven individuals. Over the years, RT has grown from strength to strength with talented and visionary leaders joining the firm who widened the service offerings. In the last 3 years, the firm has widened its scope of services from traditional audit and assurance to an array of advisory and related services in other areas. In 2015, with increasing cross border clients, the firm started to extent its footprint into the region with the formation of RT ASEAN - an initiative that is seeing interest coming from partners beyond ASEAN. Comprehensive professional services RT is a fast growing and forward-looking professional services firm. In addition to providing audit and advisory services, RT has a comprehensive suite of professional services to serve the needs of its clients readily. Just as the saying goes - change is the only constant, RT believes in embracing change and has an entrepreneurial approach to business expansions with a keen eye on seeing to clients’ needs and market dynamics. RT forges a culture of staying relevant and competitive, with work ethos focused on quality, delivery and productivity. In 2015, RT re-branded itself to unify, and at the same time rationalize and diversify, the different businesses and services. The RT Group has been restructured into 2 broad categories - RT LLP and the RT group of companies that are streamlined in terms of service provision. RT LLP is primarily the audit and assurance focused entity. It is regulated by ACRA as a public accounting practice. The partners, who are Public Accountants, take care of regulatory and compliance needs of Clients and advice on all aspects of regulations with respect to statutory

compliance. RT LLP also houses the transactional services, which amongst other services would include reporting accountants for capital market listing, financial due diligence, special purpose audits, and compliance audits for regulatory purposes. The other services, specifically, nonaudit services, are provided by our various RT entities. This was done so that the RT Group can better service client needs by providing innovative solutions with a dedicated and effective service and delivery system. The result of rebranding The rebranding has positioned RT as the first and only locally-branded professional services network with a dedicated ASEAN network – a key value proposition contained in the tag line: ONE FACE ACROSS ASEAN. In its cross border expansion and initiative, RT is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and many government agencies. With the support from the government agencies and professional accounting organisations, RT has set up the RT ASEAN Network, headquartered in Singapore, to expand not only in the region, but also beyond it to recruit member firms. RT ASEAN Network was conceptualised for the purpose of expanding RT’s services to the countries in ASEAN as well as to provide global companies a door way into the ASEAN region. As a result of the restructuring, the RT Group is proud to be recognized by the Singapore Business Review as the “Best Restructuring in the Year“ in the accounting sector. An accolade that vindicates its position as one of the leading firms in Singapore servicing a spectrum of clients in various industries, both listed in capital markets and private companies. Its clients range from local to international organizations. With the cross border clientele increasing RT has expanded its footprint into ASEAN and

“In 2015, with increasing cross border clients, the firm started to extent its footprint into the region with the formation of RT ASEAN.”

Mr Ravi Arumugam CEO & Managing Partner

beyond through the network of firms in the RT ASEAN network. The restructuring saw the formation of RT Advisory which provides a spectrum of advisory service in taxation (corporate and personal), outsourced financial reporting & management, valuation, litigation support, investigative accounting, internal audit, to name some. RT Academy was also formed to cater for the training needs of accounting and finance professionals. A boutique style approach RT aims for a client-centric personable boutique style approach towards client services and needs. The firm places client needs above everything else and takes a comprehensive, innovative and pragmatic approach in providing solutions and advice. The partners and directors get involved personally in all professional engagements. With a focus on quality, and a basic requirement to exceed client expectations in terms of delivery, the investment has been and continues to be on talent acquisition and retention, and technology. To learn more about the services we provide, or to discover more business opportunities, feel free to contact Mr Chiang Fock Pong who is the Executive Director at chiangfp@rt-ca.com or +65 62260080. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 29


CO-PUBLISHED CORPORATE PROFILE

Schindler emphasises constant innovation as it shares its vision for future cities

Building a sustainable urban environment to meet the needs of the next decades means looking far beyond, and not just duplicating the same old designs.

Schindler’s The Dome

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he Asian Development Bank estimates that Asia is currently adding a staggering 44 million urban dwellers every year, and the ongoing phenomenon is far from reaching its conclusion. As a result of this exceptional growth, the scale of individual cities has expanded tremendously. According to UN-Habitat, 16 of the world’s 20 densest cities are in Asia, with urban densities commonly between 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. Famed for its stunning skyline, Hong Kong squeezes a population in excess of 7 million people to the highest density of skyscrapers in the world (1,300 buildings are over 100 meters high). Skyscrapers in Hong Kong have reached approximately 10 floors every decade, and it’s not uncommon to see residential buildings soaring at 60 floors high. Rise of the modern city Singapore ranks sixth in Asia by the number of completed buildings over 150 meters high, which include the famous Marina Bay Financial Centre, Asia Square and the currently tallest United Overseas Bank Plaza One. Schindler, a global provider of elevators and escalators, has played an instrumental role in the rise of

30 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

the modern city for over a century. While urbanization has presented the region with solid growth prospects, finding sustainable solutions to urban planning and construction has become critical to the future of Asian cities. Over the years, Schindler has remained true to its commitment to environmental thinking and sustainability, as evidenced by the successful deployment of numerous award-winning innovations on projects that have achieved record levels of performance and efficiency. Jujudhan Jena, Chief Executive of Jardine Schindler Group, said, “The culture of innovation is deeply rooted in the history of Schindler, and the company holds a clear differentiation to continuously improve the environmental footprint of our products and processes. From the energy-efficient planetary gearbox, introduced back in the mid1990s; regenerated drive system which feeds energy generated by elevators back into the power grid; the revolutionary PORT destination control system; and

Schindler takes a longterm view and makes solid commitments to the markets they operate in.

most recently Schindler’s iOS app FieldLink in partnership with Apple – we believe that innovation leads to value creation. By offering tangible possibilities to the architects and designers, we help build our future cities.” State-of-the-art technologies The International Commerce Centre (ICC) in Hong Kong is an example of how Schindler implemented its state-ofthe-art technologies to maximize traffic performance and efficiency. Soaring at 490 meters, the 118-story ICC in Kowloon is the tallest building in Hong Kong and a city in itself where over 20,000 tenants and visitors pass through its doors every day. To cater to such a massive flow of passengers, Schindler needed to come up with a unique solution. A multilevel lobby connecting the various transportation modes filters occupants, directing them to an ingenious system of local elevators in the ICC’s five different office zones and high-speed shuttles to sky lobbies – which leads to the upper office floors, the Sky100 observation gallery and hotel. Boasting several world firsts, the ICC contains 85 elevators and 39 escalators and is equipped with no less than 40


CO-PUBLISHED CORPORATE PROFILE double deck elevators, 18 of them travelling at speeds of 9 meters per second, an outstanding feat given the significant weight of the elevator car. PORT Technology, which makes it possible for Schindler double-deck elevators to double handling capacity, powers the complex elevator system and ensures the level of performance required for the prestigious office building. Running on a powerful algorithm, PORT effectively groups passengers going to the same destination floors on both decks and calculates the shortest possible trip for each passenger with minimum intermediate stops. This saves energy and eliminates the problem of repeated stops that would cause long waits for passengers on both decks. Beyond its astute ability to optimize traffic flows, the technology permeates into other areas of relevance to modern urban life and boasts a host of powerful communication, customization and access features. These capabilities, combined with the aesthetic, sleek appeal of its user interface, make PORT not only applicable to high performance office buildings, but effectively in the luxury residential and hospitality segments. In Singapore, Schindler has recently been selected as the mobility partner to a number of significant development projects, including the Terminal 4 and Jewel Changi Airport. Rated by travelers as the World’s Best Airport for three years in a row since 2013, Changi Airport is set to further strengthen their position as a world-class lifestyle destination for travelers. Schindler has been commissioned to supply 58 elevators, escalators and moving walks to Terminal 4 and 50 elevators, 69 escalators and 62 moving walks to Jewel. Innovation that drives new thinking of Future Cities For a traditional business that has thrived over the past 140 years - from a small manufacturer into a leading global provider of elevators and escalators, Schindler takes a long-term view and makes solid commitments to the markets that they operate in. Looking to the future, the company believes the needs of the urban environment in the next 30 years cannot be met by simply continuing to duplicate the same designs applied over the last century. While

elevator companies have not typically been associated with urban planning, Schindler has in recent years invested in visions of the future cities and engaged with the architectural community to share its expertise. Visionary architecture Together with the ETH Zurich, Schindler’s Advanced Development Group has been studying new forms of architecture typology that are nothing short of visionary. Spiral Town is one such new form, a theoretical experiment. Contrary to the traditional, concrete filled city centre with suburbs and green space that surround it, Spiral Town is inverted, containing a green heart surrounded by its built environment. This enables green space to be generated instead of consumed by buildings, compressing linear horizontal distances and reducing the hazard of urban sprawl. Dr Paul Friedli, Schindler’s Head of Advanced Research, explains, “The current urban model owes more to the needs of vertical mobility than is immediately obvious today. The fundamental model for tall buildings we see today is still largely driven by the elevator technology of the time when they were first built. With current technology, there are many more options

for vertical transportation meaning many new opportunities for future cities.” From last December to February this year, Schindler was present at the Hong Kong exhibition of the Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture at Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. Participants of the conference, themed “Visions 2050, Lifestyle and the City,” were invited to experience Schindler’s award-winning immersive presentation technology, dubbed the Dome. This virtual reality environment, coupled with specifically prepared contents, eloquently supports the sharing of Schindler’s vision for the next generation of sustainable urban development and future cities. About Jardine Schindler Group Jardine Schindler Group (JSG) is a Joint Venture between Jardine Matheson of Hong Kong and Schindler Group of Switzerland, who between them bring over 300 years of experience in business management, regional focus and engineering excellence. JSG is headquartered in Hong Kong and designs, engineers, installs, maintains and modernizes elevators, escalators and moving walkways in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia & Brunei.

Spiral Town

Changi Airport Terminal 4

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 31


singapore’s hottest startups 2016

Singapore’s 20 hottest startups to watch out for in 2016

Here are the city’s promising startups providing products and services ranging from SEA’s first real estate crowdfunding platform to the world’s first platform to offer a searchable database of restricted funds.

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or the fifth consecutive year, Singapore Business Review brings you 20 of Singapore’s hottest startups worth watching over the next couple of months. Get to know more about the companies and find out how the founders managed to make their ideas blossom into one promising startup. The companies listed started their operations from 2012 and are ranked according to the generated funding to date, as provided to us. 1. Mesitis-Canopy

Founder: Tanmai Sharma Funding: S$5.39m (US$3.75m); Private Investors Start of operation: July 2013 Mesitis is a wealth management fintech startup that offers Canopy, an automated account aggregation and portfolio visualization platform. According to the founder, there are private banks and wealth managers offering account aggregation services but reports are usually generated by a slow and expensive back-office manual process. Canopy automatically extracts data from any number of bank 32 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

or financial account statements in PDF, CSV or other electronic format, and processes the information into an elegant, visually appealing report via a web browser. 2. Vanitee Founders: Douglas Gan, Kuik Xiao Shi, Choy Peng Kong, Meters Ang Funding: S$5m; Venture Capital and HNWI, Luxasia Ventures, iStyle Capital (TYO:3660), Ivan Lee, Robert Yap Start of operation:

May 2015 Vanitee introduces a community marketplace for quality beauty services from sought-after independent and emerging artists. According to Douglas, co-founder and CEO of Vanitee, the platform is their response when they found out from a lot of women they spoke to how difficult it was for them to find good quality beauty services in Singapore. At the same time, Vanitee also aims to uplift small, independent beauty businesses in Singapore, and elevate the standards of the beauty industry.


singapore’s hottest startups 2016 3. CoAssets Founders: Getty Goh & Seh Huan Kiat Funding: S$4.5m; Expara Ventures, Dr Jeffrey Chi, ViceChairman of Vickers Ventures and Chairman of the Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association Start of operation:

July 2013 CoAssets bills itself as SEA’s first real estate crowdfunding platform. It aggregates investors and connects them with opportunity providers, such as developers. Officially launched in Singapore in July 2013, the company has currently more than 33,000 registered users. In terms of deals, since December 2014, the total value of deals listed on CoAssets is more than S$300 million (US$214 million) and the amount successfully funded currently stands at more than S$40 million (US$28 million). 4. Ninja Van Founders: Lai Chang Wen, Boxian Tan, Shaun Chong Funding: S$3.74m (US$2.6m); Monk's Hill Ventures and Insas Bhd Start of operation: 2014 Launched in 2014, Ninja Van bills itself as the southeast Asia’s fastest growing logistics company, powering businesses with innovative transport solutions. Ninja Van delivers innovative and scalable logistics solutions to businesses of all sizes, helping businesses grow while managing their logistics from beneath the shadows. Currently partnered with several of the most prominent online and offline retailers including P&G, Zalora and Lazada, Ninja Van aims to be the logistics solutions partner of choice for all major retailers across SEA. 5. Alpha7 Founder: Lynette Seah Funding: S$3.6m; Private Investors Start of operation: January 2014 For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), hiring COO for assistance can be a luxury. Alpha7 offers a Chief Operating Officer as a Service (COOaaS), solving this addressable and existing business problem. It also bridges the gap between an SME’s people, processes and technology. COOaaS works by providing COO expertise to businesses on an outsourced, part-time, retainer or project basis. The service is extended with its COOaaS platform solution that businesses can adopt to connect the front end of their business to their back end applications.

6. RYDE Technologies Founder: Terence Zou Funding: S$2m; Private Investors Start of operation: September 2014 RYDE is a social enterprise that promotes carpooling. The mobile platform uses GPS technology to connect drivers and passengers going the same way. RYDE provides a sustainable alternative to solve the congestion and pollution issues facing cities today. It aims to make the sharing economy become a reality by forging closer communities. It also aims at transforming the daily commute, one ride at a time, using technology and leveraging on the power of social networks. Recently, RYDE launched version 3 of the mobile app. 7. ShopBack Founders: Derrick Goh, Samantha Soh, Lai Shanru, Bryan Chua, Henry Chan and Joel Leong Funding: S$1.43m (US$1m); Accel-X and East Ventures Start of operation: September 2014 ShopBack aims to make southeast Asians savvier online shoppers by serving as a trusted platform for consumers to discover new brands. Once the products are featured, ShopBack will collate the top deals and offerings from their site, helping shoppers take in the best savings all in one glance. ShopBack also gives shoppers cash rebates for purchases made on nearly all the stores featured. ShopBack aims to become a one-stop shopping portal for consumers in the SEA region, assuaging people’s concerns about online shopping safety, giving consumers access to the best shopping deals and rewarding consumers for shopping online. 8. WeInvest.net Founder: Bhaskar Prabhakara Funding: S$1.3m; Lighthouse Canton, Angel investors include CEO of Regional Bank, Head of Wealth management at Global Wealth Management firm, Head of Retail Banking at a Middle Eastern Major bank Start of operation: February 2015 WeInvest.net bills itself as the world’s first platform to offer a searchable database of restricted funds. It claims to have the largest resource of investment opportunities in Singapore, with investment product data from different asset classes including Real Estate, Restricted Funds, etc. WeInvest.net is built to help investors track, analyse and find investments that fit their investment appetite using smart technology. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 33


singapore’s hottest startups 2016 9. Capital Match Founders: Pawel Kuznicki, Arnaud Bailly, Ming HaoWong Funding: S$1,025,000; Crystal Horse Investments, Innosight Ventures, Lim Hock San Start of operation: January 2015 Capital Match is about providing SMEs in Singapore with affordable debt/working capital and individual investors with attractive returns (20%+ p.a.). It is an online marketplace that facilitates flow of funds from investors to SMEs that are underserved by banks. According to Pawel, Capital Match channels funds from cash rich investors to cash strapped businesses. 10. Rewardz Founders: Nicole Seah & Sudhanshu Tewari Funding: S$725,000; Angel Investors, iJam grant from MDA and organic growth Start of operation: October 2012 Rewardz is an HR technology company that provides employee engagement and corporate wellness solutions to human resource (HR) departments of medium to large organisations. In just over two years, Rewardz has garnered more than 30 clients, including National University Healthcare System (NUHS). Aetos, Courts, Crocs, DB Schenker, Fuji Xerox, IHG, SPRING Singapore, Lend Lease etc. Rewardz has also received recognition as “Best in Benefits Technology” during the Benefits Asia 2013 Conference. Rewardz offers two key products – EmPerks and Flabuless to its clients along with customisations to create a one-stop employee engagement platform. 11. Call Levels Founders: Daniel Chia, Cynthia Siantar Funding: S$719,325 (US$500,000); Angel Investment + Venture Capital, Koh Boon Hwee, Timothy Teo, 500 Startups Start of operation: September 2014 Call Levels is a mobile application that provides sophisticated real-time financial monitoring and notification for free. Call Levels claims to provide the best and shareable price alerts for multiple financial assets (US equities, Forex, Commodities, Indices) in the simplest form, on mobile devices for free. The platform focusses on providing the simplest price alerts on mobile initially and intends to build additional features around that. This, said the founders, ensures that the experience for their users in creating price alerts is always well catered for. 34 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

12. 1connex Founder: Darren Neubronner Funding: S$600,000; HengDa (Shanghai investment firm) Start of operation: September 2014 1connex offers Grabz, a subscription-based service allowing users to experience insider rewards and privileges from a wide range of merchants including spas, F&B outlets and travel experiences. The app utilises its inbuilt Geo-fencing technology to notify users about the hottest insider privileges around them through location-based alerts. Subscribers also get to enjoy exclusive promotions and luxury features like discounted business class flight tickets and ‘members only’ prices on limited edition luxury watches. 13. Megafash Founder: Ngeow Jiawen Funding: S$400,000; VCs and angel investors, East Venture Start of operation: 2014 Megafash created a platform for independent brands and entrepreneurs to connect to regional customers and be discovered internationally. Sensing a market increasingly dominated by deep-pocketed international brands such as Zalora and Asos, Megafash saw the need to showcase and promote recognition for local and regional homegrown talents and entrepreneurs. Started as a fashionfocussed marketplace, Megafash now also caters to an offline retail store through Megafash Gateway at Orchard Road. The new Megafash retail store is adventure-themed, catering to tourists and students alike. 14. Fashory Founders: Emmy Teo, Rena Koh, and Faith Teo Funding: S$300,000; iJAM, Angel investment Start of operation: 2014 Fashory allows female consumers to gather inspiration from fashion trends around the world while recommending apparel and accessories. According to the founders, Fashory offers customised recommendations to suit every user’s taste and preference, from a list of over 1,000 brand partners they work with. Fashory also boasts of providing smart recommendations to improve and provide a positive and intuitive shopping experience for their users allowing busy female working executives to get recommendations and inspiration on what they can buy.


singapore’s singapore’s hottest hottest startups startups 2016 2014 15. Super1 Founders: Andrew Tan, Gabriel Benjamin Aloysius Funding: S$300,000; Angel Investor Start of operation: September 2013 Super1 is in the final stages of testing their inaugural events web portal that aims to resolve inefficiencies in B2B and B2C sourcing for service providers in the MICE industry. From simple to complex events organisation, Super1’s core product, Orgeva, brings to the fore, innovative events search-and-appoint features, venue reservations and events reporting among other things. The site is slated to go live in June 2016 and initial beta reviews from established events organisers have met the litmus of it being a site that is an excellent problem-solver for the industry. 16. Cafebond.com Founders: Keyis Ng and Eugene Chen Funding: S$250,000; VCs and angel investors, Quest Ventures, China’s leading venture firm Start of operation: January 2016 Cafebond, which is currently incubated with Infocomm Investments, offers a web and mobile platform that connects coffee lovers with the best coffee brands in the world, so you can taste and buy unique specialty coffee beans and blends from roaster-owned cafes from London to Melbourne, Singapore to Beijing, in one easy checkout process. According to the founders, they are leveraging on roasterowned cafes' branding to promote the coffee on Cafebond to the consumer. Keyis even took up part-time barista jobs at two different cafes (one international café chain and one local independent café) just to learn the business of coffee retail. 17. Airfrov Founders: Cai Li and Robi Ng Funding: S$125,000; Spaze Ventures and iJAM Start of operation: March 2015 Airfrov is a peer-to-peer shopping platform for users to get products from overseas by getting travellers to bring them back. Requestors who want something and are willing to pay just have to post their request. Travellers who are able to help will make an offer, bring the requested item back and earn extra money by utilising their extra luggage space. According to Cai, instead of the usual ‘selling’ platform, Airfrov is a demand-driven platform whereby requests are put up.

18. QLC.io Founders: Will Fan, Fei Yao, and Luke Johnson Funding: S$100,000; Accelerator + Angels, JFDI.Asia Start of operation: November 2014 QLC.io or Quarter Life Crisis, is an online platform for education and a practical upskilling destination for millennials. It aims to help ambitious and curious people to explore their passions and aspirations by offering ideas, learning projects and new opportunities through mentorship and training, so that they are ready for the ‘next thing’. According to Fei, QLC.io can be considered as LinkedIn - ‘but less boring.’ 19. eVida Smarthome Founders: Darius Sim Funding: S$85,000; Angel Investor - Lim Boon Chin Start of operation: April 2015 “eVida” provides smart home care solution for remote health monitoring. It depicts a smooth fusion between technology and life which it seeks to deliver as part of its Smart Home Care solutions. eVida Smarthome focusses on system integration for Z-Wave and related IP (Internet Protocol) devices that can work in a unified ecosystem. The company’s clients range from consumers (owners of HDBs, Condos, Landed Properties etc) to corporate clients, who usually want some kind of customised app and backend server developments. In addition, they also run Smarthome workshops with Home-Fix XPC to educate consumers on current Smarthome technologies in the market. 20. execuvite Founders: Dave Osh, James Barwick Funding: $50,000; JFDI Start of operation: August 2015 Execuvite is a platform that enables executives to outsource complex services to teams of multi-skilled freelancers. These teams work like virtual partnerships providing the quality of outsourcing firms at the fraction of the cost. Partners or freelancing project managers are qualified based on expertise, experience and management skills and offer them career paths, rewards and recognition. It claims to be the first of its kind which boasts of a combination of marketplace, collaboration platform and professional network. Through the platform freelancing project managers (“Partners”) invite freelancers to join their project teams (“Partnerships”). SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 35


SINGAPORE’S 25 LARGEST law firms

Going global is the way to go

International tie-ups put pressure on local firms

It’s high-time to broaden their international reach and base.

T

he year 2015 saw several new partnerships between local and international law firms, and this has put unwanted pressure on local firms to keep up and be competitive internationally. Internationalisation of law practices looks like a key theme that is developing, and will continue to shape Singapore’s legal sector in the coming years. “2015 saw many well-known Singapore law firms tying up with global partners, including Rodyk & Davidson and Dentons, Stamford Law and Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and KhattarWong and Withers. These tie-ups highlight the pressure on local firms to broaden their international reach and base” according to George Lim, Co-Chair of the Singapore International Mediation Center (SIMC). Lynee Roeder, managing 36 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

2015 saw many well-known Singapore law firms tying up with global partners, including Rodyk & Davidson and Dentons, Stamford Law and Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and KhattarWong and Withers.

director at Hays Singapore, notes that this trend has led to strong demand from international law firms for junior to mid-level attorneys, especially those who have international qualifications. Cross-border transactions will become increasingly important as this trend plays out and Roeder notes that in addition to these international certifications, language proficiency will also become increasingly important. Meanwhile, despite global falls in business confidence, Roeder notes that in 2015, hiring has been pretty stable in private practice, particularly in the areas of banking and finance, mergers and acquisitions, etc. Slowing profit growth for companies has also led to tighter budgets for headcount, which has created a large disparity between compensation between in-house

and private practice roles. This trend is expected to bleed into 2016 and may manifest itself in the headcount requirements for 2H ’16 and 1H ’17, which are expected to firm up in the first few months of the year. Going into 2016, the legal sector definitely faces some headwinds but there are still pockets of opportunities for those with the right skillsets. “Those who are able to set themselves apart from their peers, for example through creating a niche specialisation or developing strong legal skills, will likely excel. What will drive growth will likely be cross-border work, particularly with the ASEAN Economic Community, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and China’s push for “one belt one road,” says SIMC’s George Lim. Serene Wee, chief executive of the Singapore Academy of Law, notes that there is also a large emphasis, especially for junior lawyers, on proficiency with digital legal research tools and ability to operate in a technology-enabled practice. Broadly however, the challenging global macro environment will hamper overall growth in the sector due to its strong link to the underlying businesses’ IT services. “Private practice firms will continue to look for top talent with excellent academics and experience, whilst corporations will remain quite conservative on headcount requirements for their legal departments” says Roeder. Who made it to the SBR’s list? Local law firm, Allen & Glehill remains the largest law firm in Singapore with 355 legal professionals. Close behind is another local firm, Rajah and Tann with 334 headcount. Morgan Lewis Stamford, the result of the merger between New York based Morgan Lewis and local firm Stamford made it way to rank 11th with 75 legal professionals.


SINGAPORE’S 25 LARGEST law firms 2015 RANKINGS

COMPANY NAME

2014 RANKINGS

Foreign/Local

2015 LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

2014 LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

MANAGING PARTNER

1

Allen & Gledhill

1

Local

355

349

Lee Kim Shin, SC

2

Rajah & Tann

2

Local

334

338

Lee Eng Beng, SC

3

WongPartnership

3

Local

302

290

NG Wai King and Rachel ENG

4

Drew & Napier

4

Local

278

258

Davinder Singh, SC

5

Rodyk & Davidson

5

Local

229

202

Philip Jeyaretnam, SC

6

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

6

Local

109

101

Tan Chong Huat

7

Shook Lin & Bok

9

Local

98

93

Sarjit Singh Gill, SC

8

Lee & Lee

11

Local

97

83

Kwa Kim Li

9

Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow

8

Foreign

96

96

Andy Leck

10

Clifford Chance

10

Foreign

93

90

Geraint Hughes

11

Morgan Lewis Stamford*

-

Local

75

-

Suet-Fern Lee

12

Norton Rose Fulbright

14

Foreign

72

64

Jeff Smith

13

KhattarWong**

12

Local

67

67

Deborah Barker, SC

14

Allen & Overy

13

Foreign

66

66

Chris Moore

15

Harry Elias Partnership

15

Local

62

58

Philip Fong

16

TSMP Law Corporation

16

Local

60

60

Thio Shen Yi, SC and Stefanie Yuen Thio

17

Linklaters

17

Foreign

55

50

Kevin Wong

18

Herbert Smith Freehills

17

Foreign

51

50

Alastair Henderson

19

Colin Ng & Partners

19

Local

49

47

Lisa Theng and Tan Min-Li

20

Bird & Bird ATMD

21

Local

43

43

Lorraine Tay and Sandra Seah

21

Kelvin Chia Partnership

19

Local

42

47

Kelvin Chia

22

Tan Peng Chin

22

Local

40

40

Wong Liang Kok and Lim Jo See

23

Latham & Watkins

22

Foreign

41

40

Stephen McWilliams

24

Tan Kok Quan Partnership

22

Local

39

40

Marina Chin & Eddee Ng

25

Holman Fenwick Willan

25

Foreign

35

36

Mert Hifzi

total

2,788

2,608

Data provided by companies. Survey period: September-October 2015. *Global law firm Morgan Lewis and Stamford Law Corporation have successfully completed their merger. **Obtained from previous report.

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 37


Legal briefing

MAS enhances rules for retail investors

New proposed regulations look to prevent investors from diving blind into riskier investments.

W

hen retail investors began suffering heavy losses on alternative investment products like buy-back arrangements on precious metals, there was little that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) could do to help them recover their money due to the lack of regulations governing such investments. The MAS, in response, has been lining up proposals that not only put more oversight on a broader number of investment products and schemes, but also makes investors more aware and in control of the risks they are taking. Analysts expect these measures to create a safer investing environment but will likely put additional compliance burdens on regulated bodies. What are the key proposals and what do you think are their implications? There are four key legislative changes which will be implemented, according to Eunice Tan, senior associate at Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow. The first is refining the current definitions of investor classes under the Securities and Futures Act, the second is introducing an “accredited investor” (AI) opt-in/opt-out regime, the third is regulating certain precious metal buy-back arrangements as “debentures,” and the fourth is regulating collectively managed investment schemes as CIS even if there is no pooling of participants’ contributions or schemes’

“The MAS has been lining up proposals that put more oversight on a broader number of investment products and schemes, and makes investors more aware.” profits. MAS will be further studying the proposal on introducing complexity and risk ratings for investment products. MAS targets to table these proposed changes in Parliament in 2016. Tan explains that the refinement of the definition of AI will trigger key changes such as imposing a S$1m cap on an individual’s primary residence for the purpose of the existing S$ 2m net personal asset test, introducing an alternative S$ 1m net financial asset test and, expanding the scope of institutional investors to include foreign institutions. The introduction of an AI-opt-in/opt-out regime - where new customers who are AI-eligible will need to expressly “opt-in” to be treated as an AI and existing customers who are AI-eligible investors do not “opt-out” after notification of their right to be treated as retail investors – could curtail new business generation for financial institutions that 38 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Dennis Lui

Eric Chan

Eunice Tan

Nicole Tan

cannot provide services or have limited product offerings for retail investors. The MAS proposal to expand the types of investment schemes regulated as CIS should increasingly put pressure on product providers and intermediaries to consider carefully the true substance of their products before determining that they fall outside the regulatory purview of the MAS, says Tan. Finally, increased regulation regarding precious metal buy-back arrangements will close an existing gap in the regulatory regime, and will be welcomed by the public at large, according to Eric Chan, Partner and Head of the Regulatory Practice at Shook Lin & Bok LLP What do you think would be the major challenges if ever the proposals were implemented? Chan reckons the proposal to refine investor definitions will likely require financial institutions to add complexity to their on-boarding process. Financial institutions’ clients will also have to sign even more documents before they are able to open an account or form an investment relationship. “Some clients may find this inconvenient but they need to appreciate that these new and complicated rules have largely been put in place by the regulator for their specific benefit,” says Chan. The MAS proposals that change the criteria to qualify as an AI, introduce an AI opt-in scheme and implement a complexity and risk rating for capital markets products would pose major implementation challenges primarily to regulated entities, says Dennis Lui, senior partner at Tan Kok Quan Partnership. Regulated entities will need to adopt additional administrative processes and re-assess existing clients continued qualification as AIs. Regulated entities may be burdened giving for two sets of product information to AIs depending on whether or not such AIs have decided to opt-in. Nicole Tan, senior partner at Tan Kok Quan Partnership adds that when the proposals do come into effect there should be a sufficient transition period allowed for regulated entities and the remainder of the industry to properly implement. How else can MAS enhance regulatory safeguards for investors? Chan says apart from imposing new rules to protect retail investors from risky investment products, MAS should continue its efforts to promote financial literacy among the investing public. “The public needs to understand that they remain principally responsible for their own investments and they cannot rely indefinitely on a third party regulatory agency to watch their backs,” says Chan.


co-published Corporate profile

Harry Elias Partnership: A legal giant reaps litigation success as it zeroes in on quality After bagging “Litigation of the Year” at SBR’s Business Ranking Awards, Harry Elias Partnership LLP looks back on how it achieved its current success.

M

ost legal firms are best known for the sheer prominence of their principals. After all, legal luminaries in the form of seasoned legal practitioners, upstanding public servants, and the like are sure to make anyone notice. However others take it to the next level and pride themselves in the quality of their work, with a roster of successfully argued cases reflecting a mix of legal acumen and sound strategy in the courtroom. Harry Elias Partnership LLP (HEP), winner of last year’s “Litigation of the Year” award at the Singapore Business Review Business Ranking Awards, is one law firm that belongs to the latter category.

Growing into a powerhouse From its humble beginnings as a twoman operation, HEP is now considered a Singaporean legal powerhouse to be reckoned with, with services spanning around 14 different practice areas. In fact, the firm’s legal involvement in recent years include major infrastructure projects such as the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, the Singapore F1 Night Race Pit Building, and the Singapore Flyer. “I am pleased to see the Firm I started 28 years ago come this far without losing its forte – Litigation. Although the Firm has now become a full service law firm, we are still very much known for our strengths in Dispute Resolution – which is why we often get appointed for large and complex cases, a good number of which are the first of its kind” says Founder and Consultant, Mr. Harry Elias, Senior Counsel.

Quality of work: a client must “I think our clients know the quality of work that we do and the amount of time that we spend on their cases, and they are obviously appreciative and impressed by that, sufficiently such that we get more referral work. That’s one of the reasons why we have managed to grow over the years,” says Andy Lem, Partner, Civil and Commercial Litigation Practice Group at HEP, when asked to describe the firm’s expansion since its establishment in 1988. He says “word-of-mouth, recommendations, and referrals” boosted HEP’s growth as cases grew not only in number, but also in complexity. “In the earlier days, a case may be handled by only one lawyer, but because of the type of cases we get nowadays, which are challenging—usually larger and more complex in nature—we have teams of lawyers that handle such litigation,” Lem explains. One such landmark case was Tanaka Lumber Pte. Ltd vs. Datuk Haji Mohammed Tufail Bin Mahmud, the very trial that won HEP its Litigation of the Year award. Here, HEP defended Datuk Haji Mohammed Tufail Bin Mahmud against allegations of breaches of trust and fiduciary duties filed by Tanaka Lumber in a suit involving assets valued in excess of $300 million. Litigation of the year The trial that ensued before the High Court of Singapore lasted four weeks, and proved to be a real challenge for the five-man HEP team—led by Harry Elias himself and Lem,

Harry Elias Partnership is now considered a legal powerhouse to be reckoned with, with services spanning around 14 different practice areas.

together with Partner Sharmini Selvaratnam and Associates Lee Hui Min, and Lin Chunlong—given the diversity of issues tackled in the courtroom. “I think this is one of the rare cases where we had experts from so many different fields dealing with so many different issues,” Lem confesses, referring to the complex issues tackled that included trust, document manipulation, contract, conspiracy, Malaysian law and public policy, forensic accounting, equity and fiduciary duties of directors. “There are so many areas, and it is not common to have experts in such diverse fields, and that is one of the things which made this case such a significant one. Adding to the trial’s uniqueness was the case being rather timeworn in nature. “This case goes back all the way to the 70’s, so in terms of methods and documents, we are really looking at events that have had happened over three decades ago,” Lem adds. HEP’s victory, Lem points out, was a remarkable display of “how experts and lawyers can work together to present a case on behalf of a client.” A full 2016 ahead As the New Year rolls in, HEP is busy as ever handling new cases as well as new methods in its practice of law. “We will continue to do what we do best. We will obviously continue to strive to serve our clients in the best way that we can,” Lem says. He even hints at a full workload in the year ahead: “I don’t have the liberty to disclose major transactions because of confidentiality considerations, but there are cases that are coming up and there are cases in line in the coming years. And we are looking forward to that.” So how does HEP do it? How does a Singaporean law firm manage to excel so easily in what it does? In the words of Philip Fong, Managing Partner,—it all boils down to leadership that translates to genuine client service, as embodied in HEP’s core values: integrity, cohesion, accountability, respect, and excellence. “Being a practice of firsts is not about size or glory. It is about leaders inspiring our people to be courageous, curious and creative. It is about strengthening our ethical core in resilience, reliability and responsibility. Only in this way can we truly say that we put our clients first,” says Mr Philip Fong, the current Managing Partner of HEP. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 39


SINGAPORE’S 50 LARGEST INSURANCE COMPANIES research at technology research firm, Gartner, notes that “distribution, and leveraging digital channels and capabilities to drive new business, but also to create stickiness with existing customers and increase persistency and renewals, continues to be a top of mind concern for Singaporean insurers”.

Insurers must learn to embrace change

Structural issues put pressure on insurers’ margins

Pricing remains ‘acutely weak’ in Singapore’s insurance market.

T

he fundamental growth story for Singapore’s insurance sector continues to be intact, as the savings rate rises and dependency ratio remains low. Its status as a regional centre for economic activity also continues to bolster demand for insurance across segments. “Singapore continued to build its position as a regional hub for property and casualty insurance and reinsurance,” says Peter Allen, global head of Grant Thornton’s insurance practice. The sector is not without challenges, however, as structural issues put pressure on margins and companies’ ability to generate returns. “Pricing unfortunately remains acutely weak in the local market and it is difficult to see how some insurers and reinsurers are maintaining underwriting 40 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

At a global level, overcapitalisation is so extreme that even a major catastrophe may not correct underpricing.

profits at these levels” says Allen, adding that “at a global level, overcapitalisation is so extreme that even a major catastrophe may not correct underpricing.” As firms aggressively try to deploy excess capital, undercutting is a natural consequence as customers often cannot be acquired fast enough to meet the supply being brought to market. “The Singapore insurance market is still attracting new entrants which will make the competition harder in the near future” says Patrick Menard, partner at Ernst & Young’s Advisory business. Insurers are looking to find new, innovative methods of service delivery to adapt to the ever-changing preferences of their customers such as mobile/ web-based platforms and a greater move to service online. Derry Finkeldey, director of

Innovative ways Given that this is quite a mature market in Singapore, firms are continuing to look for new ways to approach marketing campaigns as well as increase spending in innovative technology solutions according to Finkeldey. Insurers have also had to deal with disruption in the industry, as emerging technologies change the competitive dynamic. “A trend which developed in Singapore’s insurance sector in 2015 was the emergence of digital disruptors which have been supported by the arrival of innovation labs, digital garages and aggregator sites” says Raj Juta, insurance sector leader for Deloitte Southeast Asia. As this relatively mature industry is shaken up by new entrants and disruptive technologies, investment in IT to take the customer experience to the next level has become more crucial than ever. Allowing customers access through multiple channels, anytime, anywhere is becoming the new norm. “Insurers are slowly embracing digital channels for improving service quality. We are expecting a lot of activity around digital in 2016” says Ernst & Young advisory partner Sumit Narayanan. He notes that we are seeing an increase in insurers looking to find ways to communicate with their customers beyond the traditional points of contact, which are transactions such as premium payments and claims settlements.


SINGAPORE’S 50 LARGEST INSURANCE COMPANIES 2015 Overall Ranking

Classification

Insurance Company

2014 Overall Ranking

Total Assets 2013

Total Assets 2014

1 2

Composite Insurer

AIA SINGAPORE

1

31,491,190,183

35,371,886,441

Composite Insurer

NTUC INCOME INSURANCE CO-OPERATIVE

2

29,800,308,543

30,880,406,566

3

Life Insurer

PRUDENTIAL ASSURANCE CO. SINGAPORE

4

25,747,440,208

28,643,271,548

4

Life Insurer

THE GREAT EASTERN LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY

3

26,180,585,982

28,111,703,499

5

Life Insurer

MANULIFE (SINGAPORE)

5

5,474,830,707

5,927,480,876

6

Composite Insurer

AVIVA

6

4,450,969,368

5,519,093,619

7

Composite Insurer

THE OVERSEAS ASSURANCE CORPORATION

7

3,833,349,687

4,852,414,817

8

Life Insurer

TOKIO MARINE LIFE INSURANCE SINGAPORE

8

3,592,798,493

4,610,419,476

9

Composite insurer**

HSBC INSURANCE (SINGAPORE)

10

3,014,372,127

3,714,125,569

10

Life Insurer

SWISS LIFE (SINGAPORE)

9

3,382,214,873

2,892,170,834

11

Reinsurer (Composite)

ALLIANZ SE, SINGAPORE

11

2,388,567,710

2,277,480,987

12

Life Insurer

TRANSAMERICA LIFE (BERMUDA) SINGAPORE

16

1,200,453,125

2,018,326,026

13

Life insurer

AXA LIFE INSURANCE SINGAPORE

13

1,669,348,632

1,877,838,101

14

Reinsurer (Composite)

SWISS REINSURANCE COMPANY

14

1,400,333,840

1,844,646,351

15

Reinsurer (Composite)

ASIA CAPITAL REINSURANCE GROUP

12

1,704,922,166

1,673,535,283

16

Reinsurer (Composite)

MUENCHENER RUECKVERSICHERUNGS GESELLSCHAFT

15

1,385,222,865

1,510,034,032

17

Reinsurer (General)

IAG RE SINGAPORE

19

880,762,614

1,406,864,426

18

General Insurer

FIRST CAPITAL INSURANCE

17

1,037,148,222

1,116,760,277

19

General Insurer

AXA INSURANCE SINGAPORE

18

896,624,382

953,561,515

20

Life Insurer

OLD MUTUAL INTL ISLE OF MAN SINGAPORE (formerly Royal Skandia Life Assurance)

24

735,372,874

887,238,018

21

Reinsurer (General)

ODYSSEY REINSURANCE COMPANY

22

792,901,516

878,129,087

22

Reinsurer (General)

EVEREST REINSURANCE COMPANY

21

836,745,349

865,579,254

23

General Insurer

AIG ASIA PACIFIC INSURANCE

20

864,220,515

861,907,560

24

General Insurer

INDIA INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE

23

759,202,809

799,631,732

25

Life Insurer

ZURICH INTERNATIONAL LIFE (SINGAPORE)

25

685,982,683

690,631,680

26

Life Insurer

FRIENDS PROVIDENT INTERNATIONAL (SINGAPORE)

28

509,324,005

525,214,733

27

General Insurer

MSIG INSURANCE (SINGAPORE)

26

624,682,603

632,139,170

28

General Insurer

ALLIANZ GLOBAL CORPORATE & SPECIALTY SE, SINGAPORE

33

433,727,046

589,982,475

29

Reinsurer (Life)

SCOR GLOBAL LIFE SE SINGAPORE

30

490,523,104

532,133,949

30

General Insurer

TOKIO MARINE INSURANCE SINGAPORE

29

495,968,111

500,459,575

31

General Insurer

TENET SOMPO INSURANCE

31

451,698,359

476,562,549

32

Reinsurer (General)

THE TOA REINSURANCE Company (SINGAPORE)

27

515,853,725

458,839,678

33

Reinsurer (Composite)

SCOR REINSURANCE ASIA-PACIFIC

37

326,848,714

411,227,936

34

General Insurer

ROYAL & SUN ALLIANCE INSURANCE, SINGAPORE

34

382,678,565

404,232,775

35

General Insurer

QBE INSURANCE (INTERNATIONAL), SINGAPORE

32

411,273,577

396,081,167

36

General Insurer

LIBERTY INSURANCE

35

344,059,635

384,546,363

37

Reinsurer (General)

XL RE

36

330,805,748

342,797,744

38

Reinsurer (General)

SINGAPORE REINSURANCE CORPORATION

38

306,505,712

328,534,161

39

General Insurer

CHINA TAIPING INSURANCE (SINGAPORE)

39

292,270,356

311,833,786

40

General Insurer

FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY

40

283,698,943

295,637,218

41

General Insurer

UNITED OVERSEAS INSURANCE

41

251,272,897

266,747,693

42

Reinsurer (Composite)

PARTNER REINSURANCE EUROPE SE (SINGAPORE)

42

232,216,045

264,471,229

43

Reinsurer (General)

SIRIUS INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE CORPORATION, SINGAPORE

45

188,022,110

218,062,134

44

General Insurer

AXA CORPORATE SOLUTIONS ASSURANCE SINGAPORE

49

115,879,287

217,355,026

45

Reinsurer (General)

KOREAN REINSURANCE CO

43

216,506,860

209,584,048

46

Reinsurer (General)

ENDURANCE SPECIALTY INSURANCE, SINGAPORE

48

124,214,528

207,611,894

47

General Insurer

XL INSURANCE company SINGAPORE

44

190,434,936

200,667,909

48

General Insurer

LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE EUROPE

47

148,918,160

179,014,026

49

General Insurer

COFACE, SINGAPORE

46

166,384,026

178,767,777

50

Reinsurer (General)

SWISS RE INTERNATIONAL SE, SINGAPORE

50

60,123,155

178,187,890

*Data compiled from insurance company returns submitted to Monetary Authority of Singapore obtained AS AT SEPTEMBER 22, 2015. **Data for general business is not available.

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW REVIEW || SEPTEMBER MARCH 2016 2015 41 41


CMO Briefing

Decision making with data-driven marketing

Marketing professionals explain the undeniable necessity of data in implementing marketing strategies.

W

hen EMC began using advanced data analytics to predict customer sentiment and behaviours, it created a culture of acting on customer intelligence to create real business impact. “This is something we pass on to our customers by providing them with the right technology to support their business needs and growth,” says Karinne Brannigan, vice president of marketing at EMC Asia Pacific and Japan, adding that the company strives to always put their customer at the centre. “Being “data-driven” requires two things - first that you have the requisite data, and second that you use it correctly to make decisions and to change the way you communicate with prospects and customers. This seems obvious but it is often overlooked as many organisations do not anticipate all that is needed to be truly data-driven, from data engineers and data analysts to data warehouses, marketing automation systems and so forth,” says Todd Kurie, VP of marketing at Redmart, emphasising that the task of data collection is no small undertaking. The importance of technical infrastructure Technical infrastructure is certainly a major consideration when it comes to gathering data – inaccurate data could spell a campaign’s downfall, a mistake that many brands cannot afford. “The potential for insight is everywhere – from mobile transactions, website click-throughs, and even complaints on social media – businesses need to store every data point. Lost data become lost opportunities to understand customer behaviours and spot industry trends. In short, a lack of insight

42 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

will prove costly,” says Adam McCarthy, senior director and general manager in Asia for Rackspace. Real-time data, when provided with adequate technical support and privacy, can become essential for marketers, particularly when partnered with data management solutions that allow them to focus on higher value tasks at hand. While data is not a hundred percent reliable, even with the best methods of procuring it, the fact remains that if utilised correctly, it can become a powerful tool in increasing customer acquisition. “The best strategies in data-driven marketing are the ones that are optimised for engagement. In order to do so, we have always placed a high priority on advancing intelligence, insights and customer analytics – tapping into how our customers engage with and value their relationship with our brand,” says Janie Lim, marketing director, Digital Media, APAC at Adobe. “Technology such as predictive analytics has enabled us to eliminate guesswork in finding out what customers wanted from our brand. With the help of data, brands can now enable continuous touch points and engagement opportunities with customers – thus reaching them on the right channels.” Establishing a lasting bond At first it may seem like a paradox that something as impersonal as data could become instrumental in creating a bond between a brand and a customer. But as today’s tech-savvy consumers grow more and more resistant to the impersonal yet intrusive reach of mass media, data becomes indispensable for brands as they search for more ways to connect with their audience. “Now that data is so easy to collect and interpret, developing a strong relationship-marketing plan is both possible and essential for success. This means businesses have to start looking closer at context: qualities like past purchasing behaviour, how long he or she has been a customer, and understanding their buying habits and patterns should all factor into how a marketer builds a relationship,” says Kipp Bodnar, chief marketing officer of HubSpot.

Developing a strong relationshipmarketing plan is both possible and essential for success.

Diving into the data Contextual marketing is essential if a brand is to grow. Relevant and timely content can impress existing customers and draw in new ones, simultaneously stimulating growth in the customer base while also increasing brand loyalty. “Diving into the data will help businesses get a sense of what customers want so they can craft targeted, timely and relevant brand messages that will keep the customer engaged and coming back for more. More importantly, providing customers with relevant marketing material shows that they aware of, and responsive to, their customers’ needs,” says Nicholas Kontopoulos, global head of fast growth markets & marketing innovation at SAP Hybris.


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | SEPTEMBER 2015 43


special feature: irish country report

Northern Ireland holds unprecedented investment potential for Singapore

It is attracting the most inward investment in the UK on a per capita basis. overall education system that produces high school students with consistently higher grades than other parts of the UK.

Michael Garvey Head of Asia-Pacific Region Invest Northern Ireland

N

orthern Ireland is an integral part of the UK with its own locally elected administration. Located in the North East of the island of Ireland, the region has a population of 1.8 million 55 per cent of whom are under the age of 40. High-quality products and services from Northern Ireland are exported globally and the region’s major exports include; Food and Beverages, Pharmaceuticals, Life Sciences and Research Instruments, Materials Handling Equipment and Financial Services Software. The region is also the best performing region in the UK for attracting inward investment on a per capita basis. Existing international investors include Bombardier, Citi, Seagate and Fujitsu. The region’s proposition as a compelling investment location was further enhanced with the announcement that the Corporation Tax rate would be reduced to 12.5% in the region in 2018. This has the potential to make Northern Ireland the most attractive location in Western Europe for new inward investment, based on a combination of tax, talent and value. Northern Ireland has two universities, Queen’s University, Belfast and Ulster University. Both are research focused and industry linked and they sit within an 44 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Invest Northern Ireland Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) is the main economic development agency for this part of the UK promoting trade and investment through its network of global offices. It organises regular trade missions for Northern Ireland companies to develop sales and business networks in Singapore and other ASEAN markets. Invest NI also works with international companies seeking to expand their presence into Europe and the UK. Invest NI has a presence in Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo and also works with UK Trade & Investment and British Chambers of Commerce across the entire Asia-Pac region. Northern Ireland’s relationship with the ASEAN market A large number of Northern Ireland companies are doing business in the ASEAN region. These include Wrightbus, one of the UK’s leading bus builders; Heartsine, who invented the world’s first portable battery operated defibrillator

and FM Environmental, whose automatic fat, oil and grease extractor is installed in hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets, schools and hospitals. Northern Ireland is also the main international centre for the design and development of crushing, screening and recycling machinery for mining/ quarrying and infrastructure projects. Industry leaders including Powerscreen, Terex Finlay and Sandvik, have supplied equipment to ASEAN customers. Emergency, standby and prime power electricity generating sets have been supplied by Caterpillar in Northern Ireland, Europe’s biggest manufacturer of such equipment. Invest NI is bringing a delegation of 14 companies and organisations to Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia from 16 – 22 March. Invest NI is organising a full programme of events and meetings for this visit so that companies from Northern Ireland can maximise this opportunity. For more information on the programme and companies attending, visit: investni.com/ASEANTM To hear more about what Northern Ireland can do for your business, visit: investni.com or send an email to: asiapac@investni.com

“Invest NI has a presence in Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo.”

Belfast sunset


Peace Bridge, Derry~Londonderry

EXPERT

SUCCESSFUL

E L B I D E R C

Northern Ireland’s products and services are sold to over 100 countries Northern Ireland is the perfect partner for global businesses. We are a proven region for innovation and excellence, and we’ve built strong, trusted relationships around the world. Our people are educated, innovative and customer-focused and we have a mindset that means we always go the extra mile.

Northern Ireland. Altogether more.

InvestNI.com


special feature: irish country report

Samuel Beckett Bridge

Here’s why you should locate your business in Ireland Ireland continues to attract leading firms, including a growing number from Asia and Singapore.

D

espite the uncertain economic climate in Europe today, a growing number of Asian companies, eager to expand their global footprint, are looking to locate their European business in Ireland, a country that has long been the European Union (EU) destination of choice for United States (US) companies. This unassuming European country, already home to 1,200 multinational firms, was last year named “Best Country to Invest in Western Europe” by business publication Site Selection, an affirmation of the economic growth the country has sustained since the 2008 Eurozone debt crisis. For one, it is clear that Ireland, with its small yet highly-globalized economy, has achieved a degree of stability and traction that is neighbors have yet to accomplish. For 2015, analysts expect the Irish economy to announce a healthy 6% growth, making it the Eurozone’s fastest-growing economy, and Ireland is expected to continue to attract leading companies, including a growing number from Asia and Singapore. “Ireland is one of the best places in the world to do business,” claims IDA Ireland, the country’s foreign direct investment agency, founded in 1949. “International companies are attracted for a variety of reasons, but the facts speak for themselves.” Irish exports, for one, grew by 12% in 2014 versus 2013, and unemployment has dropped to less than 10% over the past three years. And since 2008, Ireland’s competitiveness has “improved dramatically.” Like Singapore, Ireland’s economy currently 46 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

caters to high-growth industries, including ICT, Life Sciences, Financial Services, the Internet, Engineering, and Business Services, but with the added advantage of a highly skilled, highly-educated workforce that Singaporean firms can utilize should they wish to expand their business into the 28-member EU, or even the US. Singaporean aircraft leasing company BOC Aviation (formerly Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise), for instance, already enjoys the benefits of operating a business in Ireland. The Bank of China-owned aircraft lessor, with an impressive fleet of over 250 aircraft, is one of many Asian companies currently doing business from Ireland. Other companies that have joined the ranks of BOC Aviation include aircraft support firm ST Engineering, polyester fiber manufacturer Indorama, information technology company Huawei and pharmaceutical Takeda, to name just a few. An ideal location So why locate your business in Ireland? Firstly, the Eurozone country ranks highly in ease and speed in setting up a business, offers a well-connected, English-speaking access point to mainland Europe, a low cost base, and a broad pool of well-educated, highly-skilled and multi-lingual talent. Furthermore, Ireland’s attractive 12.5% corporation tax rate is supported by additional government incentives such as 25% R&D

Dublin Silicon Docks (research and development) tax credits and a new OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)-compliant Knowledge Development Box (KDB) that will see the corporation tax rate set at 6.25% for qualifying income. IDA Ireland plays a big role in ramping up Ireland’s economic bona fides on the world stage, assisting companies in setting up and scaling their European operations in Ireland and having already partnered with over 1,200 international clients to date.“Expanding your business overseas raises all sorts of concerns, but IDA Ireland is happy to provide advice and support,” IDA Ireland claims. “Ireland has an impeccable track record for attracting Foreign Direct Investment over the past 50 years, helping Ireland’s economy beat global trends, and IDA Ireland’s partnership approach has led to increased investment, expansion and diversification of client activities.” IDA Ireland offers companies a full suite of free services to help them make their expansion decisions whilst also managing the state aids. “IDA Ireland actively plans for success. As Ireland’s inward promotion agency, we partner with established companies, both large and small, working with them every step of the way to achieve a smooth, fast and successful set-up of their operations in Ireland.” If you’re a Singaporean firm with an international outlook, looking for the next big thing, Ireland might just be up your alley.

“Ireland’s attractive 12.5% corporation tax rate is supported by additional government incentives.”


G

Right place Right time Knowing the right conditions. The right altitude. The right moves. The right place to land. Landing in the right place at the right time is about skill and judgement. This is Ireland today. Europe’s fastest growing economy is ranked as one of the best places in the world to do business*. And Ireland’s workforce ranks first in the world for flexibility and adaptability. Prepare for landing. Find out more at idaireland.com *Forbes 2014

www.idaireland.com


singapore business review awards

Meet the movers and shakers in Singapore’s cutthroat business scene

T

he inaugural Singapore Business Review Management Excellence Awards ceremony (MEA), which aimed at honoring the Republic’s most outstanding business leaders, took place on December 2, 2015 at the Shangri-La Hotel. The event, graced by over 160 attendees, coincides with the second Business Rankings Awards which recognises noteworthy initiatives from companies ranked in the SBR industry ranking lists. It was also set up to recognise exceptional young professionals aged 40 and under. Nominations for the MEA were judged by Janson Yap, enterprise risk services leader & Southeast Asian innovation leader, Deloitte SEA; Henry Tan, managing director, Nexia TS; Adrian Chan, partner & head of corporate, Lee & Lee; and Azman Jaafar, deputy managing partner, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP. Yap and Jaafar were present at the ceremony. The full list of winners is available below: Management Excellence Awards Executives of the Year Financial Services Lawrence Chai Chung Hoong, 3E Accounting Pte. Ltd Consulting Margaret Manning OBE, Adelphi Digital Consulting Group Food & Beverage Regina Lee, Amplitude Inc. Holdings Pte Ltd. Retail Anders Peter Juel Sauerberg, Norbreeze Group Pte. Ltd. Hotel Allen Law, Park Hotel Group Diversified Services Foo Jiann Wen, Radius Group of Companies Manufacturing Jimmy Teo, Wittman Battenfeld (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. Building Services and Facilities Anthony Koh Thong Huat, IsoTeam Ltd Technology Colin Bruce Thoms, Fast Flow Singapore Pte Ltd. Resort Moe Ibrahim, Bintan Lagoon Resort Innovators of the Year Financial Services AIA Singapore

48 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

IT Services MuRho Solutions Pte Ltd Teams of the Year Diversified Services Radius Group of Companies Real Estate UOL Group Ltd. Senior Executives Gwee Lian Kheng, Liam Wee Sin and Wellington Foo Business Rankings Awards ibis Singapore on Bencoolen - Green Hotel of the Year Harry Elias Partnership LLP - Litigation of the Year RT LLP - Restructuring Project of the Year Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow - E-Commerce Acquisition of the Year Drew & Napier LLC. - Deal of the year Largest Real Estate Agencies sponsored by Investorist ERA Realty Network - Rank #1 HSR International Realtors Pte Ltd - Rank #7 KF Property Network - Rank #9 SLP Scotia - Rank #10 SLP Realty - Rank #14 Mindlink Groups Pte Ltd - Rank #17 Vestor Realty - Rank #19 Knight Frank Asset Management - Rank #29 Knight Frank Pte. Ltd. - Rank #30 SLP International Property Consultants Pte. Ltd. - Rank #31 Singapore Estate Agency - Rank #34 Chesterton Singapore - Rank #37 Most sought after investors aged 40 and under Alvin Low - Low Capital Management Pte Ltd John Fearon - Sugar Ventures Hottest 40 and under Hotel Chefs Melvin Lim - Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore Soren Lascelles - Grand Hyatt Singapore Sam Chin Han Ling - Mandarin Orchard Singapore Darren Ong - Royal Plaza on Scotts Massimo Pasquarelli - Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore Great Engineers & Architects aged 40 and under Charles Lee - ONG&ONG Benson Wee - ONG&ONG Tien Carolyna Jio - ONG&ONG Koh Zhi Wei - Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner (S.E. Asia) Jerry Ong - CPG Corporation Pte Ltd Tang Kai Vern - CPG Corporation Pte Ltd Tan Shin Wei - CPG Corporation Pte Ltd Vivien Leong - CPG Corporation Pte Ltd Seah Chee Huang - DP Architects Yuen Yi May - Surbana Jurong Private Limited Ng Shao Wei Colin - Surbana Jurong Private Limited Richard Phua - Squire Mech


UOL Group Limited Representatives

Teo Beng Poh, Jimmy of Wittmann Battenfeld (Singapore) Pte Ltd

Amplitude Inc. Holdings Pte Ltd Team

Patrick Teow of AIA Singapore

Norbreeze Group

Moe Ibrahim of Bintan Lagoon Resort

3E Accounting Pte Ltd Team

Margaret Manning of Adelphi Digital Consulting Group SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 49


Lee Rong Xian, Regina of Amplitude Inc. Holdings

Joel Foo of Radius Design & Construction Wellington Foo, Liam Wee Sin & Gwee Lian Kheng, of UOL Pte Ltd Group Limited

Colin Thoms of Fast Flow Singapore Pte Ltd

Alex Knight of Investorist with Calvin See of Singapore Estate Agency

Bintan Lagoon Resort Team 50 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

Chai Chung Hoong, Lawrence of 3E Accounting Pte Ltd

Allen Law of Park Hotel Group

Hottest 40 and under Hotel Chefs

AIA Singapore Representatives


Patrick Liew of HSR International Realtors Pte Ltd

Chow Yi Tong Merson of Mindlink Groups

Steven Seah of SLP Scotia

Yuen Yi May and Ng Shao Wei Colin of Surbana Jurong Private Limited and Richard Phua of Squire Merch

Harry Elias Partnership LLP Team

Arumugam Ravinthran of RT LLP

Mark Gaynor of ibis Singapore on Bencoolen

Charles Lee, Tien Carolyna Jio and Benson Wee of ONG&ONG

Alvin Low of Low Capital Management Pte Ltd and John Fearon of Sugar Ventures

Seah Chee Huang of DP Architects, Jerry Ong of CPG Corporation Pte Ltd and Koh Zhi Wei of Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner (S.E. Asia)

Largest Real Estate Agencies Representatives SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 51


Event Coverage: Industry Insights Series

The panelists with moderator Tim Charlton

SBR’s Industry Insights Series 2015 champions innovation

The inaugural event featured industry leaders discussing the micros and macros of the industries.

L

eaders in the crowded Hotel & Hospitality and Food & Beverage industries of Singapore are constantly cooking up innovations in order to catch their customers’ palates and stay well ahead of their competition. These recipes for success and more were passed around and meticulously analysed as top hoteliers and restaurateurs flocked to Singapore Business Review’s inaugural Industry Insights Series at the Sheraton Towers Singapore last November 17 and 18. A total of 119 industry players attended the panel discussions and presentations of the two-day event. A main course of healthy discourse Talks on the first day were centered on the Hotel & Hospitality industry, where speakers tackled issues including Singapore’s hospitality market; the tight competition between hotels and non-hotels; challenges and

52 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

“Hotel & Hospitality and Food & Beverage industries of Singapore are constantly cooking up innovations in order to catch their customers’ palates and stay well ahead of their competition.”

opportunities in new luxury brand hotels; and digital consumerism. The second day, meanwhile, was dedicated to discussions regarding the Food & Beverage industry as speakers explored the trends of southeast Asia’s growing middle class; the demand for organic food and its effect on QSRs; the reduction of food waste; control over rising food prices; sustainable F&B practices; and food consumerism in the age of millennials. The thought-provoking panel discussions were moderated by Singapore Business Review Editor-in-Chief, Tim Charlton, who raised questions to stimulate healthy discourse. For the first session of the Hotel & Hospitality day, panelists tackled the trend of Singaporeans binging on hotels, as investors from the city-state spent over $1.18b in hotel acquisitions for the first half of 2015 alone according to a report by Savills.

On the second day of the event, leaders in the Food & Beverage industry explored the trends in Singapore’s F&B scene. Justin Lam, chief operating officer of The Coffee Academics, kick-started the first session with a discussion on the effect of international F&B players in the local retail scene. Industry patterns Lam then delved into the patterns emerging within the industry. In particular, he noted that consumers will likely grow more educated and discerning about their consumption. He also dwelled on the need for local retailers, especially those in the evercompetitive F&B landscape, to pay more attention to brand details to be able to stand out. In total, Industry Insights Series 2015’s Food and Beverage industry day saw 55 attendees through two days and five sessions.


Recognising Singapore’s exceptional listed, international and local businesses Nominate your company’s trailblazing initiatives and receive the recognition you deserve Entries are now accepted For more information, contact Julie Anne Nuùez at +65 6223 7660 ext. 221 or email julie@charltonmediamail.com


OPINION

ANDREW MERRILEES MediShield Life and employee healthcare

N

ow that Medishield Life is well entrenched, do we still need to offer employees an Employee Benefit package? MediShield Life, similar to MediShield, is an individual basic universal healthcare insurance scheme which helps to pay for large hospital bills and expensive outpatient treatments, including dialysis and chemotherapy for cancer. In terms of treatment, MediShield Life provides access to Class B2/C wards and provides for subsidised treatment in public hospitals to as many people as possible. In this context it has been a valuable initiative, reaching a large number of people. Those individuals who choose to stay in A/B1 wards at public hospitals or private hospitals can still benefit from MediShield Life. However, the compensation levels are calculated based on a percentage of your bill, meaning the pay-outs are at roughly the same level as someone who seeks treatment in a B2/C class ward. Although MediShield Life does provide coverage, it isn’’t the same as having a comprehensive ‘high-end’ medical package. With an aging population, and increase in chronic disease rates, and high rates of medical inflation, top employees are demanding greater choice in healthcare options. What does it mean for employees? As MediShield Life only covers inpatient treatment (in lower class categories and in public hospitals), your employees will have to decide whether to claim on their employee benefits package or MediShield plans. Depending on the scope of the inpatient treatment, most employees will resort to claiming from their corporate plans. In most cases, corporate plans are a lot more comprehensive and provide more choice of treatment options. What does this mean for employers? Employers will be wondering if they are providing double cover now and may consider the possibility of funding their employees’ private MediShield plans as an Employee Benefit. While this might look a good option, the premiums would skyrocket. Private MediShield plans are age-banded – premiums increase as employees move up age brackets. Corporate plans are rated as a group 54 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

ANDREW MERRILEES Regional Head of Benefits - APAC Lockton Companies (Singapore)

and as a result premiums are held at lower levels. As an option, employers might start exploring the possibility of voluntary top-up programmes to increase specific coverage if there is a perceived shortfall. What do HR teams need to know to make effective decisions? The ageing population is putting increasing pressure on most aspects of Singapore’s Health Care system and the Ministry of Health is going to be continually monitoring and making changes to the system to ensure it is sustainable. As a result, HR teams should keep up-to-date with these changes and monitor their workforce demographics to make a decision best suited to their business. There are, of course, insurance advisors who can assist with this assessment. HR teams will need to prepare themselves for additional administrative work to integrate MediShield coverage and privately sourced health benefits. What should HR teams be advising their staff? A good first step for HR teams is to evaluate how many of their employees are already on the MediShield plan. Corporate inpatient plans only cover up to a certain age. A review of your current benefit options is a good starting point. This will ensure you are offering industry-competitive benefits that help with talent retention and ensures you are not over/under-insuring.

Private MediShield plans are age-banded


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016 55


OPINION

Mark Wadsley

Here’s how fitness will improve performance management

I

Mark Wadsley Senior Director HCM Transformation, Oracle APAC

have been thinking and contemplating how performance reviews are done in companies annually or monthly. Some companies are even getting rid of it completely. Then it occurred to me that performance management should really move to “just-in-time performance management.” The purpose of the Fit for Work concept is to explore the idea of just-in-time performance management. It’s a concept that we’re developing about how to use human capital management, data metrics as well as sales data metrics, and create business intelligence to help people improve their performance, their talent. This isn’t about saying you’re unfit, from a physical standpoint or a mental standpoint. This is a concept which is about enhancing employees on an optimum basis which can improve their performance - much like a work athlete. So for example, imagine a call from HR service centre that goes: “Hi, John, we noticed today that you have an elevated heart rate of 160 beats per minute, and you’ve skipped your breakfast, and you’ve got a sales meeting in an hour worth about US$12 million. We’d like to put a nutritionist on the line who’d like to share with you a high nutri-food that you can eat now. And a psychologist will have a chat with you and discuss some visualisation techniques on how to calm your heart rate down prior to your meeting. And then we will put a sales coach on the line to discuss with you in broad strokes how to position your sales deal.” Work athlete If you’re a work athlete, your performance data would be captured and correlated to your sales data. And typically you would have to wait for the HR shared service centre to monitor those analytics, and then advise you on how you can optimise your performance. So that would potentially be one end of a work athlete. Or you can imagine a call from HR shared service centre where it goes, “Hi, John. We noticed that the retail team in your retail store are on their feet for eight hours a day, we tracked it through Fitbit. We have noticed they’re not taking any breaks, and the sales dashboard we’re looking at in real time tells us that we’ve decreased sales by 20% in the store over the last couple of days. So we’d like to put an efficiency coach on the telephone to have a chat with you about how we can increase break times, or how we can help you rotate your staff. We will also put the fitness coach on the line to discuss with you and the team about stretching techniques so that they’ll be fitter and more agile. We think we’ll be able to see an increase in sales because of it.” So really the idea of Fit for Work is about a crossover between wellbeing and fitness as a correlation to sales activity, and how you can drive real-time performance just in time by having some sort of shared service centre. We are trying to create a concept or initiative that we will then share with our customers so they can look at how technology can enable them to have HR performance management 56 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | MARCH 2016

data dashboard all in one screen, with customer-relationship management with sales data. And they can draw reports to create some analysis, and figure out how to use your team to their full potential, how to help an individual perform at their best, and improve the organisation’s overall performance. Ultimately, businesses are in business to make money, right? Businesses are about revenue, costs, and talent. So if you know how to improve your revenue because you have high-performing individuals, if you know how to reduce your costs because you’re not off work from being sick or having back pain or what have you, and if you know how to look after your people, you’re going to retain your talent. It is those three things which will make you interested in something like this as an initiative. If you track employees’ health benefits through to an incentive program, and you know people care, you know that the company cares about you, that it doesn’t just care about you once year or once a month or once a week or a conversation-- it cares about you second by second. Think of it like an astronaut in space. You’ve got NASA control looking at every single aspect of you. You’ve got people monitoring all aspects of your well-being and it’s all about keeping you while it’s all about looking after you. Consequently, people–by nature, by definition of you encouraging them in the right way–will be less sick, lessor be less ill. It isn’t surprising if it didn’t correlate to reduction in sick days or in low performance.

Ready, set, work!


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Global Mindset, Asian Insights


Profile for Charlton Media Group

Singapore Business Review (February-March 2016)  

Singapore Business Review (February-March 2016)  

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