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Issue No. 97

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THE PATH TO A MORE RESILIENT SINGAPORE IS ‘GREEN’ ARCHITECTURE EMERGING MARKETS LEAD REIT IN ASIA PACIFIC: APREA SINGAPORE’S MOST NOTABLE REAL ESTATE AGENTS AND ARCHITECTS UNDER 40 WHY PROPERTY IS NOT THE STABLE NEST EGG IT WAS BEFORE


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FROM THE EDITOR About Us

M

ore industries are welcoming flexible hybrid work settings and turning to digital services as people adapt to the new normal. Despite this, office rent is showing signs of recovery, and the Singapore residential market is also on track to break last year’s figures. Read more about our cover stories on pages 30 and 32.

AUDITED CIRCULATION: 23,116 ONLINE READERSHIP: 410,000 monthly uniques through Google Analytics The Singapore Business Review is the highest circulating and best read business magazine in Singapore. Our online readership has an average of 215,000 unique viewers, according to Google Analytics. We won the Business Trade Media of the Year Award at the 2017 MPAS Awards. Do reach out to us if you would like us to tell your story to our readers via print & online advertising or events. PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Tim Charlton PRINT PRODUCTION EDITOR Jeline Acabo COMMERCIAL EDITOR Janine Ballesteros COPYEDITOR Tessa Distor PRODUCTION TEAM Frances Gagua Djan Magbanua Lui Mawis GRAPHIC ARTIST Mark Simon Engracial ADVERTISING CONTACT Aileen Cruz aileen@charltonmediamail.com Karisse Coderes karisse@charltonmediamail.com Reiniela Hernandez reiniela@charltonmediamail.com ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTS DEPARTMENT accounts@charltonmediamail.com

Singapore Business Review also features the latest industry startups Hugo, Gorilla Mobile, and WaveScan (pages 12, 13), the latest digital innovations of industry giants Cloud ERP, S/4HANA Selective Data Transformation, and robotic process automation (pages 42, 44, 46) and the rise of cyber attacks targeting small businesses (page 10). Singapore’s gaming industry is set to expand beyond video game development, and several industries showed support at the Ubisoft Singapore x Gamescom’s webinar. See our full coverage at page 26. In an exclusive feature, CapitaLand’s Bridge+ at Singapore’s Central Business District provides “workspace flexibility” and is focused on building a community for the FinTech sector for collaborations and activities. Read the full story on page 14. Enjoy reading!

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CONTENTS

20

COVER STORY

30 OFFICE RENTS TO RECOVER ON THE BACK OF ACCELERATED VACCINE ROLLOUT FIRST 08 ‘Smart Water’ tech brings Singapore

FINANCIAL INSIGHT 18 Green finance in the Asia Pacific region to grow amidst data and disclosure gaps

and Netherlands together

10 2 in 5 small-medium businesses experience cyber attacks

STARTUPS

13 Gorilla Mobile lets travelers convert

22 What you see is what you get: Livestreaming gains traction in Singapore

24 Digitalisation creeping into non-tech roles as Singapore banks accelerate hiring

unused roaming data

SPACE WATCH provides avenue for collaborations

microlending platform demystifies cryptocurrency

29 NTUC Fairprice: Building the grocery store of the future

Published Quarterly on the Second week of the Month by Charlton Media Group 101 Cecil St. #17-09 Tong Eng Building 2 SINGAPORE DECEMBER 2018 2021 SingaporeBUSINESS 069533 REVIEW | MARCH

EVENT COVERAGE 42 Why is now the best time to move to a Cloud ERP?

44 RISE with SAP: How SDT helps

46 Beyond productivity: Automation boosts cost efficiencies, employee satisfaction, CX

ANALYSIS 34 Why property is not the stable nest egg it was before

28 How this Singapore-based

14 Bridge+ at 79 Robinson Road

INDUSTRY BRIEFING SINGAPORE’S GAMING INDUSTRY SET TO EXPAND BEYOND VIDEO GAME DEVELOPMENT

businesses transform data with maximum flexibility

INDUSTRY

12 Hugo allows investors to invest in gold 1 cent at a time

26

LEGAL BRIEFING HIGH TIME FOR THE MONETARY AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE TO AMPLIFY INVESTIGATIVE POWERS

35 How global brands can ride the e-commerce wave in SEA

38 The path to a more resilient Singapore is ‘green’ architecture

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News from sbr.com.sg Daily news from Singapore MOST READ

AVIATION

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

Changi slips to 3rd place in World’s Resale market in SG returns after Top Airports 2-year hiatus Changi Airport is no longer the The private resale market is making World’s Top Airport for 2021, landing a comeback as Singapore saw in third after consistently being on high demand for private resale top since 2013. Its winning streak condominiums in the first seven was broken by Qatar’s Hamad months of the year, OrangeTee said in International Airport and Japan’s a report. Tokyo Haneda Airport according Citing data from the Urban to Skytrax’s 2021 World Airport Redevelopment Authority (URA), Awards. Changi Airport still bagged 3 OrangeTee reported that 9,160 awards and also landed a spot in the private non-landed homes, excluding non-ranked 2021 COVID-19 Airport executive condominiums, have been Excellence Awards. sold so far.

ECONOMY

Singapore inflation to continue transitory phase for rest of 2021 As Singapore’s consumer prices rose at 2.5% YoY, UOB predicted a transition period for the year 2021 as an uptick of 1.7% was recorded in the 7th consecutive month. Headline inflation is also expected to stay between 1% to 2% for 2021, an increase from 0.5% to 1.5% in the previous report. UOB predicted that these factors should remain in effect for the rest of the year. Support for inflation is also expected to take place as a result of these upticks.

MOST READ COMMENTARY Navigating the startup ecosystem in Singapore BY THOMAS LABOULLE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking at the recent National Day Rally 2021, noted that Singapore companies and entrepreneurs must make their mark in the new global economy and seize the burgeoning opportunities in a rapidly evolving world. Home to over 3,800 tech-enabled startups and 190 intermediaries, including accelerators and incubators, Singapore is no stranger to the private equity and venture capital scene.

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | SEPTEMBER 2019 SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

Singapore can be a progressive haven for crypto businesses BY DON GUO The latest in the series of clampdowns has been Singapore issuing an Investor Alert for Binance, and warning consumers in Singapore that Binance is not regulated nor licensed in the country to provide any payment services. Owing to the country’s friendly regulatory environment, various other global cryptocurrency groups are expanding their presence in Singapore. What works for Singapore is that it is clear of how it engages with cryptocurrency and the digital assets markets.

Finding the silver lining in Singapore’s retail story BY JOEL NEOH Against this backdrop of changing consumer behaviour of shopping online and the dwindling footfalls in shopping malls due to various restrictions, several other retail trends are fast-emerging. From offering Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services to adopting contactless payment solutions, retailers are increasingly relying on innovative fintech products such as contactless QR code payments to turn the tide in their favour.


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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AGENDA PEOPLE | PLACES | SERVICES | OPPORTUNITIES

SERVICES OPPORTUNITIES

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ABEAM ABeam Singapore is part of the ABeam global family that was established out of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in 1981 in Japan. Since changing our corporate name to ABeam Consulting in 2003, the group have grown leaps and bounce to reach 5000+ headcount in 2018 while operating in 15 countries with over 30 offices, and continuously growing. ABeam Singapore started our operations in 2005. From our infancy of 10+ consultants working mainly on Japanese MNCs roll-out projects, we have transformed into a 150-team-strong organization, focusing on ERP implementation & roll-outs ; Analytics & Big Data implementation ; Robotic Process Automation (RPA); Business Process Re-engineering and Change Management; across multiple industries, covering not only Singapore but the region. Our focus industries are EC&O, FSI, Hi-tech, Discreet Manufacturing and Telco.

S P JAIN SCHOOL OF GLOBAL MANAGEMENT S P Jain School of Global Management (SP Jain) is an Australian business school with campuses in Mumbai, Dubai, Singapore and Sydney. The School offers a plethora of undergraduate, postgraduate, professional and doctoral programs with a motive of crafting leaders for the 21st century workplace. The learning experience provided by them is modern, relevant and truly global. Their full-time MBA programs have significant recognition as evinced through global rankings by Forbes, The Economist and The Financial Times to name a few.

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FIRST uses a deep learning algorithm to monitor the behaviour of a select number of fish species to detect abnormalities in the water, such as flow rate, temperature, contaminants, and the overall ecological condition. Like EventLab, it also sends back real-time information to users.

AlgaPro | Photo from ZWEEC Analytics

‘Smart Water’ tech brings Singapore and Netherlands together

D

emand for water continues to increase in Singapore in tandem with population and economic growth. According to PUB estimates, the country’s water demand is slated to nearly double by 2060, from the 430 million gallons per day in 2020. There are also the risks posed by climate change, from heavy rainfalls and intense heat to rising sea levels. Singapore’s water agreement with Malaysia is also set to expire in 2061. Whilst that is four decades away, it’s not too early to lay out critical infrastructure that will improve the water supply system. A crucial part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 is sustainability, which includes improving water treatment methods and reducing water consumption per household to 130 litres per capita per day. The Smart Water journey There’s also the matter of Singapore’s ageing population and what this could mean for the labour market. With less able-bodied youths to do physically taxing jobs, the Lion City always has the option to rely on foreign labour, a venture that has become more expensive since the quarantine-imposed border restrictions. Alternatively, it could rely on technology and artificial intelligence. This is where digitalisation and Smart Water comes in. “Digitalisation gives us a huge opportunity to advance our mission in previously unimaginable ways. It is absolutely a gamechanger,” PUB CEO Ng Joo Hee once said in a 2020 white paper. Through digitalisation and Smart Water technology, water utilities can collect data that they could use to improve their distribution and risk 8

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

management operations. Fortunately, Singapore is not alone in its Smart Water journey, and private companies are offering solutions. The PUB has worked with a consortium of companies, both Singapore-based and abroad, to ensure that the technology used in its system is amongst the best the world has to offer. Digitalisation is a game-changer Netherlands-based Optiqua is one of those companies that have worked with the PUB to develop its EventLab system. Through continuous monitoring of water that goes through the pipes that it has installed, it guards the drinking water supply in realtime. This would allow PUB to respond swiftly to changes in water before it reaches the consumer. “We developed our EventLab system jointly with PUB. Over the years our engineers, hand in hand with PUB, validated the prototypes and turned these into a complete system that is now implemented in Singapore,” said Managing Director for Optiqua Jos-Willem Verhoef in an interview with Singapore Business Review. The flow of innovation continued, with Singapore-based ZWEEC Analytics adding its technology to Optiqua’s EventLab to come up with a holistic method of water sampling. “We use Optiqua’s system alongside Aquatec because both of these work to monitor the quality of water. These two systems are able to find out if there are any contaminants,” said ZWEEC Deputy CEO for Technology and Operations Yeo Chai Meng in an interview with Singapore Business Review. ZWEEC’s Aquatec and FishWay Watcher

Automation of water monitoring Working together has benefited the two companies immensely, bonded by a similar water story despite the miles that stretch between their home nations. Combining data from different sources, through artificial intelligence, may create valuable new response tools for drinking water companies. For this reason, a group of Dutch, Belgium, and Singaporean companies have started the AQUA consortium. This is a collaboration between Dutch companies Optiqua, Demcon Advanced Mechatronics, and HAL24K; ZWEEC Analytics from Singapore, and De Water Groep from Belgium. These companies have teamed up to develop the next generation of water quality monitoring with “AI-based” algorithms that help to identify the root cause of water quality issues. This consortium received as part of an International Eureka AI project, support from Enterprise Singapore and the Dutch and Belgium governments. Both Singapore and the Netherlands have a strong reputation in water management and developing state of the art drinking water technologies. Both of the nation’s water utilities have posed a proactive stance in making sure no drop of potable water is wasted. Monitoring water quality and preemptive maintenance are key in making sure Singaporeans have safe and high-quality drinking water in the future. “In the near future, the water treatment plans will be automated. In terms of technical, input, when to take the reservoir—all of these will be done by AI. Preemptive maintenance even before problems happen, we should be able to react to solving all these issues in a faster time,” Yeo said.

ZWEEC Analytics AquaTEC


FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY

Growing demand for digital banking solutions in the new normal

W

hen the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the internet became a prerequisite, digitalisation became imperative in all aspects. As businesses speed up the adoption of digital technologies, customer experiences are being constantly redefined. Mobile payments and digital or online wallets are the most widely used fintech products, used by 60% of Malaysian companies surveyed by CPA. Thus, it is crucial for banks to rethink how customers are conducting their banking activities especially when face-to-face people interactions are minimised, with a greater need for contactless transactions. Customer experience continues to reinvent itself in an era of rapid technology advances. On the fintech front, AmBank has partnered with Finexus to be the latter’s settlement bank that enables Finexus to participate in DuitNow on the Retail Payments Platform. This collaboration reflects AmBank’s commitment as a key player to push for cashless payments

in the country. Moreover, AmBank has also joined forces with Merchantrade Asia to introduce a hybrid e-wallet, the first cross border, multi-currency payment solution in the market. Customers can enjoy increased convenience and costeffective services with the larger e-wallet size, easing them of the hassle of having to top up their e-wallet regularly. It has also introduced bespoke services via its Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), through its collaboration with Rakuten Trade, Malaysia’s first full-fledged online equity broker that offers digital investment opportunities to investors. Apart from providing a secured platform, AmBank’s API solution provides real-time customer verification for Rakuten’s existing customer acquisition process and onboarding of new customers. Through its strategic collaborations, AmBank serves to help corporate clients manage their payments, collections, and cash flows more efficiently. At the same time, as

an intelligence-driven bank, to customise banking solutions for mid to large corporates to attain seamless value chains.

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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FIRST

2 in 5 small-medium businesses experience cyber attacks

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he recent acceleration of digitisation and auomation made most industries dependent on technological innovation and solutions. However, this proved to have increased the risks that businesses face with larger data being held and has also highlighted problems and flaws, particularly in smallmedium businesses’ (SMBs) cyber security and operations. A study recently released by Cisco shows that 40% of in Singapore have encountered cyber attacks in the past year. The survey covered over 3,700 business and IT leaders across 14 markets in the Asia Pacific. 153 of these respondents were based in Singapore. Singapore SMBs also showed a more apprehensive side when approaching cybersecurity. 67% say that they are more worried about this compared to a year ago, with 77% of respondents saying that they feel exposed. Reasons for the attack were also asked by

the study. More than 52% pointed towards having inadequate cybersecurity solutions, whilst 31% did not have any solution in place. More than 51% of SMBs said that these attacks resulted in a financial impact of $677,060 (US$500,000) or more, with 11% even going so far as to say that $1.35m (US$1m) was impacted. Effects of these cyber incidents as reported by the respondents include loss of employee data (51%), financial information (51%), internal emails (49%), sensitive business information (49%), and money through financial fraud (49%). 52% would also say that this brought a negative impact to their reputation. Managing Director Andy Lee of Cisco, Singapore and Brunei, said that this is a result of the digital adoption and transformation done by businesses. “SMBs in Singapore have digitalised rapidly over the last 18 months, driven by the need to leverage technology to survive and thrive in this challenging environment. This has in

turn fueled a critical need for SMBs to ensure they have the solutions and capabilities to safeguard themselves on the cybersecurity front,” he said. “This is because the more digital they become, the more attractive a target they are for malicious actors. While the growing cybersecurity concerns among SMBs may be seen as negative by some, it is actually an encouraging sign as it demonstrates increased levels of awareness and understanding of cyber risks, which is the first step in improving the security posture,” he added.

THE CHARTIST: SINGAPORE LEADS IN VACCINATION RATE IN ASIA

T

his chart from Moody’s Analytics showed that there is a wide variation of vaccination rates in Asia, with Singapore leading in the region with 81% of its adult population fully vaccinated and 7% partially vaccinated. Moody’s said the current pace of vaccinations across the region “does not bode well for much of Southeast Asia” as all countries have low vaccination rates except for Singapore, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Vietnam, with 2% fully vaccinated and 16% partially vaccinated, and Myanmar with 4% fully vaccinated adults and 1% partially vaccinated, are lagging in vaccination. It noted that vaccination rates do not provide a complete picture of the remaining risks from COVID-19 as “vaccination rate does not always correlate well to the incidence of the virus or the death rate.” Moody’s said that there could be many reasons for this, such as the efficacy of the vaccine, geographic distribution, or the age cohorts of the population that have or not have been vaccinated. “Similarly, death rates may vary across the countries of the APAC region, due in part to quality and availability of care. Of course, one must also recognise that the quality of the data may vary from one country to another,” it said.

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Wide Variation of Vaccination Rates in Asia % of adult population fully and partially vaccinated, 19 Aug 2021

Source: Our World in Data, World Bank, Moody’s Analytics


FIRST

Millennials in Singapore are one of today’s fastest-growing segment of home buyers

1 in 2 Singaporeans plan to buy a new home in the next 2 years

D

espite finding property prices high, 74% of Singaporeans are looking into buying a new home, according to PropertyGuru. More than half of Singaporeans, at 53%, plan to purchase a new home within the next two years. More people even found themselves in a position to purchase a home given their current financial status with 65% answering

in the affirmative for H2 2021. This is a slight uptick from the 60% for H1 2021. The survey attributed this trend to the availability of financing options, particularly those with low interest rates. 46% of Singaporeans see these options as satisfactory for them, and even 51% believe that now is the best time to get the most with what they’re spending. Millennials are changing the residential property market, PropertyGuru added, with

71% prioritising saving up for a home over other purchases, up 2% from the last half. This ambitious generation also aspire to move up the property millennials, with 69% of HDB homewoners intending to upgrade to private property after selling their flat, 68% of which are eyeing a better condo property. One in 3, or 32% of millennials, seek to purchase luxury property in the long run, 66% of which cite the purchase as a long-term investment. Other considerations for luxury homes include convenience, privacy, social status and facilities. “There is no doubt that Millennials in Singapore are one of today’s fastest-growing segment of home buyers, with savings accumulated from pandemic sheltering. The delay in homebuying can also be due to Millennials’ increasing preference for a larger, luxury property that command higher prices than typical starter homes. While investing in property for capital growth is appealing, Millennials should exercise prudence and take the time to properly right-size their home ownership expectations based on their housing needs and financial situation,” said PropertyGuru country manager for Singapore, Tan Tee Khoon.

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STARTUPS

Hugo allows investors to invest in gold 1 cent at a time

David Fergusson

H

ugo is a digital wealth and savings app that helps users track their spending, save, and invest. Its point of difference is a feature it calls “Roundups,” wherein customers can automatically turn their loose change into long-term savings and “Money Pots” that helps users track and save money. Through Hugo, what users can do with their money is to purchase gold from as little as one cent, whereas traditionally physical gold requires a much higher initial investment to buy a gold bar or coin. Talking with Singapore Business Review, one of Hugo’s founders, Ben Davies, said they want to bring gold back to the future. Davies said they wanted to dissolve the myths surrounding gold like needing to be rich to invest in gold, and gold not being liquid and hard to sell and store. “With Hugo Gold Vault, users can buy or sell gold for as low as $0.01 anytime at the best market prices and the mere touch of a button. We then automatically hold it in highly secure LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) accredited vaults for users. The gold bought is legally owned by the buyer and guaranteed against loss by Lloyds of London,” Davies explained. Watch where the gold goes There are three good reasons to own gold, according to Davies: “One, it is an insurance; two, it is undervalued and under-owned; and three, it is in demand from strong hands.” A big development area of note is that we will be expanding our available investment options beyond gold as a logical next step. One asset class that will not be on the menu is diamonds. “Diamonds are the best marketing con ever manufactured! Diamonds are neither fungible nor scarce, like gold. Synthetic diamonds 12

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

Ben Davies

from your loved one’s deceased carbon footprint—literally their carbon—will create an abundance of diamonds and dilute their high value to weight ratio,” Davies explained. Gold, unlike diamonds, has a deep trading market as well as it being a proven portfolio diversifier for risk assets like bonds and stocks that underperform in highly deflationary and inflationary environments. “Watch where the money goes, smart investors say, but perhaps it is more apropos to say ‘watch where the gold goes?’. The very same institutions printing money have been accumulating vast amounts of gold. Follow where the strong hands go and buy gold,” Davies said. Meanwhile, Hugo’s research with their Southeast Asian clients showed there is still a powerful affinity for gold. However, millennials are losing the last generation’s innate understanding of why they should own gold. In Singapore, there are plenty who are still unsure of the safest and best way to invest in gold which Hugo aims to address. “We want to democratise wealth generation and put the control back into the hands of our consumers.” “Moreover, we witness the rise of a middle

Follow where the strong hands go and buy gold

Braham Djidjelli

class who are digitally savvy, aspirational and willing to engage. These ingredients provide a historical opportunity for technologically and commercially agile companies, like us, who are utterly customer-centric, to build a community of millions of consumers,” Davies added. Davies said gold is rising in all currencies as they fall in value, but still not at a rate that signifies its true value because they need to fund government debts ironically still causes demand for those currencies. In a world where all central banks support government excess spending, gold is insurance against the insidious debasement of their currencies. Hugo was started by Davies with David Fergusson and Braham Djiddjelli who worked together in a gold-based fintech firm in the UK. “Hu” stands for the Mandarin word for “mutual” combined with the English word Go which signifies progress. “We don’t look at other competitors per se; instead, we look to ourselves and our potential consumers. If we map our so-called competitors, we will all end up on the road to mediocrity, and the consumer will lack choice,” Davies concluded, as he shared that Hugo will strive to introduce new products, services, features, and partnerships.


STARTUPS

Gorilla Mobile lets travelers convert unused roaming data

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ingapore’s telco market is highly competitive, with market players offering more data at cheaper rates. With the internet as a regular part of everyone’s lives, more mobile data for consumers sounds like the right move for industry players; however, Singapore-based telco startup, Gorilla Mobile, seems to think differently. Founded in 2019, Gorilla Mobile was initially a travel SIM card company that wanted to address the issue of unused travel roaming data for business travellers. Unused roaming data can be converted to Gorilla GO, a blockchainpowered digital token that users can use to purchase mobile services in a different city or country—perfect for business travellers who may have their trips cut short or those on multicity business trips. The telco startup launched earlier this year, but their original plan was to launch across ASEAN last May 2020. Because of the pandemic, however, countries and borders closed, forcing Gorilla Mobile to postpone its plans.“We had to put our launch plans on hold

despite having invested a considerable amount of resources. We also closed our Malaysian sales office because of extended lockdown periods in the country and to save overhead costs. We are targeting to expand to Malaysia and Thailand within the next 18 months once travel restrictions are lifted,” Gorilla Mobile Founder and CEO Xanne Leo said. Gorilla Mobile offers a full suite of digital smart solutions tailored for today’s professionals, managers, executives and technicians, as well as local and global businesses. Singapore offers the perfect target audience for the launch, with many businesses serving the region and the world. Customers can sign up for Gorilla Mobile’s Switch25 Mobile plan through the Gorilla Mobile website. In the coming months, we will unveil new services including a Global Roaming Travel Data SIM Card, Digital International Direct Dialing, and Global Office Telephony solutions. Too much data Gorilla Mobile runs on what it calls a Service-

on-Demand model, a first in the country. According to Xanne, this model provides access to a full suite of services, anytime, without a contract, subscription fees, or activation charges. This allows users to pay only for what they use, when they use it, ensuring a fair and modular way of using and paying for mobile services.

Xanne Leo

WaveScan’s safer and smarter way for infrastructure maintenance

Dr. Kush Agarwal

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marter cities deserve smarter solutions. That was the idea behind WaveScan, a Singapore-based deep-tech startup specialising in beamforming electromagnetics smart scanner technology with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Founded in 2018 by Dr. Kush Agarwal, who also serves as the startup’s CEO, WaveScan’s mission is to revolutionise the way infrastructure and facilities are planned, built, and managed today.

According to Agarwal, today’s built environment sector generally uses conventional contact-based scanners, which involves manual labour for inspection and data processing. However, Agarwal argues that this process is not only time-consuming and tedious but also inhibits proactive inspection of infrastructure. He believes that traditional non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies such as X-Ray NDT, ultrasonic NDT, eddy current NDT, and microwave GPR possess limited detection capabilities. That’s why the industry needs automation and AI-enabled scanner systems for data collection. However, today’s data analysis is costly and the solution he came up with was to develop an end-to-end AI-enabled infrastructure maintenance solution by digitising the entire process which significantly minimises the work of professional engineers and assists them with classified defects tagged using AI algorithms in 3D scan images. The company developed NDT scanner systems that integrate with robots for automated see-through structural inspections at two ultra-wideband frequency spectrums – lower GHz and millimetre-wave. The system is powered by WaveScan’s software platforms

that use AI algorithms, enabling the user to visualise, analyze, and interact with the scan results. With WaveScan’s technology, they are able to identify sub-surface defects such as cracks, corrosion, and precursor pitting, as well as embedded structural defects such as tile disbonds, delamination, and loose or broken metal brackets for facade inspections. Additionally, the same scanners can also be used for structural defects in metallic rebars embedded within concrete structures and indoor facility maintenance issues. “Our solution also applies to the oil and gas, automotive, and aviation sectors for diverse structural inspections. Once the user knows the structural info of the asset, they can plan the repair work and safety measures as per the industry standards and protocols,” Agarwal added. The company spent two years developing their scanning technology and is currently in the process of testing the drone version of their scanner for more focused applications. “The future of scanning systems is the multi-sensor approach, where few of these scientific techniques like microwave, millimetre-wave, and ultrasonic, amongst others, will merge to complement each other for diverse defect detection,” Agarwal added. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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EXCLUSIVE: SPACE WATCH

Bridge+ at 79 Robinson Road provides avenue for collaborations It occupies three floors and a space of 56,000 sq. ft. at the 29-storey Grade A office building.

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apitaLand’s Bridge+ at Singapore’s Central Business District provides “workspace flexibility” and is focused on building a community for the FinTech sector for collaborations and activities. Occupying three floors and a space of 56,000 square feet at 79 Robinson Road, a 29-storey Grade A office building developed by CapitaLand, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., and Tokyo Tatemono Co., Ltd., the Bridge+ caters to the need of the finance and technology communities. “We envision 79 Robinson Road to be a destination in the Singapore Central Business District (CBD), where leading members of the international finance and technology communities can gather regularly to confer and collaborate as a community,” Chew Peet Mun, managing director of Workspace and Residential of CapitaLand Singapore said. “Our flexible workspace solutions and amenities by Bridge+ 79 Robinson Road provided the apt infrastructure and services to accommodate such needs.” “Bridge+ 79 Robinson Road will facilitate collaborations through knowledge sharing events and networking activities to actively support the growth of fintech players and enliven the community,” he added. This follows the Bridge+ flagship co-working centre

Peet Mun

Rahul Banerjee

in the Ascent building at Singapore Science Park 1 in October 2017. Bridge+ at 79 Robinson Road, offers “purpose-driven” workspace solutions for enhanced “connectivity and productivity” of businesses as well as the employees. It also has event spaces that can host activities for 30 to 200 people, 25 meeting rooms, social areas, and a lounge, Chew said. Chew also noted that it has an infrastructure in the event spaces on Level 2 for organisers holding hybrid events, such as technology solutions and equipment to engage both in-person and remote attendees. The workspace gives “greater attention” to support the “safety and wellbeing” of its occupiers as they return to the office, by placing safety measures, such as coating high contact areas with anti-microbial disinfectant and providing “contactless access and reduce unnecessary touchpoints” through facial recognition and mobile app-activated access to building access points. Moreover, the workspace also offers office tenants a sea view of the Marina South Pier, low-lying conservation shophouses in the CBD, and customising their workplace. There is also a sky terrace on Level 21 as well as a roof garden at the top of the building which aims to provide green spaces to the tenants.

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Event Space (The Arena) – A versatile open-concept space with lounge seating and an elevated platform

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Social Hub – Work, play and network with other members over coffee at the social hub

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Social Hub- a space where members of the international finance and technology communities can gather regularly to confer and collaborate

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Private Suites – A flexible workspace solution offered by Bridge+ to those who want to enjoy a fully-furnished space with their own private access

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2020 2021


CORPORATE FEATURE ARTICLE

Tricor Group launches Digital Client Portal New Tricor digital platform sets standard for effortless client experience in Singapore. by giving them a secure, encrypted, globally accessible platform that’s available 24/7.” said Tricor’s Group Chief Digital Officer Adam Stuckert.

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apid digitisation against the backdrop of the global pandemic has forced businesses in Singapore to reimagine products, business lines, and operations. Yet a recent survey of corporate boards published by Tricor Group and the Financial Times exposes a significant challenge: although the majority of directors believe that boards should be leading digital transformation, only 1 in 3 report that they have the necessary tools and solutions. While new software solutions are entering the market at an unprecedented rate, digital solutions that address the lowest common denominator can only take companies so far. Generic software that handles everyday tasks fails to cater to the needs of organizations that are growing and expanding, especially in Asia’s diverse business environment. This was exactly the challenge posed by clients to Tricor’s Group CEO and incoming Group Chief Digital Officer during COVID-19: can Tricor provide digital solutions that cater to a complex market, while retaining access to the subject matter expertise of Tricor’s professional staff? And can this be done across multiple jurisdictions and industries for listed companies, multinational companies (MNCs), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups? Tricor’s Group CEO Lennard Yong recognises this challenge. “At Tricor, our mission is to provide the building blocks for and catalyse every stage of our clients’ business growth. To accomplish this in today’s shifting business landscape, we

must continuously zero in on changing client expectations and deliver innovative solutions that cater to a wide range of market demands.” “The needs of a holding company that is expanding into new markets are substantially different from a startup preparing to file their first annual report – and Tricor must support both.” Yong continues. “To address this market challenge, Tricor has developed a Digital Client Portal to meet the unique requirements of our clients from a regulatory and compliance perspective. The portal also acts as a centrally unified and readily accessible platform for our clients to use as they streamline their operations and expand their businesses across Asia Pacific.” By working with partners in the technology industry and co-developing its solution with clients, Tricor identified three keys to unlock a new standard in digital corporate services: a focus on user experience, technology-powered compliance features, and world-class security.

Enhancing compliance with cuttingedge technology Tricor’s Digital Client Portal serves as a fast and cost-effective path to compliance, combining software algorithms with our institutional knowledge to verify each transaction against current regulations. Warnings and alerts are issued when necessary and the smart platform updates data automatically, mitigating risks and offering peace of mind. Seamless global business expansion with security and quality Efficiency improvements must be matched by a secure platform, so Tricor built their Digital Client Portal on world-class cloud services, providing a proven platform. “Unlocking business resilience is our top priority,” said Stuckert. “We put our clients first as we designed this portal and are pleased that all of our clients are highly satisfied with the digitized service experience. We also worked with Asiabased software developer BlueMeg to adapt their class-leading cloud and security technologies. Our ongoing investment in this platform shows that we are committed to supporting our clients’ business growth in Singapore and beyond.” Planned future releases will be enhanced to offer clients electronic signature integration, embedded KYC functionality as well as board governance capabilities.

An end-to-end digital experience The portal solves the most pressing challenges firms in Singapore face today in complex, multi-jurisdiction businesses by synthesizing a digital front-end with the institutional knowledge of Tricor’s staff. “Clients are looking for improved business efficiency, lower regulatory risk, and better insight into their business. With our Digital Client Portal, we are empowering them to achieve those goals, allowing clients to manage their businesses across multiple countries and to interact with Tricor digitally

Tricor’s Digital Client Portal meets the unique operational and regulatory requirements of every client

Adam Stuckert, Tricor’s Group Chief Digital Officer

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

15


COUNTRY REPORT: GERMANY

Germany’s forward-looking initiatives and offerings know no borders Airport Region Berlin Brandenburg, Audi, and Jedox to bring in solutions and more opportunities to businesses in Singapore. two states, the region boasts high-profile business locations, innovative technology centers, a large catchment area with international talent and the highest number of academics in Germany. “We are already registering settlement projects that can be attributed to the region’s excellent location advantages. Companies such as SAP and Amazon benefit from and contribute to the economic boom of the region, entailing further company settlements”, said Dr. Stefan Franzke, CEO of Berlin Partner. No matter the size or industry, all companies wishing to establish their business on a strong footing are just in the right place in the Airport Region Berlin Brandenburg.

Dr. Steffen Kammradt, CEO of WFBB and Dr. Stefan Franzke, CEO of Berlin Partner

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Tasked to be the first point of contact eady for take-off! Airport for companies interested in settling in the Region Berlin Brandenburg - a region, the Airport Region Team offers a world-class region for business wide range of services: providing support and technology The Airport Region Berlin Brandenburg is with financing and funding options, finding one of the most dynamic economic regions commercial locations and staff. What’s more, the team connects companies to the region’s in Germany and a world-class location for business ecosystem, allowing them to tap innovative businesses. into excellent business and science networks, It stretches from Berlin city center to the facilitating the south of the city process of bringing and right up to innovations to the municipalities The economic effects of BER market. around Berlin “Following the Brandenburg airport as an international air opening of BER Airport (BER). The transport hub will radiate far airport in October Airport Region beyond the airport environs 2020, and the Team, made up major investment of staff from of Tesla in the Berlin Partner direct vicinity, the for Business and Technology and the Economic Development Airport Region is experiencing a growth spurt Agency Brandenburg (WFBB), promotes the that will radiate far beyond the region”, said region around the world. It targets to attract Dr. Steffen Kammradt, CEO of WFBB. The excellent infrastructure with BER a mix of industrial companies, startups, and research institutions, drawing a high added airport as a gateway to international markets gives a glimpse of what the region has to value to the region in terms of jobs and offer. Combining location advantages of investment volumes. 16

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

The road to electric mobility runs from Germany to Singapore The German car manufacturing leader, Audi, is blazing a trail in Singapore with the introduction of the fully electric vehicle (EV) Audi e-tron SUV to the local market last year. Spurred by the Singapore government’s recent announcements to support more sustainable transport operations and infrastructure, the city state’s journey toward adopting electric vehicles was given a jump start this 2021. A positive stakeholder response to incentivise the adoption of electric vehicles—including those from energy providers, building landlords, and car brands—is ensuring that consumers can easily transition to EVs. This development is similar to the European narrative, including Norway, where the e-tron has overtaken sales of combustion engine cars to become a topselling EV. “Interest in our Audi e-tron fully-electric models have markedly increased this year,” said Markus Schuster, managing director of Audi Singapore. “With the mix of incentives and infrastructure build-up, we may be at a tipping point for EVs sooner rather than later.” The premium large SUV e-tron boasts sporty and practical features, including two electric motors, an electric all-wheel drive for


agile handling, and a high-voltage battery that offers charging options for the home and on the move. “In the e-tron, the quattro system is made even more responsive and is able to be even more precise in delivering just the right amount of drive to each wheel. The

explained.

Financial evolution vital to achieve business goals Tougher competition and volatile market conditions in modern business times are increasingly pressuring organisations to adapt. To be able to act quickly, financial changes or impacts must be We don’t wait till everyone to be linked to the underlying changes to an EV to deliver real- able operational processes and drivers in world benefits to our customers order to understand, measure, and control the long-term success of the and the consumers organisation. Mark Velthuis, APAC President, Jedox Fortunately, finance leaders are no result is a stunning driving experience,” longer relegated to the traditional numberSchuster added. crunching role and now take the lead in the The Audi e-tron portfolio in Singapore financial evolution within their organisations. reduce labor-intensive work, and expedite today consists of the Audi e-tron, e-tron Today’s chief financial officers extend best planning cycles to create more time for Sportback, e-tron GT, and RS e-tron GT. practices to functional leaders in the planning value-added strategic work. This expands the Audi offerings locally— process, to help the businesses reach overall Key to embarking on a financial from premium compact models to SUVs, financial goals. transformation, Velthuis explained, is sports cars to limousines—cementing the “In recent times, finance has started evolving the finance process and extending company’s commitment to respond to the moving away from the traditional role of planning and analysis practices beyond the changing needs of its customers and the gathering data, maintaining spreadsheets, office of the CFO to all functional areas of environment. and building reports to the role of a chief business. Audi aims to play a global role in value officer where it is about delivering “Establish a business partnering mindset sustainable mobility to help reduce the actionable insights and simplifying complex in the organisation – good business environmental impact of its business activity. planning partnering For one, it is transitioning its manufacturing processes,” improves the Establish a business partnering quality of business facilities around the world to be carbon according to neutral. This is on top of the efforts made Mark Velthuis, decisions and mindset in the organisation on the product front. president, Asia improves the quality of business ensures that “We have been making consistent and Pacific at Jedox. decisions lead to decisions and ensures that incremental steps to improve the overall “The CFO is a impactful action.” efficiency of our products across the board. business partner to decisions lead to impactful action Velthuis said, For example, the latest Audi A3 that we the CEO and acts adding that launched in May this year is more frugal yet as a role model for embracing more refined than the model it replaces. everyone in Finance,” Velthuis added. modern technology is also critical to We don’t wait till everyone changes to an Jedox is a cloud-based Enterprise leveraging the wealth of value hidden in EV to deliver real-world benefits to our Performance Management solution data. “Technology is a catalyst for your customers and the consumers,” Schuster company with a strong focus in planning, business operating model. Systems and forecasting, reporting, and analysis. It applications age, what used to work enables organisations to embark on before may no longer be sufficient today as financial transformation by better measuring business grows with time.” key performance indicators, as well as He emphasised that in the fast-changing analysing and planning their own efficiency world of business, organisations must and effectiveness in each business area, understand how to derive the most department, and market segment. knowledge they can from their data. Amongst Jedox’s offerings are solutions Manually combined, traditional excel for integrated financial planning, financial spreadsheets, pivot tables, and various budgeting and forecasting, cost center and operational systems—whilst foundational in HR planning, cost allocation and profitability holding the data—are no longer enough. analysis, predictive forecasting and “In reality, it is often associated with timeplanning, sales and operational planning, consuming and error-prone processes.” On territory planning and sales quotas, sales the other hand, having a unified process for incentives and compensation, and financial financial and operational data across the consolidation. organisation breaks down data silos and These automated solutions aim to ensures that all important data is always Markus Schuster, Managing Director, Audi Singapore consolidate processes, eliminate errors, centrally available and up to date. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

17


FINANCIAL INSIGHT

Green finance in the Asia Pacific region to grow amidst data and disclosure gaps But is it growing fast enough for the region to achieve climate goals?

Green finance forms a part of Singapore’s Green Plan 2030

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reen finance is proving to be a rapidly growing sector in 2021. Based on data from the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), 2021 green bond issuances might exceed that of last year, with $219.7b issued for the first half of 2021 compared to the US$290.1b issued in 2020. Bonds issued from the Asia-Pacific made up more than a quarter of the first half’s figures, at US$51.9b, just a few millions short from the US$53.2b issued for the entire year of 2020. China issued approximately US$22b worth of green bonds in the first half, exceeding the combined issuances from South Korea (US$5.9b), Japan (US$5.5b), Singapore (US$5.2b), and India (US$4.6b). Separate from Mainland China’s, a total of US$3.2b worth of green bonds was issued from Hong Kong SAR. Hong Kong is taking its sustainable finance strategy seriously, with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority-led Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group focused on implementing five near-term action points to help the region achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. Green finance strategies Green finance forms a part of Singapore’s Green Plan 2030, as the Lion City aims to turn itself into the centre for environmentally sustainable finance in Asia. Approximately SG$19b projects from the public sector has been identified for green financing, including the Tuas Nexus integrated water and solid waste treatment facility. 18

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

Investment in sustainable financial instruments, including green bonds, are on the rise globally. Standard Chartered, in its Sustainable Investing Review 2021, noted that 13% of emerging affluent, affluent, and high net worth investors have sustainable investments making up more than a quarter of their portfolio. An approximate 61% of these investors have placed funds in a sustainable investment solution. Leon Ong

Investing in green bonds Market uncertainties and an increasing awareness on the inevitability of climate change are amongst the reasons that investors are keen on green bonds, said KPMG Partner and Head of Financial Services Anton Ruddenklau in an interview with Singapore Business Review. “Investors effectively, are spending less and getting higher returns on green bonds, than they are on other bonds. And that’s also showing up in the level of oversubscription on bond issuance. So everyone wants bonds right now, they want certainty. They’re the most popular category of bond versions right now. So that bodes really well for your supply and demand and growth going forward,” Ruddenklau said. Businesses are also keen on issuing green bonds for a number of reasons, KPMG Partner for Financial Services Advisory Leon Ong told Singapore Business Review. “It’s a positive story for the company trying to do the green bond issuance. Also, by doing such a thing, you do tend to find like-minded investors and individuals out there. You open up to a part of the population of investors


FINANCIAL INSIGHT China exceeded the combined green bonds issuances from other countries in H1

Source: Climate Bonds Initiative

that you might not have had before,” Ong said. He also added that the positive marketing story is still secondary to the need for traditional companies to increase their exposure in greener products. He cited Hong Kong and Singapore as growing markets for green finance, even as China continues to be the juggernaut for the Asia Pacific. “Hong Kong and Singapore, to a certain extent, are moving reasonably in lockstep here. I think that Hong Kong’s proximity to China could play a role, particularly if they start to come out and start putting sustainability more at the forefront of their agenda,” Ong said. The signs that green finance is growing in Asia-Pacific are all there, even if the EU continues to be the leader when it comes to issuances and regulation. But is it growing fast enough to meet climate goals? The devil’s in the details: data, definition, and disclosure Citing reports from the International Energy Agency and the Boston Consulting Group, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Managing Director Ravi Menon said that green finance needs to massively scale up. “Green finance has not been able to reach the scale required. According to the International Energy Agency, global investments in energy projects needs to more than double from its current level by 2030 in order to meet netzero emission goals by 2050. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, the volume of climate financing will have to grow over the next three decades by roughly five to eight times the current amounts issued,” Menon said in a speech delivered 8 September 2021. He then gave three issues that need to be solved in order to scale up investments: data, definition, and disclosure. On data, he cited the lack of sources for reliable and comparable from lenders and investors alike. Moreover, definitions of certain key terms may vary from economy to economy, system to system. Finally, he said that there is currently no one framework for climate-related reporting and disclosure standards for companies, adding that there is currently more than 200 frameworks, standards, and guidances on

Antony Ruddenklau

sustainability reporting and climate-related disclosures. “Data is definitely coming out to be something that we see as a big problem,” Ong said, adding that people in the financial industry is used to having easy access to consistent data. “Here in the sustainable contest, we don’t really have something that is seen as a consistent market standard.” For his part, Ruddenklau noted the lack of taxonomy for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria in general: “These are all non-financial in nature, and in some respects, quite existential. The data is just not there.” But there is some hope that can be seen from the governance side of ESG that could forge a path for the future of green finance. Ruddenklau noted that, based on years of research and data on gender equality and how more equal work forces have better revenue, the financial services firm, JP Morgan, has started factoring in the ratio of male to female senior management employees into equity ratings. “I think the answer at the moment is for industries to come together, and start to work collectively on building a consortia and proper ecosystems, to pull together information that shouldn’t just be considered a regulatory issue, but an accounting issue,” he added. There are already initiatives being made to address these issues. The MAS is working with its ASEAN counterparts for a compatible taxonomy for sustainable finance that can work across the banking, insurance, and capital market sectors. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Securities and Futures Commission are developing a common ground taxonomy that is compatible with China and the EU, as a part of the International Platform on Sustainable Finance Working Group on Taxonomies. Economies, financial institutions, businesses, and professional services firms like KPMG continue their respective knowledge and capacity building programs to ensure that issuers and investors alike have access to correct and useful information when it comes to green finance. That is why KPMG expects green finance to see a significant growth in APAC in the coming years, expecting more issuances from Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

Energy continues to be the top use of proceeds for green bonds in Asia Pacific

Source: Climate Bonds Initiative

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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LEGAL BRIEFING

High time for the Monetary Authority of Singapore to amplify investigative powers The proposed amendment will strengthen MAS’ power in multiple acts.

It empowers the regulator to react quickly to any report of commercial crime or money laundering that may occur

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he Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) recently announced its proposal to further enhance its investigative powers under the Financial Institutions (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill. The bill aims to expand the supervisory and enforcement powers of the MAS under the following various acts such as the Banking Act (BA), Credit Bureau Act, Financial Advisors Act (FAA), Insurance Act (IA), Payment Services Act (PSA), Securities and Futures Act (SFA), Trust Companies Act (TCA), and a new omnibus Act for the financial sector (the New Act). But what does this exactly mean for MAS? The new powers One of the highlights of the amendment that MAS is proposing is the power for any MAS investigator or authorised officer to enter any premises without any warrant if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the premises are, or have been, used by a person being investigated by MAS. Additionally, any person inside the premises is required to produce evidence that may be considered relevant to the investigation or direct MAS officers to where said evidence may be found. With this power, MAS will also remove the requirement of giving two days notice to the occupier of the premises, thus eliminating the possibility of concealment or destruction of incriminating evidence. MAS also wants to be able to obtain information, including electronic form, from any person for the purpose of investigations. Currently, MAS can only obtain information from financial institutions (FIs) themselves. However, with the proposed amendment, MAS can go directly to the employees of FIs. The proposal also extends this reach, allowing MAS to obtain information from former employees. The proposed amendment will also strengthen MAS’ power of examination. It makes it explicit that the regulatory commission will be able to compel any individual for examination and to record statements. MAS may also report to the Magistrate those individuals who fail to 20

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

The proposed amendment strengthens MAS’ power of examination as they can compel any individual for examination and to record statements

attend such interviews. The new provisions will also give MAS the power to obtain a warrant to seize evidence, as well as electronic evidence when: a person has failed to comply with an order to produce evidence, or if there is a risk that the evidence will be concealed, removed, tampered with, or destroyed if an order to produce the same is made. Additionally, the scope of the warrant under the TCA will also be aligned with the scope of the warrants under the other relevant Acts. Powers under the SFA7 will be expanded to enable the transfer of evidence collected by MAS in cases involving any offence under the SFA to the police or the public prosecutor. An equivalent provision will also be introduced in the other relevant Acts. Whilst the power for the MAS to obtain a warrant already exists under the SFA, FAA, and TCA, it will be clarified that the warrant includes electronic evidence, and the scope of the TCA power, which is currently narrower than that of the SFA and FAA, will be expanded to be consistent. When handling evidence, MAS also proposed that when there is evidence that reveals the commission of any offences under Parts VII and XII of the SFA and it is obtained by the police under the Criminal Procedure Code, this evidence can be transferred to MAS for investigative purposes and for commencing civil actions. This means that the enforcement actions for offences under the SFA will become more efficient through sharing of access to evidence and will remove the need for duplicate investigations by multiple agencies. The transfer of evidence between these agencies will allow for more dynamic and efficient enforcement, along with achieving the most appropriate enforcement action for the case at hand. Timely change According to a report by the local law firm, Dentons Rodyk, these measures are timely given the growth in size and complexity of operations in financial institutions and finance-related entities. Additionally, it also empowers the regulator to react quickly to any report of commercial crime or money laundering that may occur and also gain access to ex-employees who may have knowledge of the same. The law firm stressed that for companies, it would be worth noting that past employees can also be called up for questioning. “It is envisaged that these proposals, when enacted, would give added credence to Singapore’s reputation as an important finance hub in the global ecosystem and bolster increased confidence amongst investors whilst providing clarity on the investigative powers of the regulator,” Dentons Rodyk said.


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INDUSTRY: E-COMMERCE

What you see is what you get: Livestreaming gains traction in Singapore Logistics provider J&T Express and e-commerce platform Mdada.live hope to cash in on this shopping trend.

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nline retailers are moving beyond simple click-and-buy functionality and introducing livestreaming channels manned by influencers to boost sales and entertain consumers. Much as online TV shopping channels offer demonstrations, and even physical department stores have in-store cooks in the kitchen section, e-commerce retailers are finding that they need to have a strong lineup of channels in order to sell. A study from VMware found that four in 10 Southeast Asian shoppers aren’t planning to go back to old physical shopping habits, whilst a separate Euromonitor study sees sales opportunities of over US$68.5b in e-commerce in the Asia Pacific region. But that means that discerning shoppers would find fewer opportunities to inspect their potential buys past photos and written product descriptions. Numbers and sizes are not exact when it comes to clothes, freshness is hard to gauge in photos when it comes to food. Enter livestreaming, also known as liveselling, where sellers host live videos of themselves and their goods on e-commerce and social media platforms. There they demonstrate their products, chat with their customers, and entertain their audience. The trend is growing across Southeast Asia, and Singaporean businesses are taking notice. Logistics firm J&T Express has hosted a successful livestream digital fashion show in August, whilst social commerce platform Mdada.live just launched a livestreaming hub with eleven studio spaces complete with equipment and technical teams. “Livestreaming allows consumers to have an up-closeand-personal experience of the product or service as the livestreamer carries out a live demonstration to show the quality or effectiveness of the product/service. In addition, livestreams are less staged and have elements of conversational topics and nuances added to showing relevance of the products and services that live streamers have experienced. Such content will resonate better with the customer,” said Mdada.live Co-founder Pornsak

Livestreaming allows consumers to have an up-close-and-personal experience of the product or service (Photo: Mdada.live)

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Andrew Sim

Livestreaming accelerates consumers’ purchasing journey because they are shifting swiftly from awareness to purchase

Prajakwit in an interview with Singapore Business Review. “It also accelerates consumers purchasing journey because they are, at the moment, shifting swiftly from awareness to purchase. Time-limited offers such as one-off coupons used to generate a sense of urgency are effective and can result in conversion rates almost ten times higher than conventional e-commerce sales,” said J&T Express Singapore CEO Andrew Sim in a separate interview with Singapore Business Review. The era of liveselling The trend has brought in numbers for both companies. Mdada.live boasts 20,000 followers with monthly sevenfigure revenue and over 100,000 monthly views since its inception in September last year. The platform has amassed 1,600,000 livestream views from across 500 livestream shows. With its Live-Stream Hub, it expects a monthly eight-figure revenue within the next six months, as it ups its capacity to 1,000 hours of livestream commerce sessions per month, an approximate 80% increase in hours. For its part, JT&T has been keen to notice an increase in delivery demand following large livestream events. Anyone with a mobile phone, computer, and/or web camera can host their own livestreaming session, but results may vary, especially when the seller does not have a strong base of customers. In that case, Sim recommended that sellers partner themselves with reliable e-commerce platforms that would host and promote their sessions. Then there are platforms like Mdada.live that churn out livestream sessions up to eight hours at a time, hosted by skilled ambassadors that can maintain a high level of energy whilst engaging with their audience. The hosts notify customers if they’re selling pre-loved or organic products, in which product images might not be accurate to the real thing. In that case, Mdada.live also sends photos of the product to customers’ WhatsApp so they can check the condition for themselves. Fashion, beauty, and wellness products are the most popular liveselling items, driven by demand from trendy Gen Z and millennial customers. Prajakwit also noted a demand for art pieces and displays, with one Mdada livestream session hitting almost six figures in sales. Mdada’s Prajakwit also stressed the importance of livestreaming as an experience. “Consumers are no longer looking for well-priced affordable and quality products and services these days, they are also looking for an out-of-the-norm shopping experience that can engage them as they watch the livestream sales during their free and personal time,” he said.


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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INDUSTRY: BANKING

Digitalisation creeping into non-tech roles as Singapore banks accelerate hiring

The sector will continue in a “reform and transform” path, hinging on successful digital banking applicants.

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ith Singapore’s banking sector expected to ramp up its hiring efforts from the second quarter of 2021, the industry is likely to see a shift in job responsibilities and necessary skills. Most notably, digitalisation is gradually being integrated throughout financial service organisations, even into normally non-tech roles. Spurred by the pandemic, banks have overhauled their strategies to focus on developing and strengthening their digital capabilities. A Randstad Singapore study noted that as the year progresses, banks will likely only continue to go into a “reform and transform” path, taking into account the success of numerous digital banking licence applicants in 2020. In line with this, people with expertise in data science, artificial intelligence (AI), and systems architecture will be in high demand, noted Dean Tong, head of group human resources at UOB. He says those who are capable of boosting a bank’s operating performance and system capabilities will be extensively wooed. Remarking that the hiring acceleration, particularly in technology roles, had been taking place even before the pandemic, he said that the digital shift had also brought new challenges to the forefront. Issues such as cybersecurity are ones that banks will have to quickly mitigate to ensure the resilience of their systems and the sector as a whole. “Growing consumer expectations for progressive banking solutions are also driving banks to innovate at an even faster pace today, especially as more consumers have become comfortable with transacting and investing online.” The fast recoveries seen in wealth management, bancassurance, personal banking, as well as insurance, have helped counteract the adverse impacts of risk aversion during the pandemic, Randstad said. In particular, relationship managers have become more adept in providing remote financial advisory services through the use of digital dashboards and data analytics. These are able to provide a holistic overview of clients’ accounts. “In 2021, we will see a further expansion of digital mobilisation in wealth and bancassurance to capture opportunities that occur throughout the life cycle of customers’ investment and financing needs,” the report explained. HSBC Singapore head of human resources Brandon Coate echoed this observation, explaining in an interview that they anticipated that those with wealth and consumer banking backgrounds, as well as exposure to digital platforms, will be in high demand in the next three to five years. “This will cut across the front office to support functions like compliance, finance and audit due to supervision by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and also importantly, technology,” he said. The bank hopes to double its wealth and private banking 24

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

Digitalisation is gradually being integrated even into normally non-tech roles

business in Singapore. Coate highlighted that since 2018, the segment had seen double-digit annualised growth rates in total wealth balances and bigger frontline wealth teams, including both retail and private banking relationship managers and investment specialists. But even with the influx of digital options available today, UOB still recognises the need of their clients for a human touch, says Tong. “We know that for banking services such as wealth advisory or business financing, our customers still prefer to speak with their bankers. As such, we are continually building our team of wealth advisers and relationship managers, especially those who are adept in using data and digital tools to serve our customers better.” Singapore’s goal of becoming Asia’s wealth management hub will also mean more job opportunities for compliance services within the private banking and fund management segments, Randstad noted. Within the investment banking segment, there will be more hiring opportunities, even though the IPO and M&A segments have been relatively stifled, Randstad noted. Sectors and firms that are primarily focused on technology, e-commerce, healthcare, and environmentally sustainable financing are poised to accept new talent. In 2021, we will see further expansion of digital mobilisation in wealth and bancassurance throughout the life cycle of customers’ investment and financing needs

Skills and job security Fintech skills also have significant demand, in areas such as AI and machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA), the internet of things (IoT), cybersecurity, application programming interface, and design thinking, Coate noted. Coate also opined that AI will be a complement and not a replacement for human employees. Banks should invest in AI as aid to the transactional aspect of the business that lets machine learning and RPA take place. AI should be utilised on more routine- and process-heavy operations and direct resources should be placed on more complex operations that require human personnel, he explained.


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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INDUSTRY BRIEFING: GAMING

Singapore players spent a total of $327.2m on games in 2019

Singapore’s gaming industry set to expand beyond video game development Several industries supported this mindset at Ubisoft Singapore x Gamescom’s webinar.

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ingapore’s gaming industry sees potential to go beyond video game development. In the Singapore Games Association’s database, over 227 games were made in Singapore. Companies in the database range from established companies such as Ubisoft Singapore and Bandai Namco Studios Singapore Pte. Ltd. to smaller scale studios such as Mindcake Games and Nekomancy. Newzoo and gamescom asia’s 2020 study found that players in Singapore spent a total of $327.2m on games in 2019. This, according to the two groups, showed proof that the country was a key player in the Southeast Asia games market. Ubisoft Singapore, Epic Games, and Streamline Media Group all echoed this sentiment, as the three companies pointed towards several strengths of the region and how the future of the video game 26

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

development industry might be shaped by both the Southeast Asian region and industries across the globe. Ubisoft’s hand in the game For Ubisoft Singapore’s Managing Director Darryl Long, this starts with the cultivation of a talent pool in Singapore. Part of his mission, aside from nurturing a studio environment where teams are inspired, is to also bring the Southeast Asian gaming industry into the future. In the 13 years that Ubisoft Singapore has established itself, it has produced 16 games through the collaborated output of its team composed of 500 staff, local and foreign originating from 33 different countries. This cultivation means the application of programs such as women in leadership roles and going beyond traditional professions. According to Long, It would give the

Through a partnership with the Singapore Games Association and several colleges, Singaporean talent becomes integral to the growth of Ubisoft SG

company a diverse offering when it comes to viewpoints. “These fresh viewpoints meant that they were coming in without any bias about how the video game industry works, and brought incredible change to the way that we worked.” Long also said that the company also has initiatives to entice locals. Through a partnership with the Singapore Games Association and several colleges, Singaporean talent becomes integral to the growth of the the industry giant. “Working with our industry partners, such as the Singapore Games Association helps us to expand our network to connect with both professionals and the fresh talent coming into the industry. Our local institutions produce the workforce of tomorrow, and we need to help them to help build our local talent pipeline. We know that triple-A games set a very high bar


INDUSTRY BRIEFING: GAMING at Ubisoft, Singapore, we work with the local schools to help design their programs. We invest in training students in order to get them kickstarted in the industry.” Expansion across Southeast Asia The Ubisoft Entrepreneurs Lab is also another outlet of the company for supporting the expansion of the industry. In this initiative, the company focuses on local startups and invests in them as a way to jumpstart them. Long also reiterates that the company also focuses on building video game development as a long term career option for locals. Streamline Media Group’s CEO Stefan Baier, on the other hand, believes that several changes must be undergone for the game industry to succeed in Singapore. He outlined four steps that the region should be willing to take for the industry to succeed. “First, break out of the service mindset like it is not about outsourcing, it is about execution, it is about being part of really what products are going to be in the future and risking development in that direction. Working together, therefore, becomes very important leaving behind the sense that we’re competing for scraps, right? Like this is the main industry of entertainment now, which means there’s enough for everyone. There’s a bit of distrust sometimes still in the region between serious competition, you know, maybe all the old issues. They have to let it work together and we’ll all be winners here. This, according to Baier, results in fewer releases from the industry. Baier also sees the future of the industry in how Southeast Asia presents itself as an independent and decentralised future. From the presence of Ubisoft in Singapore to the popularity of blockchain in the Philippines and Mandalorian being worked on across Southeast Asia, he said that each region would be able to take video games beyond the mainstream. He also considered how the gaming industry affects the mainstream market. The digital transformation currently taking place is a result of the technological

advancements made in the industry. It is because of this that market opportunities in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America also exist. According to Baier, opportunities with both consumers and developers are in these markets. In particular, Baier sees the decentralised nature of the region as a reason to push for collaboration. This, along with breaking out of the service mindset and a push for midsize projects would aid the region.

The emergence of 5G technology will accelerate to the point that more e-sports organisations and leagues will grow in Singapore

Technology beyond video games Epic Games’ Dean Reinhart, meanwhile, expanded on the software that was in use by games. As an account manager with clients in Southeast Asia, he talked about how the use of the technology has gone past gaming. Unreal Engine, the software developed by Epic Games, is ripe for adoption by multiple industries. According to Reinhart, these industries include architecture, film and television, automotive, broadcast, live events, training and simulation and advertising. Over 14 million licenses to this software have been distributed throughout Asia. “These are a lot of different licensees that we have that are doing very, very different stuff with Unreal Engine. And the great thing is that what they’re doing is all built with the same tools. There might be a little bit of attrition from game developers looking at these different pieces. But you’ll also start

to find that a lot of these different institutions are now training people on game development tools that aren’t studying game development. Someone like SUTD in Singapore is teaching the Unreal Engine for architecture.” Reinhart also talked about the incoming release of Unreal Engine 5. Improvements such as nanite virtualised geometry, lumen fully dynamic real-time global illumination, virtual textures, and spatialised audio will all be in use for the event. The future of Asian gaming When asked about the Asian gaming segment and its future, Darryl Long pointed out an increase in the people that consider themselves serious gamers. He also says that instead of going towards console gaming, the future lies in cloud-based technology and the rise of esports. Looking 10 years ahead, Long believed that there will be a coherent experience for gamers across any platform they choose. The emergence of 5G technology will accelerate to the point that more e-sports organisations and leagues will grow in the region. “I think that we’re already seeing that there’s a shift going on towards more mobile and cloud-based gaming. And then we’re seeing that gradual convergence, as well. There’s no longer such a difference between [mobile, console, or PC], the emerging markets converging,” Long said.

There’s an increase in the people that consider themselves serious gamers

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

27


INDUSTRY: CRYPTO

How this Singapore-based microlending platform demystifies cryptocurrency Technicorum CEO Daniel Daboczy discusses why Singapore is the next big crypto hub.

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person, in a room with nine other people, trades a ball with one of them. All ten of them in the room records this in their notebook before they go home. Everyone knows that the trade happened. The person who traded the ball can not take it back and trade it with anyone else. This is how Technicorum CEO Daniel Daboczy explained the evermysterious concept of cryptocurrency in an interview with Singapore Business Review. Technicorum recently launched its Gennix microlending platform that aims to reduce financial inequality on the blockchain. The $GNNX token is currently listed on KingSwap and PancakeSwap, and runs natively on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC) with BEP-20 and BEP1155 token standards. Gennix addresses a pain point when it comes to cryptocurrency investing, borrowing, and lending: the risk of sudden and sharp price fluctuations due to investors who are always on the lookout for “The Next Big Thing,” as Daboczy put it. “The Gennix platform comes with features meant to tackle problems

in crypto lending. This includes, but is not limited to: over collateralized lending, and complicated financial instruments. Gennix utilizes TrustScore, which reduces collateralization ratios from the typical 200% to much less over time. The implementation of a binary options platform is targeted at users who wish to take on higher risks, in exchange for making a profit. It is a very simple to use platform, free of technical jargon,” Daboczy said. As a decentralised finance (DeFi) instrument, Gennix does not rely on centralised authorities, such as banks, and is accessible to anyone who has an internet connection and a browser. “Gennix is turning the tide by providing investors with seamless lending and borrowing tools with more equity and higher yields for investors new and old. The utility of DeFi and crypto will continue to increase, uniquely positioning Gennix in a prime spot to capture a large portion of market share,” Daboczy said. “The Gennix platform aims to replace the pillars of revenue of the current financial system by charging

A pain point in cryptocurrency is the risk of sudden and sharp price fluctuations due to investors always on the lookout for ‘the next big thing’ (Technicorum CEO Daniel Daboczy)

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Binary options simplify seemingly complex trading systems and allow users to generate more wealth while decreasing the exposure of their capital to the volatility of the crypto market

significantly less interest than traditional banks with time-binding credit. This not only cuts out the middleman but allows investors in the Gennix ecosystem to use their capital for investments, rather than fees. The implementation of binary options aims to simplify seemingly complex options trading systems and allow users to generate more wealth while decreasing the exposure of their capital to the volatility of the crypto market,” he added. Using TrustScore, Gennix examines and assesses potentially fraudulent transactions and unscrupulous users, making it easy for users to avoid getting scammed. Technicorum, as a company that specialises in digital assets, has been working with Binance in building this platform. Moreover, Technicorum has also decided to build its office in Singapore, seeing its potential as a cyrptocurrency hub, partially due to it getting regulatory support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. “Singapore is the Global - Asia Node of Technology, Innovation, and Enterprise. Technicorum leverages government effort in providing enhanced support for its businesses,” Daboczy said. On Binance, he said that the increased activity on the BSC network over the past year was amongst the reasons why it became a good platform to launch Gennix. He explained that having built to be Ethereum Virtual Machine Compatible from the start, the BSC makes it easier for developers to migrate their applications from Ethereum. Without worrying about crosschain compatibility, users can trade at a “lightning-fast pace” on Binance Chain, whilst allowing Dapps like Gennix to be constructed on the BSC. This gives users access to a broad range of options for a variety of financing needs.


INDUSTRY: GROCERY

(Photo: FairPrice.com.sg)

NTUC Fairprice: Building the grocery store of the future

What does the future of supermarkets look like in Singapore, and how will it change how you shop?

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f you’ve ever wondered how the future of grocery might look, NTUC FairPrice is now giving you a glimpse into that space, and allowing the public to experience its new concepts for both online and offline shopping. Talking with Singapore Business Review in a recent podcast, head of digital business at NTUC Johnny Wong explained some of the innovations that Singapore’s biggest online grocery platform FairPrice was soon to reveal. Wong said the last 12 months have been challenging. When Dorscon orange was implemented, the demand for online groceries exploded. FairPrice saw as much as five times the normal peak demand. But they rallied by relying on their in-house team. The fact that they handle their own logistics helped as well as their many networks of brick and mortar stores.

Starting a ‘dark store’ from scratch would need a level of automation that we have to insert over time to keep prices affordable

Once they found their footing, Wong said their online capacity grew as much as four to five times. Online grocery penetration went up to 15% from a previous 7%. This challenge as well as the surge in demand for online groceries actually helped birth the new concept for the future models of online and offline groceries. The grocery store of the future FairPrice operates on three different models for its online grocery platform. They have the central warehouse model, an automated warehouse system that services near and far customers. Then there are the FairPrice supermarkets and hypermarkets across Singapore that make hyperlocal deliveries within a three-kilometer radius for faster grocery deliveries. “Because there are so many eyes in that hypermarket with a large

supermarket, looking at the fresh produce and making sure that those fresh produce is as fresh as can be, then you can have a guarantee that vegetables and fruits like it come to you are really good,” Wong added. In fact, 60% of orders have fresh produce on them. But what they’ve recently started doing is creating what Wong calls “dark stores”. This is a brick and mortar store that FairPrice purposely closed to the public, to cater exclusively to online deliveries. However, these ‘dark stores’ may still be a long way from full automation. “Today, there’s a lot of manual picking in the store because we just took an existing store with a fixed layout. But certainly, if we were to do a ‘dark store’ from scratch, we would be looking at a level of automation. This automation that we probably have to insert over time because we, as a social enterprise, want to keep prices affordable, as much as possible to a Singapore consumer,” Wong said Still these ‘dark stores’ have been doing well and Wong added they were planning to open more in the future. FairPrice didn’t just stop with its online platforms. They started experimenting recently with an upgraded in-store concept called “Scan-and-Go”, in what Wong describes as FairPrice’s many different initiatives to digitise the instore experience. In stores that offer the “Scan-andGo” feature, customers are able to pick their products, use their phones to scan and pay for the items, and then simply walk out with their purchases. There are no long queues, no waiting time, and almost no contact whatsoever. The system also uses A.I. with machine learning algorithms to determine trust scores. FairPrice plans to use these data to better understand customer preferences and to personalise the in-store experience. “Even beyond personalisation, we’re looking at doing some interesting things for both an in store experience, and also the online grocery experience. Stay tuned a little bit,” Wong said. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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COVER STORY

Office rents to recover on the back of accelerated vaccine rollout It showed hopeful signs when prime offices occupancy rate increased for the first time since the pandemic to 94.3% in Q2, Knight Frank says.

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fter several circuit breakers that took place in the second quarter (Q2) of 2021, it does not come as a surprise that the commercial property market remained weak. PropertyGuru’s director of special projects, Winston Lee, said that the retail segment continues to be under pressure with travel restrictions and social distancing measures impacting shopper traffic. Sales have dropped between 30% to 70% for some retailers since the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Urban Retail Development (URA) recorded slips in prices and rentals in the retail space. However, on the back of the government’s vaccine rollout, the rising tech industry and pending economic recovery, analysts still see a silver lining for commercial real estate property’s recovery. Office CBD grade A rents continue to have weak but positive demand for Q2 2021. In Cushman & Wakefield’s Office Q2 2021 marketbeat report, CBD grade A rents returned to growth at 0.5% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ), reaching $9.60 per square foot (sf) per month in Q2 2021 after five consecutive quarters of decline. “Net demand was positive at 17,000sf in Q2 2021 and 51,000sf in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021. Nonetheless, vacancy rates for CBD grade A continued to climb to 4.6% in Q2 2021, up 0.4 percentage points (pp) from Q1 2021 as net supply grew faster than net demand,” the report said. Cushman & Wakefield pointed out the key drivers of net supply growth being the completion of Afro Asia i-Mark and the addition of Lazada One to C&W’s grade A basket. Meanwhile, outside CBD, rents in Suburban (all grades) rose by 0.2% QoQ amidst lower vacancy rates; whereas City Fringe (all grades) 30

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2020

How did the several rounds of circuit breakers affect the commercial property market?

rents fell by 0.5% QoQ, dragged lower by non-grade A buildings. Knight Frank agreed that rents showed hopeful signs of bottoming as soon as the occupancy rate for prime offices in the precinct increased for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing 0.1 pp QoQ to reach 94.3% in Q2 2021. “Even though business sentiment improved with the recovering economy, pretermination space remained fairly stable in Q2 2021 with over 360,000 sf available compared to the 344,000-sf estimate in Q1 2021. This increase in shadow space was largely a result of right-sizing due to the adoption of rotational work-from-home protocols, more so than businesses and companies downsizing,” Knight Frank said. “For similar reasons, banks and financial institutions also trimmed their office footprints. This has freed up space in prime buildings that were typically full, hence fueling “flight-toquality” moves that characterise the current market activity. As a result,

Leonard Tay

Tricia Song

both shadow space and space given up at natural lease expiry in prime buildings should be absorbed,” Knight Frank added. Cushman & Wakefield even predicted that office net demand will be six times that of 2020 levels. Knight Frank Singapore’s head of research, Leonard Tay, however had a more modest prediction. The Information and Communications sector is expected to add more jobs over the next three years and the government’s expediting its vaccination rollout will eventually lead to economic recovery and boost the office market, as well. Retail The threat of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases still looms over the horizon for the retail property segment. Cushman & Wakefield’s data showed that an economic turnaround of 1.3% was registered in Q1 2021, with Singapore on track to achieve 4% to 6% gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2021. At the same time, the retail market


COVER STORY had also been expected to recover with retail sales growing 7.6% for the first five months of 2021. However, sales for all segments remained below pre-pandemic levels, except for supermarkets and hypermarkets, furniture and household equipment, recreational goods, and computer and telecommunications equipment. Although retail sales are likely to account for a full-year expansion in 2021, due to the low base last year, safe management measures under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) are expected to hamper the pace of recovery. Islandwide, retail rents fell by 1.8% QoQ in Q2 2021 due to steeper rental dips of 3.1% QoQ and 2% QoQ in other city areas and Orchard. Meanwhile, suburban rents fell moderately by 0.8% QoQ, with the dine-in ban in Phase 2 Heightened Alert and occupancy limits. Overall suburban vacancy rates remain very healthy, at 6.7% in Q1 2021, the lowest since Q2 2016. On the other hand, vacancy rates in other city areas and Orchard are notably higher, at 11.4% and 11.6%, respectively, in Q1 2021. “Amidst challenging business conditions, there has been a spate of store closures within these two submarkets. For example, the lifestyle retailer, Muji, closed its Marina Square outlet and the US fashion brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, closed its only outlet in Singapore. Amidst border restrictions and ongoing safety management measures, a further drop in retail rents is projected for 2021. Nonetheless, prime retail rents will be supported by a limited new retail supply and strong demand for prime spaces in top tier malls,” Cushman & Wakefield’s report said. Industry closures According to Tricia Song, head of Research of CBRE Southeast Asia, a drop in sales from department stores, jewellery stores, and apparel may have also affected retail property; but the food and beverage (F&B) segment were able to quickly adjust to delivery and takeout. “Despite the uncertainty, new openings and expansions were observed in the F&B, sporting goods and fashion segment. That said, for

certain segments, the number of closures outweighed openings, with fashion, F&B and entertainment segments having the highest number of casualties,” Song added. Industrial The manufacturing sector continued to be the main GDP driver, expanding by 10.7% year-onyear (YoY) in Q1 2021. According to data released by the Economic Development Board, manufacturing growth between January and May 2021 has been led by output expansions in three key sub-sectors: electronics that soared 22.9% YoY, precision engineering that rose 22.7% YoY, and chemicals that increased 10.3% YoY. The Purchasing Managers’ Index stayed in expansion territory at 50.8 points in June 2021, even as community infection cases resurged and pandemic measures tightened in the region. Based on Cushman & Wakefield’s report on the industrial segment, city fringe business park rents registered the highest growth of 2.3% QoQ in Q2 2021, as vacancy rates continue to fall to 7.8% in Q2 2021 compared to 9.9% in the preceding quarter. The report observed that bluechip corporations have been drawn to city fringe business parks due to the robust infrastructure and favourable locality to reach talents and users. Coupled with firms in CBD decentralising more backend functions such as research and

There is an increasing trend of old commercial buildings in CBD being repurposed to residential properties to bring about the concept of ‘live, work, and play in the city’

development, the city fringe business park segment is expected to achieve the highest growth rate in 2021. “The segment’s sanguine outlook is also backed by strong investment sales such as Ascendas Reit acquiring the remaining 75% stake in Galaxis for $534m. Science Park, high tech, prime logistics and warehousing spaces also outperformed in tandem with the K-shaped economic recovery, registering a QoQ rental growth of 0.6%, 0.2%, 1.6%, and 0.9%, respectively,” the report said. CBRE agreed with this assessment, saying that on the back of healthy demand factory rents tracked the real estate services firm registered its first quarter of increase by 0.7% QoQ in Q2 2021; however, space availability for the warehouse and prime logistics remained tight, hence rents for both segments began to materialise at a quicker pace, by 1.3% QoQ and 2.9% QoQ, respectively. A new trend The concept of ‘live, work, and play in the city’ is slowly gaining traction in Singapore. “There is an increasing trend of old commercial buildings in the Central Business District (CBD) being repurposed to residential properties to bring about the concept of ‘live, work, and play in the city’,” PropertyGuru’s Winston Lee said. How this trend will affect the property market for both commercial and residential, however, is still unknown.

GRADE A CBD RENT & VACANCY RATE

Source: Cushman & Wakefield

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2020

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INDUSTRY: REITS

Emerging markets lead REIT in Asia Pacific: APREA The Philippines is set to become the REIT IPO hotspot in the region this 2021.

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eal estate investment trust (REITs) in the AsiaPacific is projected to grow in both emerging and developed markets. As more investors grow to become acquainted with REITs, a number of new REIT classes have opened up, a promising move for REITs to improve in the coming years. The majority of the REIT listings seen this year and over the past year have taken place in the emerging markets of India, Philippines, Thailand, said APREA CEO Sigrid Zialcita. This is in addition to China having announced that they have approved their pilot REIT regime. “What we’ve seen in China is that they have actually been inducing a lot of the players to submit their assets for a REIT listing. In May 2021, the China Securities Regulatory Commission or CSRC, approved the registration of nine REITs, and this will essentially channel investors’ money into projects,” she said. Zialcita said that in China, the focus of the REITs is on infrastructure projects. However, they are also seeing positive developments in fast growing markets. APREA anticipates that the next phase of growth, when it comes to the asset class, is that it will be driven by the expansion and adoption of the REIT framework in the region’s fast-growing markets – not only this year, but also into the decade. “In the developed markets, there is also continued expansion of the REIT sector in some of places such as Hong Kong. We worked with the Securities and Futures Commission to go through the REIT code that they have and made some enhancements. There are a few companies that have lined up plans for a REIT listing in Hong Kong,” she said. “Compared to Singapore, Japan, and Australia, there are only a few sectors in Hong Kong to get into REITs,” she added. In emerging markets such as the Philippines, interest in REITs have picked up pace among top developers the past year. In the February 2021 GPR APREA Indices, it was reported that the Philippines is set to become the REIT IPO hotspot in the Asia-Pacific region this year. Led by the debut of Ayala Land REIT, upcoming property listings include SM Prime, Robinsons Land, and Megaworld Corporation. “A change in regulations in the Philippines has necessitated or fast-tracked the implementation of the REIT framework leading it to become a listing hotspot. By having this REIT vehicle, developers can free up some 32

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

APREA CEO Sigrid Zialcita

In the Philippines, the BPO sector remains the primary support or pillar of economic activity, which fast-tracked the implementation of REIT

of the investments locked in assets and recycle the capital into something else,” she said. Mainly led by the office sector, interest in REITs in the Philippines is being stabilized by one of its largest occupiers of commercial space: the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. “Looking at the Philippines today, the BPO sector remains the primary support or pillar of economic activity. If we look at companies that have sponsored REITs and those planning to put their assets into REITs, these are on the office side. The Philippines is lucky and fortunate to have many of these players own these assets that allow the BPO sector to thrive in the country,” she added. A call to invest in REITs In terms of having to educate players about REITs and having it as an investment option, Zialcita said that there is still a lack of information in terms of how REITs are performing. Investors tend to invest directly into real estate, but only those deeply interested in the industry can tell the difference between this and REITs. “They like to invest directly into real estate. Whenever I explain to our members, some become interested in this


MARKETING BRIEFING: REITS

If people are waiting for prices to crash, it is not likely to happen

industry. We look at the prices versus what you can invest in REITs. In Asia Pacific, all the office, residential, and some other assets’ prices held even during COVID time,” she said. “If people are waiting for prices to crash, don’t hold your breath – this is not likely to happen. This is where REITs come in. REITs are an attractive proposition, because by buying REITs, essentially, you will have a slice of the real estate although it is indirect. Even in COVID times, returns on REITs remains to be attractive,” she added. Zialcita said that the market cap for REITs is still increasing. Now, it is set at over US$300b but this is being skewed by Japan. Compared to the US’ one trillion-dollar REIT market, the APAC region’s REIT performance is steady and shows promising returns in the coming years. “The breakdown of the market cap is a sizable one with Japan being the largest REIT market, followed by Australia and Singapore. There is also Hong Kong, with the rest spread across the emerging markets. In terms of liquidity, this is where I believe there’s still room to grow,” she said. “We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. When REITs started in this part of the world, it was a very low number and compared to now where it has since skyrocketed. We reckon that once China is able to include real estate in its REIT regime, the potential will be immense. Some of the fast-growing locations, even the Philippines, have the ability to hit over a trillion in no time,” she added. APREA’s Rebranding The organization found the right time for APREA to rebrand through bringing new members, new partnerships, and pushing into growth markets as well as new sectors across Asia Pacific. APREA was founded in 2005, marking 2021 as its 16th year in existence. Zialcita said that they started

with a vision to create an organization where real estate leaders and influencers across Asia can get together to network and discuss some of the relevant matters that are happening within the industry. Zialcita said that among the changes introduced there will be more focus on other markets to serve as growth areas for the organization. To add, their new logo is now multi-colored, to clearly represent APREA’s values: the red stands for connections, blue for transparency, green for sustainability, and amber for diversity. “This year, we also created something different, which is the ‘other markets’ chapter. This serves as an incubator for new chapters in the future and is essentially a growth plan for us. We are doing this through our four service fillers, including advocacy, education and research, professional development and advancement, and our company’s investor outreach program,” she said. “Our membership consists of investors-- these are your REITs, asset managers, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and all the other institutional investors. There really can be many kinds of asset classes today,” she added. Today, the organization has evolved into something bigger and more comprehensive, supporting the changing real estate and infrastructure sector. “The terminology that we use today is ‘real assets,’” Zialcita said, referring to their rebranding to focus on the various sectors they now study and cater to. “We now have a presence in several strategic regions across Asia Pacific, and this include Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, and of course, in Singapore where we are headquartered.” “The dominant form of real estate property investment has always been the office. Today, we’ve seen a number of our members venture into infrastructure. We consider this a natural progression like what we have done in the past,” she concluded.

The dominant form of property investment is the office

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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ANALYSIS: REAL ESTATE towards bigger homes, with more households embracing dual incomes in order to attain more financial flexibility. Specific groups of consumers also face challenges in housing affordability and retirement planning, as DBS data shows those with income up to $5,999/month and in the 30-49 age group were the most stretched. Those in this age group also showed the lowest propensity to invest. Private property owners in this age group experienced higher mortgageto-income ratios. Thie 30-39 and 40-49 age groups had an average of 0.27, 19-46%, and 0.26, or 19%-39%, respectively. Private property owners in the 30-49 age group experience higher mortgage-to-income ratios

Why property is not the stable nest egg it was before DBS expects housing affordability to worsen.

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BS’ latest research report has found that investing in a property for retirement funds is not as financially stable as it was before. With property accounting for almost 42% of total household assets in Singapore, the investment originally strengthened with economic growth in its earlier years. Whilst earlier generations found this as an effective wealth accumulation strategy, DBS predicts that housing affordability is expected to worsen as work-from-home arrangements will force homeowners to trade up to a bigger home and price-to-income ratios will hit multiyear highs. Derek Tan, Head of Property Research, DBS Bank, has said that this was due to shifting demographics in the industry. One of these factors include an uncertain outlook on the property market. Both the property price index (PPI) and HDB resale index saw increases at 7% and 11%, respectively, over the past year. This is despite the pandemic and the government’s hawkish stance on the property market. 34

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A changing demographic is also set to affect the overall demand for homes. Factors such as an aging population and tighter manpower policies are set to affect the longerterm demand and expected rental yield for residential purposes. Lorna Tan

There is a shift towards bigger homes, with more households embracing dual incomes for more financial flexibility

Increasing property prices The research also points to an increase in property prices. Data has shown the pace currently outruns that in gross domestic product (GDP) and salary growth, with similar evidence being found in stretched affordability ratios over the recent years. In the past, this meant buying smaller homes with higher prices on a per square foot basis. Work-from-home arrangements, however, means there may be a shift

Diversification of assets High acquisition costs, according to DBS, also makes property less attractive. Instead, consumers should focus on growing their net worth with a diversified investment portfolio. Other asset classes will retain a more balanced investment strategy that can hold out longer for financial resilience. Lorna Tan, Head of Financial Planning Literacy, DBS Bank, also reiterated that financial planning goes beyond a strategy. “While consumers can regard their primary property as a retirement asset and a component of a holistic financial plan, they should keep in mind that diversification is key and the right mix of assets can help to maximise the risk-reward from their investments. Our multi-year journey to democratise access to wealth management services has allowed our customers to invest in non-property asset classes more conveniently and in a cost-effective manner through our suite of digital investing solutions, where we help them start earlier with less,” Tan said.

Housing affordability will worsen; work-from-home arrangements will force homeowners to trade for bigger properties


ANALYSIS: E-COMMERCE

How global brands can ride the e-commerce wave in SEA ZALORA provides brands with data-driven insights derived from its 2.6 million users.

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-commerce in Southeast Asia (SEA) grew rapidly as consumers switched to online channels. As this growth persists in the coming years, the challenge now for retailers is to better understand the “very complex and diverse” market. The region has seen some 40 million new internet users in 2020, according to a report by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Co. This growth also led to a 23.9% year-on-year rise in ZALORA’s active customers, driving a 41.4% increase in the company’s net merchandise value in the first quarter of 2021. “SEA is a very complex and diverse region, most brands tend to either establish logistic hubs in Singapore and try and cater the whole region from them, or work with a different partner for each country through a franchisor or distributor network,” Simone Cortini, ZALORA’s Marketplace and Platform Services director, told Singapore Business Review. “Whilst distributor networks have a value for the offline world in a connected online world, they often bring issues such as cross-country price discrepancies and cross-country

As more consumers embrace online shopping, one of the most critical resources that brands need to harness is data

Brands must ensure that they have a clear omnichannel strategy

assortment discrepancies,” he also said, adding this could drive customers away over time and lead them towards other brands. Seizing SEA’S e-commerce momentum In order for fashion and retail brands to stay ahead in the game, Cortini said the brands must ensure that they have a clear omnichannel strategy and access to strong decision-making driving data. They must also have a coherent customer experience and service quality across digital channels and a locally adjusted and tailored marketing strategy. ZALORA fulfills all four through its Operations by ZALORA service suite as well as TRENDER, which helps it deliver deep data insights to navigate the complex SEA market. “As more consumers embrace online shopping, one of the most critical resources that brands need to harness would be data,” Cortini said. This is to “derive genuine insights about consumers’ needs so they can better anticipate shopping behaviour and curate more effective engagement strategies, design processes, and even

demand projections.” Through this, brands are able to present the right product offerings at the right price and through the right channels. ZALORA, for instance, uses TRENDER Professional to mine data from its 2.6 million active users, allowing it to provide insights on geo segmentation, buying behaviour, design intelligence, assortment, and pricing. TRENDER proved to be an asset amidst the pandemic when ZALORA introduced a COVID-19 Sales Dashboard in aid of brands affected by the sudden shift in retail trends and consumer behaviour. ZALORA has so far recorded over 1,000 subscriptions on TRENDER. It has also partnered with global brands, such as Nike and Under Armour. ZALORA also provides an e-distribution solution that gives brands access to its logistics and delivery capabilities for products sold on their websites and online marketplaces. This could also accelerate brands’ e-commerce growth in the region without heavy capital expenditures. The e-retailer has been tapped by Puma and Superdry in their expansion to Indonesia and the Philippines. It is also looking to deepen its partnership with H&M Group, which will be launching new collections. Through this, ZALORA aims to eventually fulfill distribution services across Southeast Asia. “By being an e-commerce enabler, we hope to deepen ZALORA’s impact on the wider landscape in the region,” he said. What to expect Cortini said lifestyle brands— particularly in sports, loungewear, and kids, as well as in the wellness category—saw an increase in demand in the past year as consumers prioritised their health and wellbeing. He noted that nearly 90% of the customers who were surveyed have shown interest in shopping for green products. “Livestreaming adds a strong emotional connection to online shopping, which can help to bridge the gap between the online and offline shopping experience.” SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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REAL ESTATE LUMINARIES

Singapore’s most notable real estate agents aged 40 and under

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he real estate industry in the Lion City seems to be in good hands with young realtors who not only thrived in managing clients and negotiating deals but also displayed leadership in shaping new talents. Singapore Business Review presents 10 of the city’s most competitive real estate agents aged 40 and under who have excelled in the industry. This year’s pool of realtors was chosen by their companies and colleagues as they have shown creativity and innovation in their profession at such a challenging time. They are ranked by age. 1

Matthew Lam, 32, PropNex

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Douglas has been with OrangeTee and Tie Pte Ltd a shy under a decade, since his rookie days. He climbed through the ranks from the first day and has been a consistent Top Achiever since 2015. Some of his more notable achievements are his yearly Top Achiever awards since 2015 with some years coming in as top 5% of OrangeTee and Tie Pte Ltd. Douglas also currently leads one of the youngest teams in the company and is made up of many young and dynamic real estate salespersons from all walks of life. Amidst the pandemic, Douglas was featured on LianHe Zaobao, in which he shared how the pandemic gave him a window of opportunity to further add value to his clients through his services and managed to capitalise on the bullish property market sentiments allowing him to flourish in his real estate business. 3

A young and talented team leader, Lam has over 270 salespersons under his wing. Matthew, who currently sits as a senior associate group district director with PropNex, has been an ambassador of the agency for five years. In just the first half of 2021, the 32-year-old has once again clinched the title of the PropNex Millionaire for the third consecutive year. “I set myself apart from the rest by focusing on empowering consumers with valuable insights, directions of the market, and personal genuine views of what to do in this market, rather than focusing on product selling,” he said. “Most importantly, leading a team of more than 300 associates has opened up my mind and exposed me to many different perspectives. It has allowed me to hone my skills of identifying consumers and my salespersons’ objectives, sizing people up quickly and genuinely giving them what they want.” 36

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Douglas Chew, 33, OrangeTee

a new generation of leaders and contribute to business growth strategies. Furthermore, Oliver majored in Finance and was with the banking sector in the earlier days of his career. Oliver’s wealth of experience is well sought-after, having shared his knowledge with thousands of Huttons’ associates and on various media platforms such as CNA938.

Oliver Tan, 33, Huttons Asia

In 2015, freshly back from living in the United States for 10 years and out of university, Timothy felt lost with nary a goal. His father was willing to mentor him, having built a successful company in manufacturing. But the field was not his forte as he found himself back on the bench seeking a more fulfilling career. One thing remained certain, however – his vision to find his own niche and build his career. A pal of Timothy’s shared his experiences as a real estate consultant and Timothy recognised that its dynamics suited his strengths and passion. Timothy has since become a seasoned realtor bringing in 118 sales and 238 rental transactions since 2017. Timothy also stood as amongst the Top 1% of OrangeTee’s top achievers in 2017 and 2018, and in the Top 5% in 2019. He ranked 5th in 2020 and was the youngest of the top 10 award recipients. His consistent achievements are testaments to his dedication and commitment to his work. 5

Oliver is Huttons’ millionaire for three consecutive years and has achieved amazing feats including the 1st position in Huttons Sales category for 2019 and 2020. He was also the Local Project Champion for 2019. A consistent top performer, he has transacted a wide range of assets from HDB flats, mass-market to high-end condos, different types of landed properties including good class bungalows (GCB), commercial and industrial properties. Recently, he was appointed as Chief Trainer of the Millennial, a committee formed to encourage

Timothy Tan, 33, OrangeTee

Nicholas Keong, 34, Knight Frank

Nicholas currently serves as the Head of International Residential at Knight Frank Singapore advising high-net-worth individuals on the purchase, sale, and management of


REAL ESTATE LUMINARIES residential property across major global markets such as the UK, Australia, Japan, and Singapore, as well as working alongside colleagues on prime property across Europe and North America. Nicholas has experience in new development sales and marketing and frequently assists his clients with single properties for personal use or building investment portfolios. He started his career in international properties at a boutique Singapore firm, DST International Property Consultants. There, he honed his skills as he advised HWN clients across a spectrum of global cities. 6

Jeremy Lim, 36, Huttons Asia

for January 2021. He focuses on project sales and has transacted more than 150 new launch units in the past five years. He believes that in this revolutionary industry, leaders need to be forward thinkers and constantly improve so that they can better provide value-add to clients. Hence, he developed his own SOP from marketing to conversion and Collaboration Booster Program for new salespersons to learn and execute marketing activities. In addition, Stan frequently shares his advice with other Huttons’ associates through dialogue sessions. 8

Shanel Liew, 38, PropNex

it’s in tandem with his property technology aspirations. Despite the market condition and the necessary government policies, he found his niche through Asset Protection as an avenue to safeguard depleting CPF and value from the ageing property and its limitations. Dallas is OrangeTees Top 5% producer 2020, Top 3 Lister 2020, and a Top 5 Leader in his leaders’ cohort, surprisingly in the time of the pandemic. Having attained his International Transformative Coaching certification, ACTA, and having conducted close to 100 training sessions for his comrades at Orangetee and AAG division platform, he has been able to transform his clients’ portfolio and his fine line of agents into a wealth enhancing ecosystem. To date, he has personally brokered more than 292 properties and in a single year team production (year 2020) of 361 transactions emerging from private, HDB, landed, GCB, commercial, and creative financing advisory. 10

Since 2016, Jeremy is one of Huttons Top 20 Producers and Leaders, as well as Huttons’ Millionaire in 2018 and 2021. Within the first half of 2021, Jeremy has already transacted $120m worth of properties including conservation shophouses, offices in the prime CBD, condominiums, and landed homes. Properties in New Futura, Gramercy Park, OUE Twin Peak, Marina One, and The Avenir, are some of the iconic landmarks that Jeremy has helped clients to build their portfolios for asset progression over the years. Jeremy firmly upholds values of honesty, sincerity and empathy in addition to professionalism as a realtor. His steadfast beliefs and differentiated service have enabled him to build long-term trust and relationships with clients, many of whom are high net worth individuals. 7

Shanel Liew, who has been in the real estate industry for 15 years, is a PropNex Millionaire for four consecutive years. Since joining the firm seven years ago, she has weathered numerous property cycles and trends and has been successful at being a consistent top achiever in the real estate industry. Shanel, who has been a PropNex Ambassador for five years, has since grown from a threeperson team to over 100 salespersons today. Shanel shared that there are no courses out there to specifically teach how to be a good leader in the real estate industry, or how to treat and guide people. However, she highlighted that PropNex Leadership Bootcamps designed by the agency have really made a vast difference to her. 9

Dallas Hassan, 39, OrangeTee

Stan Lee, 36, Huttons Asia

Stan is Huttons’ millionaire for two consecutive years and has achieved outstanding performance such as a $400,000 sales commission in a month

Inspired by the book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” Dallas made his attempt immediately into real estate in early 2005 as the way forward to immense wealth and legacy building. He switched to OrangeTee & Tie knowing that

Evan Chung, 40, Knight Frank

Kevin specialises in commercial litigation and international arbitration and was formerly a Justices’ Law Clerk and Assistant Registrar Evan Chung leads Knight Frank’s subsidiary brokerage arm of over 400 salespersons and 10 staff. He sets and oversees the direction for the business, spearheads training activities, leadership development and the expansion of the associate network’s transactional capabilities. Evan has been with the firm since 2016 and quickly rose to Head of KF Property Network in the span of four years. Previously a Senior Division Director, Evan led two divisions and held roles as an in-house trainer to associates, in addition to being a Senior Project IC since 2016. Evan has been a speaker and panelist at events for major property portals such as PropertyGuru and 99.co, and discussed views on the local residential market on business radio station CNA938. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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ANALYSIS: ARCHITECTURE

The path to a more resilient Singapore is ‘green’ architecture

M³ urbanism is the emerging trend in the country, architects claim.

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daptable and healthier spaces with a focus on density and social elements will be the driving force behind new architecture in Singapore, leading architects say. Urban design will likely revolve around bringing wellness that goes beyond physical health, but also encompasses emotional, environmental, and social aspects. AR Seah Chee Huang, CEO of DP Architects, said Singapore could shift to “purposeful redundancy” that will create more mediating spaces and civic environments that lead to public domains, greenery, and healthier buildings. This is also expected to pave the way for more automation and artificial intelligence incorporated in the design, intended to safeguard the people. Redesigning a ‘healthier’ Singapore Chee Huang said a volumetric approach to urban design, or M³

urbanism, will emerge as a trend in the next year as architects attempt to design areas meant to hold a healthy density. The approach seeks to provide a deeper sense of livable and resilient density and land use in three-dimensional synergy, he explained. “The idea is to create selfsustainability within a single site with synergistic programming, facilities that are flexibly designed, and a network of shared domains, spaces of respites, and landscape terraces for enjoyment,” Chee Huang said. “This also fortifies our notion of ‘sharing’ and ‘commons’ that have proven to be critical for the community’s well-being, especially during modes of emergency and crisis.” Designs geared towards this approach reinforce concepts such as 10-minute walkability, and generally, 10-minute communities

AR Seah Chee Huang

“Healthier, more responsive and breathable buildings” will emerge as the industry adopts biophilic design (Photo: The Landmark)

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and economies. This is also in line with the government’s 2030 plans for residential areas to be within a 10-minute distance of a park. “Healthier, more responsive, and breathable buildings” will emerge as the industry adopts biophilic design strategies that connect people to greener spaces. Features that will provide for contactless interactions, innovations in sanitation and sewage, and building materials that reduce the risk of spreading harmful pathogens will also be integrated. As for the home and workplace, Chee Huang said the home has to be redesigned to feature “swing spaces” such as a balcony or sky-gardens; whilst the office will have to feature higher flexibility as it is seen to cater to a meet and exchange function in the post-pandemic norm. “The future of architecture no longer only represents a physical space but more importantly, its


ANALYSIS: ARCHITECTURE He shared that when the pandemic hit, Swan & Maclaren zeroed in on projects that could take advantage of periods of slowdowns, such as medical-related developments and infrastructure growth. The firm also upgraded its standard of project delivery by training its staff, as well as strengthening its corporate system.

Design is going beyond just an aesthetic form (Photo: Raffles Hospital Extension

purpose, the planet, and its people,” Chee Huang said. “This means that design is going beyond just an aesthetic form; it is about how it affects the environment, its people, and vice versa.” Building a crisis-ready SG For the Surbana Jurong Group, as it was recently tapped by the government to retrofit buildings for care and recovery facilities and redesign spaces for safety in anticipation of the return of work activities—design in the new normal will likewise lean towards sustainability, leading to spaces that provide multiple functions that could also be useful in emergencies. Ivy Koh, director of SJ architecture at Surbana Jurong, said that the key to prevention and crisis readiness in urban planning is a collaborative design that involves not just urban planners, but also healthcare architects, interior designers, and engineers, amongst others. Koh expects demand for sustainable buildings with wellventilated and open green spaces to grow as people seek reconnection with nature after their capacity to move and engage in recreational activities have been limited for far too long. Singapore will likely see interlocking pockets of gardens with mass public spaces. Homes must also be designed to provide in a way that allows occupants to find a balance to live, work, and play, as well as study. Building a crisis-ready Singapore, however, does not end here as Koh raises the need to optimise urban

spaces for agriculture and farming. Surbana Jurong has developed the “Floating Ponds,” a high-intensity vertical farming concept for the production of fish and agricultural products. Koh said this allows farms to be commercially productive despite limited land. “We plan to leverage our expertise in designing vertical farms to help Singapore achieve its ‘30 by 30’ goal of producing 30% of Singapore’s food locally by 2030,” she said. Likewise, Swan & Maclaren Director Matthew Hon said greater importance will be given towards a “well-tempered environment, leading to more Biophilic design solutions.” “The revisiting of existing commercial real-estate stock to better increase [environment, social, and governance] value, and lastly adjust design and fit-out work for the changes in work-live solutions of companies after COVID,” he said. Additionally, medical and clinical wellness as key sectors will receive more focus, particularly in terms of creating better care facilities for the ageing population. Grappling in uncertain times Hon said the industry is reliant on investment positive feedback loops which do not go well with uncertainty and could likely lead to new development projects being put on hold. “There is a sense that newer investments hesitate to be mobilized, even for early design stages, or are set on the back burner until that market certainty can be viewed on the horizon,” he said.

Law Yoke Foong

Ivy Koh

Matthew Honv

Techceleration of architecture RSP, for its part, took initiatives towards digitalisation, enabling its stronger business collaboration with offices overseas. “As a first approach to infection control, we are looking at wider circulation and de-centralised waiting areas,” Executive Director Law Yoke Foong of RSP said. “The world has embraced virtual business and education, and we see smaller physical meeting spaces and hotdesks. The service industries have also accelerated the use of artificial intelligence and remote monitoring of building services to reduce reliance on labour.” For Surbana Jurong, the impact of the health crisis, on top of the climate crisis, heightens the challenge for architecture firms. The unpredictability of the weather, SJ architecture’s Koh said, may affect the design of buildings. In response to this, the firm utilised technology to enhance Building Information Modelling and Digital Twins that allow simulation of scenarios, climate change risks, and structural defects. DP Architects also thrived through the crisis through digitalisation, but it flagged that it is possible that the current rate of digitalisation could lead to structural issues in the architecture industry, as well as the larger built environment value chain. “Whilst this techceleration is appreciated as a strategic and important juncture for the industry in driving higher productivity and integrated digital delivery in design and across the value chain, the challenge lies with firms coping with the rate of change, upskilling in the midst of managing the disruption from the pandemic in work and operations,” DP Architects CEO Chee Huang said. SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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ARCHITECTURE LUMINARIES

Young architects shaking up the industry in Singapore

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he architecture scene will likely remain vibrant with young architects making a name for themselves, not just in Singapore, but also across the region. Equipped with creativity and innovative minds, Singapore Business Review has lined up architects aged 40 and under that have stood out amongst their peers. The lawyers from this list are arranged from youngest to oldest. Konnie Kao, 33, RSP Konnie Kao, a senior architect for RSP Architects, has bagged awards at an early age. In 2009, she conferred an award from the Habitat for Humanity Design Competition, hosted by the Singapore Institute of Architects and the New Model University Design Competition in Vietnam in 2014. Kao obtained her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Architecture from the National University of Singapore. In 2017, she received certification from the BA Academy as a Green Mark Manager. Later in 2019, she secured her license as a registered Architect with the Singapore Board of Architects. She is currently working on the Funan Mall project, a six-storey retail podium with four levels above the group and two levels of basement. Apart from this project, she is also handling two towers of a six-storey premium Grade A office tower as well as one tower of a nine-storey housing coliving apartment. 1

2 Yew Hung Seng, 35, Swan & Maclaren Yew Hung Seng, as a registered Architect with the Singapore Board of Architects, has been delivering projects in Singapore and the region for 10 years. Hung Seng’s project experience and fluent Mandarin-speaking skills have led him to be the key person in leading the various collaborative design work with overseas teams. As an associate and team leader of Malaysia studio, Hung Seng works closely with the Malaysia design teams to come out with creative design solutions in the Malaysia building environment. The scope of work undertaken ranges from feasibility studies to concept design and project documentation to completion on site. Hung Seng has also been building a good relationship with China client’s network. The work liaising for China clients has led to various prestige projects, not only in China, but also in Cambodia and Thailand. Hung Seng is a passionate member of the firm’s growth path. Besides the daily architectural works, Hung Seng is also leading the Public Relationship & Marketing (PRM) for the group.

Danga Heights

Kwan Yeong Kang, 36, Swan & Maclaren Kwan Yeong Kang, a senior architectural graduate, has been delivering projects in Singapore and the region for nine years. Yeong Kang was actively involved in a wide spectrum of building typologies and scale, including master plans, residential, hotels, and offices, from concept design to design development, both in Singapore and for overseas developments. As a senior associate and studio head, Yeong Kang leads and organises the Design Creation team in the Singapore Office. Working closely with the design team, Yeong Kang was responsible for numerous feasibility studies and 3

Funan Mall Food Garden

Funan Mall Interior

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successfully won many design competitions. He was involved in several key projects, such as Raffles Specialist Centre and GSH Plaza, as a design architect. His roles include leading a multidiscipline design team from concept design to design development.

Holland Plaza

4 Madeni Jais, 36, RSP Madeni Jais secured his Master of Architecture at the University of Western Australia in 2011. Today, he serves as a senior architect for RSP Architects and has been involved in major projects across Singapore. This includes the alteration of the Al-Falah Mosque in Cairnhill Road in Singapore. He also worked on a $25.6m redevelopment project at the East Coast Park, as well as the $15.98m Masjid Maarof project. The latter comprises a four-storey mosque with basement carparks at Jurong West.

Masjib Maarof

5 Atthaphon Bunya, 38, Swan & Maclaren Atthaphon Bunya is a Thai Architect who is a registered architect with the Architect Council of Thailand and the Association of Siamese Architects. His over 12 years’ experience help to deliver various projects which are residential, institutional, recreational, hospitality, religious, hotel, commercial, mixeduse, and master plan. As a senior associate and senior architectural executive of Swan & Maclaren (Thailand), he leads, organises, and responds for Swan & Maclaren (Thailand) team to deliver projects by coordinating design and quality checking with Singapore and Malaysia team. His scope of


ARCHITECTURE LUMINARIES responsibility covers feasibility studies, concept design, schematic design, design development, and design Implementation. He is also running the local project in Thailand and Cambodia. He is a member of the Company Design Creation committee, public relations, and marketing committee, which involves graphic design. Atthaphon is a creative designer, practical and responsible. He is a part of the growth of the company since 2011 and still continues to develop with the company with his full abilities.

awards that his projects have attained. With a strong belief in the built environment’s impact on the productivity and morale of the occupants, Shirong and his team are always passionate about pursuing design excellence and integrated solutions for the client, creating a liveable environment that respects local culture and fosters human relationships and collaboration.

Connect@Changi

Hong Fenglin, 39, SAA Fenglin is a deputy director at SAA. Since joining the firm in 2010, she has worked on a wide spectrum of projects from infrastructure, commercial, mixed-use, residential, institutional, to industrial, both in local and overseas markets. Fenglin is performance-driven with strong analytical and organisational skills. She is a key personnel in the SAA Management Team and leads the Project and Technical Team in the company. She has been instrumental in securing successful tenders for high-profile projects including Changi Airport Terminal 4, JTC Bulim Square, and JTC Pesawat. She has also successfully led her team in the planning, coordination, design, contract administration, and implementation of various types of projects like Commonwealth Towers, a 43-storey super high-rise twin tower residential condominium development; JTC Space @ Tuas, a 160,000sqm first-of-its-kind, high-rise industrial comprising mixed type factories, workers’ dormitories and amenities centre; and jem, a S$450m dollar mixed-use commercial development comprising of retail space and Grade A offices for the Ministry of National Development and Building Construction Authority. 7

Royal Platinum Residence

Yue Shirong, 38, Surbana Jurong Shirong has worked in the construction industry since graduating from the National University of Singapore in 2009. Shirong continued his professional career in Surbana International Consultants (now Surbana Jurong) in 2014, where he currently serves as a senior principal architect. He later became a Registered Architect with the Board of Architects (Singapore) in 2015. As both a design and project architect, Shirong has handled and managed a variety of projects ranging from industrial, institutional, to residential projects in Singapore and overseas. He has also worked on large scale urbanism projects, dealing with issues of connectivity and continuity in the public realm. He has gained experience in a variety of highly technical and complex building types, such as Connect@Changi, the world’s first purpose-built short-stay facility designed which supports safe business travel exchanges, and Senoko Food Hub which won the BCA Green Mark Platinum Award in 2016. As an architect, Shirong is committed to sustainable design. For this, he became a certified Green Mark Manager in 2015. This commitment is also borne out in the Green Mark Gold, GoldPLUS, and Platinum 6

JTC Bulim Square

Mark Wong, 40, RSP Mark Wong, currently an associate director at RSP Architects, has been a part of various projects in transport, retail and residential. His recent projects include the S$50m addition and alterations project at the Changi Airport Terminal 1 Retail West. Also amongst his projects are the 30-storey residential apartment Cairnhill nine that has 268 units and the $322.7m Terminal 1 expansion at Changi Airport. Wong is a graduate of architecture from the National University of Singapore. He later obtained his Master of Architecture from the RMIT University in Australia. In 2019, he became a Registered Architect with the Board of Architects Singapore. 8

Changi Terminal 1 Expansion

9 Robert Brodeth, 40, Ong&Ong Robert Brodeth is an associate director for architecture at the Ong&Ong in Singapore. As an associate director, Brodeth handles the concept and design development of large-scale and prototype projects in the region. In particular, he has designed projects not only in Singapore, but also in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, VIetnam and most recently in the Philippines. Amongst his notable projects are the 7-storey civic building Heatbeat@Bedok in Singapore, which has been recognised by the Building and Construction Authority in its Green Mark Award. He was also behind the redevelopment master plan of the Bataan Capitol in the Philippines. Prior to his time with Ong&Ong, he worked on mixed-use megaprojects that enhanced Singapore’s skyline.

Heartbeat @Bedok

SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

41


EVENT COVERAGE: ORACLE NETSUITE

Why is now the best time to move to a Cloud ERP? Oracle NetSuite says it’s not too late to upgrade your system to adapt to changes fast and leverage on new opportunities.

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dopting a Cloud ERP system has made work more convenient as hybrid work set-ups become a norm. An excellent system can allow workers from across homes and offices to connect and exchange important information, as long as one has access to a web browser as well as the internet. Several companies have already made the move to such a system and have reaped the benefits. But for those who haven’t, is it too late? Oracle NetSuite Principal Market & Competitive Intelligence Analyst for JAPAC Mercie Clement said that the best time to invest in an ERP system is now. Clement, along with Oracle NetSuite Solutions Consultant Diamanta Lavi-Hartsuiker, were the speakers at the recently held Accelerating Business Growth with Oracle NetSuite webinar that was hosted in partnership with Singapore Business Review. “Companies decide basically to implement NetSuite’s Cloud-first ERP now, sooner than later, because

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SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

NetSuite’s dashboards can be catered to a person’s job title and needs, allowing privacy of data

they realise that if complexity is left unattended, there are some negative consequences that they will have to encounter. For example, there’ll be lost growth opportunities, control, and agility to adapt to changes fast and leverage on new opportunities,” Clement said. She added that a rival business with a good ERP system can easily leapfrog one’s business. “Not having the right systems in place makes it harder for companies to innovate, and therefore impedes gaining market share. And you’ll find that as your business gets more and more complex, the harder and costlier it will be to implement business transformation in the future,” Clement said. Investing in Oracle NetSuite Asia-based business processing outsourcing company Everise is amongst the companies that have managed to leverage their company through the adoption of Oracle NetSuite, which they did before the

pandemic happened. “The investment that we did, prior to COVID-19, allowed us to move rapidly than most people, over the course of two to three weeks,” said Everise CFO William Foo. Accurate, fast, adaptable NetSuite helped Foo in his job because it gave him easy access to three important concepts: accurate data, fast data, and data that is adaptable to how different people view the world. “Everise as a company, and as a management team, is a very data driven organisation. So data to me is very, very important. If you’re going to make a decision, it has to be backed by solid evidence, solid data trends, and you make your case,” Foo added. As a role-based system, NetSuite’s dashboards can be catered to a person’s job title and needs. Whilst Foo needs easy access to financial data on his platform, it can be flexible to other types of job positions as well. It allows for privacy of data, one can limit how and how many people can see certain dashboards and reports on one’s system, allowing executives to maintain control. “There are great capabilities of NetSuite to support your growth,” said Lavi-Hartsuiker. “We have out-of-thebox solutions, because we understand that every business need is different.”


SINGAPORE BUSINESS REVIEW | DECEMBER 2021

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EVENT COVERAGE: LIVE FIRESIDE CHAT

RISE with SAP: How SDT helps businesses transform data with maximum flexibility A live fireside chat on RISE with SAP and S/4HANA revealed how selective data transformation (SDT) can help customers make such important leaps when it comes to data with SAP.

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n today’s world, with so much data floating around that can be helpful in making insights and decisions, it is important that businesses be able to select, harmonise, and transform that data in a way that would create value without too much process downtime or disruption. In a live fireside chat on RISE with SAP and S/4HANA Accelerated with Selective Data Transformation held on Monday, 5 July, the five panelists, namely SAP’s Chern-Chuen Khor, Datavard’s Ulf Spies, SNP Group’s Gerald Faust, cbs Corporate Business Solutions APAC’s Holger Bock, and Natuvion APJ’s Chris Schroefl revealed how selective data transformation (SDT) can help customers make such important leaps when it comes to data with SAP. Multiple steps, one project The SAP S/4HANA SDT is an alternative to a system conversion and new implementation to SAP S/4HANA which merges the benefits of both the greenfield and brownfield approaches without 44

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We are operating under one purpose, to facilitate business transformation, and help customers increase flexibility, speed, and agility with lower risks

their respective limitations. Through SDT, a company can reduce the data footprint by flexibly selecting and focusing on moving relevant data, said Faust, managing director and CEO of SNP for Asia Pacific Japan. “SDT combines multiple steps into one project—for example, enhancement upgrades and accelerates the move into new infrastructures, whilst minimising downtimes. The software-centric approach simplifies complexity with up to 70% reduction in project cost, time, and effort,” he explained. The most flexible approach SDT is not just an exclusive approach, stated Natuvion APJ CEO and Co-founder Schroefl, but it can also complement greenfield and brownfield approaches. He added that SDT is by far the most flexible approach for customised solutions and system configurations. Bock, managing director cbs, APAC also stated that applying the SDT approach while considering business process harmonisation generates additional

value from the S/4HANA journey, not just from the new S/4HANA functionalities. However, it should not be an option if a customer is not up to date with the EHP upgrades, if certain functions cannot be deactivated, if one wants to leave organisational units behind, or if one wants to use current systems as re-accelerators, Schroefl said. Additionally, applying selective data transition enables an organisation to achieve nearzero downtime, especially when migrating extensive data systems, Holger said. For Spies, managing director of Datavard APJ, SDT strikes a balance between different approaches, helps move historic data selectively with minimum business disruption, and merges multiple systems in one whole environment. How SDT delivers promised value to customers Holger mentioned that a global manufacturing customer had to harmonise their finance environment end-to-end when moving to the S/4HANA cloud environment. With harmonisation and corrected data, business values are generated. With so much historical data that can be of value in the future, Faust assured that SDT can reduce downtimes or disruptions in order not to sacrifice essential time and resources that will be lost once the business is stopped. “We are operating under one purpose, to deliver value to customers and facilitate business transformation, harmonise the use of data, minimise business disruptions, and help customers increase flexibility, speed, and agility with lower risks as they move to S/4HANA and Cloud,” Khor stated.


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EVENT COVERAGE: RISE WITH SAP

Beyond productivity: Automation boosts cost efficiencies, employee satisfaction, CX In a market that increasingly requires on-demand services, organisations can adopt intelligent robotic process automation (RPA), a software technology that automates rules-based actions performed on a computer.

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n this virtual roundtable, hosted and moderated by Singapore Business Review’s Contributing Editor Simon Hyett, it was discussed how organisations can benefit from SAP Intelligent RPA (SAP iRPA). Forming the panel of speakers are industry leaders from Cloud4C, an SAP service provider: Aseem Gupta, Head of SAP Business; Sunil KP, RPA Practice Head; and Hemant Rachh, GTM Lead, APJ & GC, Intelligent RPA; and Kamalakar Gunupati. VP – SAP Engineering, Automation, & Delivery. Cloud4C is a cloud- and platform-agnostic service provider with headquarters in India and with offices in 25 countries. Under the RISE with SAP service, SAP iRPA is an automation suite that uses software robots to replace repetitive, computer-based human tasks, such as clicking, interpreting text communications, or making suggestions. Business automation RISE with SAP is a fully managed and cloud-based business transformation service that, according to the SAP website, guides the journey toward a digitally intelligent organisation. Using the SAP S/4HANA Cloud as the software for this automation, “the implementation will eliminate repetitive efforts of old legacy systems and will enable significant gain in business performance,” said Aseem Gupta, Head of SAP Business at Cloud4C. “The orchestration and monitoring are on the cloud, which gives a business complete scalability. You can start with one bot today, you may have 100 bots tomorrow. You need not worry because central orchestration and monitoring are on cloud. The execution is on-premise with a lightweight desktop agent as an application. It’s completely secure. All your business data remains within 46

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Using the SAP S/4HANA Cloud will eliminate repetitive efforts of old legacy systems and will enable significant gain in business performance

your IT landscape,” added Hemant Rachh, GTM Lead, APJ & GC, Intelligent RPA. According to Kamalakar Gunupati, “everything we perform is based on... standard operating procedure (SOP). Each service request, task, and activity is tagged on the SOP, and completely automated or semi automated. As soon as the ticket or a service request lands, the scanner scans it, identifies and performs the activity if it’s completely automated.” He also said that the SAP iRPA features a Self-healing Operational Platform (SHOP), down to the smallest microservice. At any given moment, the AI and machine learning algorithms have the ability to scan more than 10 million checkpoints in Cloud4C and SAP’s data to find and correct any deviations whether it is related to security, managed services, cloud integration, or infrastructure, among others. These microserves “are actually helping us achieve our goal of minimal human touch.” Starting an automation journey When starting the automation journey, Sunil Kumar explained

that the most important element is understanding the business of the customer. Once the customer provides a goal, the service provider develops a feasibility study that highlights the automation architecture and viability, and its corresponding benefits. Once the study is validated by the client, a proof of concept is performed for one of the processes and demonstrated to the customer. “The desired results can be achieved within six weeks to six months, based on the number of processes,” he said. Kamalakar Gunupati added that intelligence monitoring or predictive health checks are automatically enabled, using all logs captured from all systems, not just the SAP. This enables the service provider to develop self-healing procedures. “If for some reason an application went down, it used to be manually brought up, which used to take about 10 to 20 minutes. Now with our box and with SHOP, it automatically starts up within two to three minutes,” Kamalakar Gunupati said. There is no question that automation is the way to go if a business wants to grow, and Aseem Gupta does not see roadblocks


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OPINION

JOEL NEOH

Finding the silver lining in Singapore’s retail story

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JOEL NEOH Chief Executive Officer, Fave

ales have plunged between 30 to 70 per cent for some local retailers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Singapore Retailers Association, prompting many to pivot and turn to alternative solutions. During the Great Singapore Sale shopping festival from June to July for instance, the Singapore Retailers Association partnered with e-commerce site Lazada in efforts to boost online turnovers. There has been a major impact on the consumer’s behaviour as well. A Visa study conducted in September last year found that three in four Singaporeans are shopping online more frequently as compared to the pre-pandemic period. Against this backdrop of changing consumer behaviour of shopping online and the dwindling footfalls in shopping malls due to various restrictions, several other retail trends are fast-emerging. From offering Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services to adopting contactless payment solutions, retailers are increasingly relying on innovative fintech products such as contactless QR code payments to turn the tide in their favour. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, there are silver linings to be found within the retail space. Retailers in Singapore can look to these industry trends as they adapt and strategise to stay ahead of the game.

segments, resulting in potentially huge turnarounds. For example, it is easy to upsell a tie to someone who regularly purchases shirts by presenting it as a combo offer. Retailers thus stand to gain from capturing data insights and thereafter mixing up their pricing and marketing strategies to effectively target existing and potential customers.

#1. Drive sales by offering the BNPL option at checkout BNPL is fast-emerging as a popular option for consumers who are wary of spending in these times of economic uncertainty. In fact, 43 per cent consumers in the Asia Pacific region would be willing to increase spending by at least 15 per cent if they were to pay in instalments, according to a research by Mastercard. BNPL offers consumers the convenience to pay later for purchases by spreading out costs over several months without accruing interest fee. With instant paperless approvals, BNPL purchases are more palatable to consumers. The BNPL option at checkout increases the likelihood of consumers expediting the buying decision. The flexibility of BNPL is especially useful during periods of economic uncertainty, such as in the current pandemic, when consumers may be hesitant to pay in a lump sum for their purchases due to cash flow and budget concerns.

#4 Easing into the sustainability movement Sustainable consumption is all the rage these days. About 60 per cent of consumers in Singapore prefer socially-conscious brands and would like brands to be more environment-friendly and sustainable. What may be lesser known to consumers and merchants, however, is the behind-the-scenes support of digital payments in sustainable consumption. From digital onboarding to using QR code payments, digital payments and solutions are helping encourage sustainable consumption. Consumers can also opt for digital receipts instead of requiring merchants to print hard copies, reducing costs downstream. A plus for retailers, and testament that not all digital solutions need to be expensive. Going green is a win-win-win situation for consumers, retailers, and the environment. By actively pivoting to environment-friendly business practices, retailers can avoid missing out on potential customer revenue and it might even lead to business growth.

#2. Tapping on to the power of data An important question for retailers to ask themselves is: how well do I know my customers? Data analytics is quickly emerging as the X factor to create, monitor, and optimise your marketing strategies to boost your retail sales. Using patterns and insights derived from point-of-sale data analysis, retailers can effectively deploy the right pricing strategies and offer personalised discounts. Additionally, understanding consumer spending patterns will enable retailers to intelligently upsell products to varied customer 48

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#3. Focusing on personalised customer engagement experiences Customer is king in retail, and businesses need to do all they can to maintain customer loyalty and woo new prospects, especially following a prolonged period of lockdown. Increasing customer retention by just five per cent can boost profits by 25 to 95 per cent, according to Bain & Company. Companies hence need to invest and focus on curating more personalised customer engagement experiences. A mix of new-age loyalty and reward programmes with fintech will hence take centre stage, evolving into deeper, more personalised customer engagement experiences. From matching consumer preferences with intelligent buying patterns, to tapping on innovative technologies such as AI-driven AR to offer virtual dressing rooms, the opportunities are boundless – if retailers are able to think bold and think ahead.

Dark clouds shall pass You would probably have seen various mega sale campaigns for the upcoming 10.10 season. The year-end shopping season in Singapore is upon us, and retailers have ample opportunities to up their game and be bold in trying innovative strategies. In these challenging times, customers appreciate engaging interactions and seamless shopping experiences. To that end, innovative fintech solutions will go a long way in helping retailers unlock competitive advantages.




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