Each month, the British Chamber asks for member company comments on a specific topic, for publication in the Orient magazine. Comments below may be re-published only with the Chamber's consent and quotation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
The British Chamber's network of member companies covers a fascinating and diverse scope of industries and business interests. As we start the new year together, we invited our members to share their perceptions of the key priorities, opportunities and challenges for their industry or sector in 2019. What keeps them awake, and what has them enthusiastically brainstorming for their business?
Alan Stevens, Master, Marlborough College Malaysia
As the fireworks faded and the New Year celebrations subsided, 2019 began in controversy and antagonism over Trump’s wall, May’s Brexit, the Cino-US trade war and the potential for global economic headwinds. Every parent wonders how we can best prepare our children for uncertain times. The answer lies in enabling them to do those things that are of enduring value and that machines cannot do. In addition to teaching linear knowledge, schools must require lateral thinking; creativity becomes increasingly important. The schools that are future-proof will adopt a curriculum and a culture that are designed not just to drill candidates narrowly towards grades, but which prioritises courage, integrity, teamwork, communication, empathy and confidence. It may be too late for interns to begin from scratch, so producing a generation of schoolchildren with such an outlook will provide tomorrow’s leaders with the edge that will serve society.
Graham Silverthorne, Head of Campus, UWCSEA (East)
What keeps me awake at night is thinking about the opportunity for developmental transformation. The education industry has to date been largely unaffected by the onset of the 4th Industrial revolution during a period where industries like the music, newspaper and media more broadly and travel have been disrupted beyond recognition. Without doubt, major change is coming to Schools and Universities and the emergent agent is technology. What I think about at night is how we keep ahead of the changes, take advantage of the progress of other industries and continue to offer relevant, viable and sustainable frameworks for learning. This is thinking that is fascinating, exciting, terrifying - and not in any way optional. We will always need education but we may not always need schools - or certainly not in the form that they exist today. I think all sensible schools are thinking: 'what next'? This does keep me awake at night.
Jay Thompson, Director of Educational Technology and Innovation, Dulwich College (Singapore)
We see an opportunity in developing student competency in an ever-changing digital landscape so that students are prepared for an indefinable future. Technology is progressing rapidly, bringing new opportunities for employment, communication, health and leisure. As a result, schools are being pushed to evolve their practices and future-proof students for an uncertain future. Looking forward, artificial intelligence will offer fantastic opportunities for providing personalised educational experiences; with learning happening on demand and tailored to each individual’s needs. New methods of communication will enable students to collaborate more widely, leaving the confines of the school through virtual reality and connected devices. Technology will also place more emphasis on student being creators rather than consumers, with schools shifting from purveyors of knowledge to globally connected think tanks. With access to ever greater quantities of information, more importance will be placed on creative thinking, complex problem solving and STEAM with students viewing, creating and manipulating data at its origin. Traditional content will be transformed into interactive, open-ended inquiries which allow students to work alongside mentors to examine information and create meaningful social change. The future might be uncertain but the opportunity to prepare our students for the future is an incredibly exciting challenge.
Wanying Lim, Relationship Manager, Julius Baer
The past 10 years were phenomenal for investing. Global equities doubled in value while bonds rose by a third. At the same time, volatility and rates dropped to historic lows. Yet in the past few months, these trends have seen somewhat of a reversal. Tightening financial conditions, a stronger US dollar and a more volatile political setting have led to higher volatility across all asset classes. What can we expect in 2019 and where can investors generate returns? From today’s perspective, the Fed softening will be the story of the first half of 2019, while China’s stimulus may become more relevant in the second half. China’s monetary easing and tax reform could set the stage for a more meaningful recovery. In the meantime, the reaction to the recent crash is key. We continue to see the current formation as a cyclical bear market in a long-term bull market, with upside in the weeks ahead.
Matthew Lempriere, Head of Asia Pacific & Middle East, BSO
One of the biggest challenges for financial services firms this year will be to change their business models to incorporate the rise of new digital assets and new technologies, such as distributed ledgers. The latter allows multiple parties to simultaneously access a central database which is updated in real-time, making the exchange of information more secure, accurate and efficient. As a result, financial firms will have to change how they operate and how they use, store and interact with data. The technology is developing quickly so it is important for firms to maintain flexibility and use infrastructure which can be easily changed and scaled up, while not compromising on high levels of performance, stability and security. Another challenge is to maintain access to liquidity as markets have become more volatile. Again, it is important to have the right technology in place to be able to connect to the right markets at the right time. In an uncertain world, the certainty of having the right technology infrastructure helps firms sleep at night.
Ash Tong, Asia Pacific Consulting Services & Business Development, JDX Consulting
With the continuous introduction of new regulations and tighter deadlines for compliance, financial institutions are now required to collect significantly more data and documentation than before. This has been the main driver for a focus on Client Lifecycle Management (CLM), the concept of managing a bank client from onboarding all the way through to offboarding. The main challenge of this space comes down to data fragmentation due to inconsistent operational procedures across a global landscape. The outcome is significant spending on correcting inefficient processes, by creating large scale business transformation and automation programs, or indeed increasing headcount in operational teams. At JDX our 2019 is focused on building on the momentum we have seen in 2018. Our priority is to continue to provide expertise in the introduction of strategic solutions. This could be anything from building more stringent KYC processes, data remediation teams or new scalable sustainable technological workflows.
Sam Mudie, General Manager, Singapore, Cult Wines
We have been in business since 2007 and increasingly attracted clients from Singapore and the surrounding ASEAN region. Historically these relationships have been managed from our offices in London and Hong Kong. Given the market appetite for wine investment, and to better support our customers, it was a natural move to set up here in late 2018. Key priorities for 2019 include growing our relationships with both domestic and regional clients, further extending our service offering and to develop our partnerships with a range of family offices, wealth mangers and banks. The global economic outlook for 2019 has some challenges however we see many as opportunities specifically around portfolio diversification, strong and consistent performance of investment grade wine and the increasing local knowledge of the global fine wine market. The continued strength of the Singapore economy gives us great confidence to grow our business during 2019 and beyond.
Paul Kelleher, Corporate Relations Lead, Asia Pacific, Diageo
We at Diageo are excited about the continued growth potential across Asia as the region represents about one third of global beverage alcohol sales and enjoys strong demographic fundamentals, accounting for about a quarter of global legal drinking age population growth. The strong urbanisation trends and emerging middle-class is seeing consumers getting more exposed to international brands like Johnnie Walker, Singleton or Tanqueray and premiumisation trends are particularly strong. We see a real opportunity in the premium and prestige spaces where people are drinking better, not more, and we couldn’t be happier. Last year we kicked off a global conversation about #DrinkPositive within Diageo, starting with our own employees. Drink Positive means being proud of how our products are made, marketed, and most of all, the enjoyment they bring. We all have a role to play in promoting moderation and encouraging friends and family to drink better, not more.
Dominic Wrench, Associate, Taylor Vinters
The exciting opportunities that access to developing ‘LegalTech’, the use of automation, and exploitation of artificial intelligence bring to the legal sector means that 2019 will be another year of flux. Those involved in the legal sector (not just lawyers!), are being driven to be more cost and time efficient and it is likely that those organisations that embrace the opportunities, rather than resist change, will likely see the greatest development in 2019 and longevity in the future. Singapore is one of the countries taking the lead in the digital transformation of the legal sector, which means that it’s a great place to be in 2019 for organisations willing to innovate!
As Singapore bolsters its position as a leading legal centre and global arbitration hub, Reed Smith is seeing more demand for transactional, regulatory and arbitration support across its core areas of practice especially in Energy and Natural Resources and Shipping. The firm had a positive 2018, having made strategic hires to strengthen its service offering and moving into a larger office space to accommodate its growing team of diverse legal practitioners.
To adapt to today’s dynamic market, Reed Smith is committed to advancing legal innovation to transform processes and provide services that add value to its clients. The firm recognises the growing threats faced by its clients in an era of digital disruption and the greater need to support our clients as they navigate through these transitions. Therefore, the firm has looked to bolster its IP, Tech and Data practice in Southeast Asia including through strategic hires in Singapore.
Aya Alimkulova, Corporate Account Manager, Pacific Prime
2019 is set to be a challenging yet fruitful year within the international health insurance and employee benefits industries. Pacific Prime is focusing on a number of important trends in the coming year:
- New compliance and insurance regulatory concerns in various jurisdictions worldwide.
- Addressing the increasing demand from corporate clients for more comprehensive and flexible employee benefits and wellness plans, while also balancing the demand for simpler, more easy to use products.
- Premium inflation will continue to be an ongoing concern for insurers and brokers alike this year, as companies attempt to innovate without losing a balance between cost and service.
- Safe IT systems and data protection are now more important than ever in the insurance industry. People have high expectations about their privacy, and governments are going to great lengths to punish lax handling of personal data. Cyber security is also gaining prominence for insurers, brokers, and clients alike.
Stephen McNulty, President, Asia Pacific, Micro Focus
Global businesses struggle to get in the driver’s seat with new age of data privacy regulations. With GDPR privacy enforcement in effect, many organizations remain behind the curve on meeting the compliance deadline, wondering whether penalties for failure will have real teeth, while in parallel not knowing where to start on their compliance journey or whether they will pass the next audit. Globally, many countries are following suit with their own variations of requirements to protect consumer data, such as Philippines’ DPA and China’s Personal Information Security Specification. Will these standards create conflicts or offer synergies when implementing a universal privacy program? How does a global organization meet the definitions for protection across inconsistent mandates? How can every bit of sensitive data be discovered, classified and protected according to a wide range of rules? 2019 may be a year of reckoning for many, but organisations with clear plans executed to make privacy a priority may find that getting ahead of consumer privacy yields new business values.
Ian Jones, Chief Strategy Officer, AMPLYFI
Our own machine-driven predictions for 2019 indicate that, whilst artificial intelligence (AI) is positioned to impact across the board, its uptake is expected to vary significantly by industry, sector, and geography. Continued AI deployment in “behind the scenes” applications such as search engine optimisation, tailored adverts, condition monitoring, digital assistants etc is a given. Commercial traction in areas such as medical diagnosis and self-driving cars will remain challenging with major technical and regulatory hurdles still to overcome. The major growth opportunities for AI lie in big data and predictive analytics, especially in enabling smarter, faster commercial decision making and improving productivity. In leading the emerging Business Intelligence 4.0 phenomenon, AMPLYFI understands that success in this space is dependent on building users’ trust in machines by developing transparent, auditable, and intuitive platforms. This is critical to engaging and empowering multiple user communities across organisations and maximising the value-add of AI.
Dennis Heath, Managing Director & Senior Management Coach, WayAhead Leadership Solutions
The talent shortage in Singapore is becoming increasingly acute. The need to retain and develop existing talent is an imperative for companies to stay competitive. Hygiene factors of pay, working conditions and benefits are without question an essential element of retention, however, it is effective leadership that determines whether an organisation thrives or decays in these challenging times. In many organisations, employee development schemes are aplenty up to middle management level, on the assumption that senior managers must be exemplary in their leadership skills and therefore do not need further development. Whilst this may be a correct assumption in some cases, it misses the point. Organisations embracing a sustainable growth strategy must by default be a learning organisation, including senior management. John F. Kennedy once said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." What is your organisation doing to help your senior managers be the best they can be?
Kris Sasitharan, Managing Director, Ren Advisory
Peer coaching is the process whereby two or more individuals of relatively equal status get together and help improve one another’s development. Peer coaching can be more than just a catalyst for culture change – it can be part of the culture change itself. Peer coaching isn’t a new phenomenon - over the decades the nomenclature may have changed. In the end however, it is a resonant, sustainable relationship between individuals - a form of friendship. It creates a knowledge-sharing organisation whereby people learn from & support each other – collaboration as opposed to management by conflict. Implemented well, this emotional bond created by Peer Coaching aids the facilitation of culture change. Consequently, the organization benefits from more innovation, adaptability, better performance, and a more engaged workforce. In contrast, organizational task groups typically aren’t focused on building emotional bonds amongst group members. This may be one reason why they encounter challenges as they’re more outcome focused – and by default, short-term in outlook.
Mark Stuart, Head Trainer, Anagram Group
The corporate training industry is at a crossroads as it struggles to identify its place in a changing corporate environment, stuck between leveraging advanced technologies, and the benefits of in-person classroom training. L&D departments are rapidly increasing the amount of online training so their employees can learn in their own time, however question marks remain on its effectiveness and engagement. At Anagram Group, we’re constantly trying to stay relevant to our clients and adding maximum value. Doing the same as we did two years ago won’t cut it, so our focus is currently on corporate innovation and looking at the future of leadership. We’re very much focussed on preparing leaders for the future of work in a way that ensures knowledge retention and provides them with practical skills that they can use immediately.
Helen Coult, Director, Asia Pacific, Armstrong Craven
We are already seeing increasing demand from multinational corporations to enable them to put in place strategic plans to identify and attract the best local talent. There is a desire to move away from an over dependence on expat talent in favour of developing and promoting home-grown candidates for a range of senior roles. In a number of South East Asian new market entries, an expat may have been installed as a country leader in the first instance but with the objective of ensuring that local talent is brought through as part of the company’s succession planning. Such an approach can give the best of both worlds. It allows the organisation to know it has a good person in the role with immediate effect but, secondly, it presents an opportunity for the expat to pass on skills and knowledge to locals. A growing number of our talent mapping and pipelining projects are focused on helping MNCs achieve the right blend of expat and local talent and we expect this to continue to be the case throughout 2019.
John Bittleston, Founder, Mentor & Executive Chair, Terrific Mentors International
As the pace of change quickens and technology increasingly dictates how we work I find it strange that management practices do not also change to reflect the required new styles and standards of business and personal interaction. Running a company seems to be stuck in the Drucker age. The Business schools are still teaching case histories of a sort and in a way nobody actually working would dream of handling an opportunity or a problem. Quite simply, the aspirations of an improved, more society-based capitalism are talked about but honoured only in the breach. What is needed now is a fundamental restatement of the responsibilities of all organisations for the planet, its inhabitants (human and otherwise), its future and its potential. As Yuval Noah Harari says 'Homo Deus is upon us'. How shall we equip ourselves to be ready to be that person?
Andie Rees, Managing Partner, South East Asia, Odgers Berndtson
Change has always been the only constant. However, in 2019 the pace of change will be unprecedented. Technology now drives every sector that we operate in - industrial, consumer, technology, life sciences and financial services. Demographic changes create challenges as well as growth. China’s changing economy throws up risk, uncertainty and growth opportunities. Our challenge is to support our clients to appoint leaders with an agile mind-set. Hiring leaders for their mind-set over the traditional criteria of skill-set will provide companies with critical edge, not just to survive disruption but to capitalise on it. Coupled with this, we have an opportunity to vastly diversify the pool of leadership talent with both emerging senior local talent and the rapidly growing cohort of women leaders.
Lynne Geeves, Director, Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings
Helping wary investors find opportunities in the middle of uncertainty is bound to keep us busy through 2019 and beyond. The London housing market has understandably slowed as businesses wait to find out what exactly the UK’s relationship with the EU will be. We’re confident that London-based sectors with global connections, such as banking and higher education will be flexible enough to offset any loss of European trade and stimulate recovery. An increase in available properties for sale is also having a cooling effect on the London sales market, but a relatively weak pound coupled with lower prices should result in us finding some good opportunities for investors as new rental hotspots are becoming commercial hubs in their own right. We’re optimistic that they’ll attract young professionals, who have traded their desire for starter homes for “lifestyle rentals” that offer convenient transport links and good quality on-site facilities.
Randal Jones, Global Sector Leader, Built Environment, Mott MacDonald
One of our key 2019 priorities is the ongoing pursuit and development of digital and data solutions for our clients across all aspects of the built environment. The explosion of data driven applications and digital technologies over the last five years is transforming the way we develop our built environment in a sustainable way, radically changing how we deliver outcomes for clients. Great progress made in recent years will continue through investment in our people, our systems and tools to deliver smarter through automation, coding, machine learning, data analytics, generative design, model-based toolsets and computational modelling. We are witnessing a rapid rise in the industry adoption of more productive approaches to infrastructure delivery, such as DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) alongside the deployment of virtual teams of global practitioners on local projects using common digital and data environments that bring real-time, global sharing and collaboration with delivery partners. It is an incredibly exciting time given the speed of the transition and endless innovation opportunities which are unleashing the potential of our people.
Max Loh, EY Asean & Singapore Managing Partner, Ernst & Young LLP
The acceleration of change and scale of disruption from digitalization, globalization and other forces means organizations have to transform to thrive. Our challenge and opportunity is to help our clients tackle the profound impact of such change on their business – and likewise on ours. As such, innovating how we work, how we serve our clients, and the services and solutions we bring to the market has and will continue to be a major focus. We look at innovation holistically, exploring opportunities to leverage emerging technologies to drive impact and efficiency in every function of our business. For example, we have invested in a new globally connected EY wavespace innovation center in Singapore that brings together technologists, business strategists and experience designers to address transformational opportunities for clients using technologies like intelligent automation. How we marry “suits” and “jeans” in professional services to serve our clients and to that end, attract the right mix of multi-generational and multi-disciplinary talent will be a constant priority.
Simon McKenzie, Client Director, BRIDGE Partnership
At BRIDGE, we believe that for an organisation to deliver on shareholder value and be a stronger force for good it needs to have more than just a brand statement – it must live a meaningful purpose and truly connect with this in all its activities, from strategy to culture, inside and outside the business. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals offer companies an astounding business opportunity that extends prosperity to all, helps rebuild trust with society, and is valued at US$12 trillion in new business opportunities by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission. Unsurprisingly, more and more pioneering leaders are focussing in on their purpose. We are dedicating 2019 to helping companies unearth this purpose, becoming more conscious yet profitable. We guide Executive Teams willing to go on this journey, to have a profound, positive impact on the wider world, and develop the organisational mindset and capability to make this a reality.