How 3 Singapore travel companies stayed afloat when their entire business model disappeared overnight

An empty road outside of Singapore's Changi airport during the pandemic
“Overnight, bookings came to a standstill,” said Jess Yap, one of the founders of travel agency Intriq Journey, which launched in Singapore last January.

  • Singapore’s borders have been closed since March 2020, and it has virtually no domestic travel.
  • We spoke to three local tour operators to see how they survived the pandemic.
  • One company said they pivoted to local experiences, but they only pull in 50% of their pre-pandemic revenue.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Singapore closed its borders in March 2020, the number of visitors to the island plunged 99% from what it was the previous year. Then came the cancelation requests.

“Around 70% of our bookings were cancelled, and 30% were postponed,” said Krystal Tan, director of Blue Sky Escapes, a local travel company known for crafting off-the-beaten-path experiences in destinations like Bhutan and Peru.

She wasn’t alone.

“Overnight, bookings came to a standstill,” said Jess Yap, one of the founders of travel agency Intriq Journey, which launched in Singapore last January.

Thanks to the border closures brought on by the pandemic, travel operators around the world were forced to find new revenue streams. This was especially true for those in the business of planning overseas travel – and, by extension, for travel operators in Singapore. The city-state, which is the size of New York City, has virtually no domestic travel.

Insider spoke with three Singapore travel companies to find out how they stayed afloat when their core business offering disappeared.

New ways to discover Singapore

Pre-pandemic, bespoke luxury travel specialist Quotient Travel was known for long-haul, multi-country holidays that could include a visit to the Sahara Desert or a meal at three-Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.

Javiny Lim, the cofounder and managing director of Quotient Travel, said the travel company usually sells 150 holidays a year. In Q2 last year, it had zero bookings.

Quotient Travel has since designed eight new tours. Some of those, like the “Eat, Pray, Love at Balestier” ($71 per person), take you to iconic landmarks and hidden finds alike, such as one of the last remaining traditional bakeries and coffee roasters in Singapore.

Others, like The Great Singapore Road Trip, draw inspiration from iconic holidays in places like New Zealand and Japan. The Singapore road trip is a two-day, self-drive itinerary at $5 per person encompassing local “national parks” (Singapore does not have designated national parks), a former Grand Prix street circuit, and a seaside lunch in a neoclassical home built in 1910.

A post shared by Quotient Travel (@quotienttravelplanner)

Blue Sky Escapes, too, offers new ways of exploring Singapore.

One popular option is a tour through Singapore’s last kampung (village) in Lorong Buangkok ($315 for up to five persons), a quaint hodgepodge of zinc-roofed homes – complete with kitchen gardens and strolling chickens – that defy time.

“It’s home to 29 families – most of the residents don’t speak English or even own a mobile phone,” said Tan. “It’s a wonderful chance to step back in time and understand what ‘kampung spirit’ is truly about.”

Blue Sky Escapes has also found a niche with its wellness retreats, which debuted in January. Among these is a three-day, two-night retreat from $2,590 per person that claims to help guests “find themselves” through stillness and meditation. Held at Villa Samadhi, a restored century-old mansion in Labrador nature reserve, each retreat includes embodied movement and sound healing.

A post shared by Blue Sky Escapes (@bluesky.escapes)

New audiences and shorter experiences

When Singapore’s travel bubble with Hong Kong was called off for the first time in November, Yap of Intriq Journey realized she needed to “do more than just [sell] staycations and cruises-to-nowhere.”

She also found herself having to re-examine her target client: The industry veteran works with clients who typically spend $10,000-$12,000 per person, per trip.

A post shared by Intriq Journey (@intriqjourney)

Last year, she changed her approach and launched “virtual trips” from $80 per person. One of those trips was a two-day virtual trip to Beijing and Chengdu that Intriq Journey created for a local college. Virtually, the students visited the Great Wall of China and explored Chengdu’s vibrant street food scene.

“It’s not a pre-recorded presentation. There’s an actual guide, a host,” said Yap, who added that guests can interact with guides and meet new people in real time. “It’s real life, straight from the location.”

Lim said Quotient Travel’s usual budget guidance for a European holiday for a couple is $750 per person, per day. That number is significantly lower now, she added.

“The main change across all tours for us would be a broader client segment,” said Lim.

A blow to an already-struggling industry

The pandemic is a further blow to an industry that was already under pressure.

In a Q3 2019 GlobalData survey, only 17% of global respondents said they booked with an in-store travel agent. Despite this, travel agencies in Singapore have remained relatively resilient throughout the pandemic. According to TTG Asia, only 38 of the 137 travel agents that closed in the city-state between February 2020 and May 2021 cited the pandemic as a reason for ceasing operations.

This is largely thanks to the Singapore government’s efforts to support the local tourism industry. These include wage subsidies, waiving license fees, and allocating $320 million in vouchers for citizens to spend on local hotels and attractions.

All three Singapore-based agencies Insider spoke with said they did not downsize their teams, although pay cuts were part of all their business continuity plans.

Lim said Quotient Travel implemented a three-day workweek and pay cuts of up to 25% over the last 15 months. Tan and her husband (who is also her business partner) stopped drawing salaries for a year. At one point, Tan’s sales team pivoted into events programming and content marketing, while Lim said her company branched out into an online luxury jewellery store.

“It was especially challenging to have to show up each day without fail – through the bad times – ready to lead and prop up team morale and navigate such a precarious, uncertain environment. We were in full beta mode with no clarity on what might stick,” said Tan.

Still, the new experiences are a far cry from the revenue the companies usually rake in.

Tan said new experiences cover about 50% of Blue Sky Escapes’ typical revenue. Lim said Quotient Travel’s local tours account for less than 1% of its typical revenue.

Yap said the next six months will be particularly challenging as the government’s wage support scheme ends in September. She remains hopeful that some form of leisure travel will resume by the last quarter of this year, as at least three quarters of Singapore’s population is slated to be vaccinated by then.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A day in the life of a Twitter exec in Singapore, who fits in an hour of ‘me time’ during his workday and doesn’t plan on going back to the office full-time

twitter executive arvinder gujral sits at desk in home office
Arvinder Gujral doesn’t plan on going back to the office full-time post-pandemic.

  • Arvinder Gujral is Twitter’s managing director for Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.
  • Gujral says he developed a healthier lifestyle in the pandemic and he doesn’t plan on going back to the office full-time.
  • He fits in a workout before his morning meetings and sets aside an hour each day to read or write fiction.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Arvinder Gujral, 46, is Twitter’s managing director for Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.

twitter executive speaks into microphone onstage at event

He’s responsible for growing Twitter’s business across Southeast Asia and reports directly to Yu Sasamoto, the company’s vice president for the Japan, South Korea, and Asia Pacific region, according to a Twitter spokesperson. The spokesperson said it’s against company policy to disclose how many employees Gujral oversees.

Before joining Twitter in 2013, Gujral was the head of digital and innovation at Aircel, a telecom operator in India. He has also lived and worked in Silicon Valley.

Gujral told Insider that he’s started living a healthier lifestyle during the pandemic.

“Before the pandemic struck, I was on a plane almost every week — meaning irregular sleep, an unhealthy carb-led diet, drinking during weekdays, and no time to work out,” he said. “My current routine corrects all these mistakes made during my travels.”

When he returns to traveling for work again, Gujral says he will bring his healthy lifestyle with him. Still, he said he can’t wait to visit his teams in the region to share a coffee “or something stronger” with them in person.

Here’s a peek into Gujral’s daily routine in Singapore, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

6:30 a.m: On a typical work day, Gujral wakes up at about 6:30 a.m. so that he and his wife can get their two sons – aged 14 and seven – ready for school.

twitter executive Arvinder Gujral smiles while his son hugs him
Gujral gets a hug from his son.

First, he checks his notifications on his phone and does a quick scan through Twitter.

He and his wife make sure their sons have their breakfast, shower, and are on the school bus by 7:30 a.m.

“This is almost always followed by a huge collective sigh of relief — it’s usually a last minute sprint down to the bus stop,” Gujral said.

Once the kids are out the door, Gujral sits down on the couch to drink his “daily magic potion,” a protein shake breakfast made with cacao, protein, banana, peanut butter, and Greek yogurt.

protein shake sitting on table with tv in the background

“I typically enjoy my breakfast while switching between Bloomberg, CNBC, and CNA on the television,” he said.

8 a.m: Gujral does his morning workout, usually alternating between yoga and a home dumbbell gym routine.

twitter executive Arvinder Gujral works out with dumbbell at home

“Yoga is a relatively recent addition to my life (all credit to my wife), and it has really helped me manage the various aches and pains channel ling throughout my decaying (!), worn-out body,” Gujral said.

The dumbbell is the only home gym investment he’s made since Singapore’s coronavirus lockdown, but it allows him to work out almost every part of his body at home, he said.

While he works out, Gujral listens to podcasts instead of music. 

“I am a firm believer in ‘continuous learning’ and I use this time to learn about philosophy, astronomy, anthropology, history, as well as occasionally mixing it up with plain old fiction thrillers,” he said.

Some of his favorites include “The Daily” from The New York Times, “Against The Rules” by Michael Lewis, “The Seen And The Unseen” by Amit Varma, and “Throughline” and “Planet Money” by NPR.

 

After the workout, it’s time to get to work in his home office, which he converted from a guest bedroom when Twitter employees started working from home in March 2020.

a laptop sits on a desk with bookshelves and a window in the background

Twitter provided a budget for all global employees to set up a home office, so Gujral bought an office desk and ergonomic chair (helpful for his lower back issues), a printer, and a standing desk.

“I share this room with my younger son whose study desk is also in the same room, so you can imagine taking calls becomes quite a challenge on days when he is home,” Gujral said.

Before the pandemic, Gujral said he liked to keep his work and home worlds separate.

“Now that the inter-mix has happened there is no going back,” he said. “While I miss the serendipity that an office environment provides, I don’t see myself going back full-time to the office in the near-term.”

9 a.m: After a quick shower, it’s time for the first virtual meeting of the day.

screenshot of virtual team meeting

It’s with the board of Interactive Advertising Bureau Southeast Asia and India (IAB SEA+India), of which he’s a member. 

Gujral’s next virtual engagement is moderating an “inclusive marketing” webinar panel with Campaign Asia, a magazine that covers the marketing and advertising industry in Asia.

screenshot of three people speaking on inclusive marketing webinar

His fellow panelists include the Global CMO of Dole and the Chief Investment Officer of media agency Mindshare. The marketing community still has “much more distance to cover” in diversity and inclusion, Gujral said.

11 a.m.: Gujral has two more morning meetings: One is a sales finance meeting, where they review plans for the upcoming quarter, and the other is with Twitter’s product lead for the region.

screenshot of virtual meeting with smiling man with headphones

“Anyone else find that work definitions slowly end up creeping into family life?” Gujral said. “I have to admit, I’ve found myself talking in quarters even when talking to my wife about events in our life happening!”

12 p.m: Lunchtime. “For me the biggest gain from the current pandemic climate has been the ability to have lunch at home with my wife every day without the kids around,” Gujral said.

a bowl of grains, fruit, vegetables, and cheese on a table

Gujral said they like to keep lunch light and simple.

“There are times where our lunch is nothing more than a plate of fruits, an acai bowl, or just some baked veggies with a protein on the side,” he said.

12:30 p.m: “I use the hour between 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. as me-time,” Gujral said. This is usually when he reads or does some writing.

twitter executive Arvinder Gujral sits in a blue chair reading the new yorker

“Inspired by a virtual class on the ‘Art of Clear Writing,’ I’ve been exploring the ‘potential author’ in me (that’s been stated in my Twitter bio since 2008),” Gujral said.

He publishes some of his short stories on Substack.

1:30 – 5:30 p.m: The rest of the afternoon is taken up by a series of back-to-back meetings.

screenshot of virtual team meeting

In between meetings, Gujral gets what he says is his “one and only caffeine fix” of the day.

glass of chai and rusks on table

He enjoys an Indian chai tea, in which he dunks three measured rusks, an Indian crispbread snack.

After his meetings finish at 5:30 p.m., Gujral plays cricket with his seven-year-old son.

“I’ve devised a novel scoring system and our game becomes highly competitive,” Gujral said. “It’s incredible how much trash talk a seven-year old is capable of.”

6:30 p.m.: Gujral has dinner with his family, with a “no-phones-on-table” rule.

a plate of salmon and vegetables

“This is when we all catch up with each other and hear from our teenage son,” Gujral said. “Teenagers seemingly live in a parallel universe, operating on a completely different time zone, so my wife and I really treasure these moments when our two worlds collide.”

Their dinners typically fluctuate between Indian food like vegetable kebabs, palak paneer, lentils, and chicken curry, to non-Indian fare like roasted chicken, Tuscan butter salmon, or pasta, Gujral said. “I try to avoid carbs at dinner as much as possible,” he said.

After dinner, Gujral cuddles with his seven-year-old while reading him a book in bed — right now it’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” His son is tucked in for bed by 8 p.m.

8 – 9 p.m: After dinner, Gujral typically spends another hour working.

twitter executive arvinder gujral sits at desk in home office

He finishes up any final tasks and prepares for the following day.

After Gujral has wrapped up his work for the evening, he and his wife start their daily ritual of deciding which show to watch on which platform.

hand holding a kindle reader showing novel titled 'death in the east'

“Rom-com or thriller? To preserve my marriage of more than 20 years, I cannot reveal the victor,” Gujral said.

At 11 p.m., they head to bed.

“My bedtime routine after a shower has been the same for the last 20 years,” Gujral said. “Regardless of what time I go to bed, I must have a book in my hand. The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve replaced physical books with a Kindle since we’ve run out of space. We are a family of voracious readers.”

Gujral usually alternates between reading a thriller and a thought-provoking book. He recently finished “The Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafak and is now reading “Death in the East” by Abir Mukherjee. 

He reads for about 30 to 45 minutes before going to sleep.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How a Singapore-based founder launched a staycation app during the pandemic that lets people book up 5-star hotels’ empty pools and spas for day use

Fullerton Hotel Singapore aerial view
Singapore’s iconic Fullerton Hotel at twilight.

  • Martha Waslen launched staycation booking-app DayAway during the pandemic.
  • Waslen says one of the reasons she managed to bring it to fruition in under a year is because she launched it in Singapore.
  • “If I did this in New York, this would have been such a battle and I don’t know that I would have gotten to this point,” Waslen said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It’s happened to all of us: We think of a business idea, maybe tell a friend or two, then forget all about it.

Not Martha Waslen.

Fresh off Singapore’s “circuit breaker” last June, when borders were closed to foreign travelers, Waslen was strolling the grounds of one of her favorite hotels, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, when she noticed something.

“They have these amazing facilities, like a beautiful gym, spa, and pool – and there was nobody there,” said Waslen, who observed the same scenario at several other luxury hotels in the island nation.

At the time, the hybrid hospitality trend, which blends hotel and coworking spaces, was starting to take off in Europe and the US. But when Waslen, and her husband inquired about possible work from hotel arrangements, many hotels in Singapore said they weren’t set up for it yet.

This persuaded her there really was an untapped market opportunity, and, as Waslen told Insider, “things just snowballed from there.”

Targeting Singaporeans and expats who enjoy the finer things in life

DayAway, which soft-launched in April, allows users to discover, browse, and book daytime experiences at Singapore’s finest luxury hotels. The platform works with selected hotel partners to curate exclusive packages.

According to Waslen, DayAway’s proposition is timely because hotels have been trying to increase revenue generated by ancillary (non-room) inventory such as pools, gyms, restaurants, spas, and meeting venues for nearly a decade, but “either lacked the technology to sell these spaces effectively or the marketing channels to engage with the local community.”

DayAway’s partners include some of Singapore’s most iconic hotels, including the Raffles Hotel Singapore, The Fullerton Hotel & The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, and the Intercontinental Singapore and Fairmont Singapore. It currently partners with 10 hotels and aims to add 25 more by July. Right now, it’s free for all to use.

Among DayAway’s offerings is its Sling and Swim experience at Raffles Hotel Singapore. For $100, users get three hours of pool time, a $20 credit at the hotel’s Pool Bar, gym access, and a complimentary Singapore Sling. The experience, Waslen said, sold out within a day of launch.

The Afternoon Tea by the Bay package ($428) at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, meanwhile, offers a classic three-tier afternoon tea for two in the privacy of a Bay View room that overlooks the Singapore skyline. It also includes six-hour room access, a complimentary bottle of wine, and one hour access to the hotel’s infinity pool.

Raffles hotel in Singapore, courtyard view
The courtyard view of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

A one-stop shopping for curated experiences

One of the differentiators that sets DayAway apart from other platforms offering daytime experiences (such as Dayuse, Klook, or Daypass) is its branding, according to Waslen.

“We’re not a discount or voucher site. We built our platform to offer luxurious, elevated experiences so that our users can feel like they’re booking a really indulgent escape for themselves and their loved ones,” Waslen said.

A post shared by D A Y A W A Y (@dayaways)

DayAway operates on a B2B subscription model and can manage inventory and share analytics with its partner hotels, Waslen said.

Building a user-friendly inventory system was key because many hotels are saddled with rigid legacy systems that make incorporating new technology difficult. Often, the information about special experiences is buried deep within hotels’ websites.

“Whether they’re after a relaxing afternoon or a special event like a bridal shower or birthday celebration, DayAway helps our users do everything in one nicely packaged platform. They’re not going to want to go back to trawling through 50 websites for all that information,” said Waslen.

Currently, Waslen said, users only pay for what they buy. DayAway plans to draw revenue from corporate bookings as well as its hotel partners, although it is currently waiving fees for the latter as part of its pilot program.

Fashion and beauty marketing expert turned tech founder

Monetizing gaps in the market is nothing new for Waslen, an American who began her career at Ralph Lauren’s headquarters in New York as a sales and marketing rep.

“Branding was everything to Ralph,” she said. “Every single detail, when you walk into a store or showroom, is selling his dream, his vision. I learned that just one thing out of place can ruin the whole illusion.”

In 2011, Waslen made a jump for a job a continent away in Singapore at Luxola, a digital beauty platform that was eventually acquired by Sephora.

According to Waslen, the learning curve was steep: The team was lean, e-commerce hadn’t quite taken off in Singapore yet, and other platforms and blackmarket sites were selling similar products out of China for up to 70% less.

“But we developed such a beautiful brand experience, like in the images we used, our marketing campaigns, and social media. And we had an amazing customer experience: We picked up every phone call and hand-delivered every item in beautiful packaging,” she said.

Waslen says she brought the same customer-oriented approach to DayAway, which she bootstrapped until closing an initial round of $350,000 in seed funding in late March. Waslen declined to provide further details on the funding, saying only that it was from a small group of investors from Singapore, the United States, and Europe.

Her advisory panel includes Roger Egan III, cofounder and CEO of Redmart, and Daniel Pristavec, an early Airbnb employee.

Singapore was instrumental in DayAway’s success

Waslen says one of the main reasons she managed to bring DayAway to fruition in under a year is because she launched it in Singapore.

“If I did this in New York, this would have been such a battle and I don’t know that I would have gotten to this point,” she said. “But in Singapore, it’s phenomenal how people are so willing to network, be collaborative and be receptive to new ideas. One person would introduce me to five people, then those five people would introduce me to five more.”

The pandemic too has proven an unlikely catalyst, according to Waslen, who observed that amidst its devastation, COVID-19 has also created opportunity, such as by opening up conversations with hotels searching for new revenue streams.

The outdoor swimming pool at Raffles Hotel, Singapore
The pool at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

Following a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Singapore tightened restrictions on movements and activities through the middle of June. Waslen is planning to use this time to onboard more hotels and experiences. Beyond that are ambitious plans to expand into international markets and take the company public one day.

For now, though, she’s fully committed to what she’s building.

“I’m not at a point in my career where I can just think, ‘Lots of first-time CEOs fail on the first try,’ and move on to the next entrepreneurial project,” said Waslen. “DayAway is it for me, because I think it has unlimited potential across the globe.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A day in the life of a Singapore-based managing director at ServiceNow, who squeezes in 2-minute workouts between meetings and says 2020 was the best year of his working life

servicenow executive singapore
Wee Luen Chia (right) says 2020 has been the best year of his working life because it allowed him to spend more time with his family.

  • Wee Luen Chia is a Singapore-based executive at ServiceNow, an American software company.
  • He wakes up early to get his four-year-old daughter ready for school, works from his home in the morning, and spends part of his day at the office.
  • He says 2020 was the best year of his working life because he got to spend more time with his daughter.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Wee Luen Chia, 43, is a Singapore-based executive at ServiceNow, an American software company with a global team of 14,000 people.

Wee Luen chia servicenow executive

As Managing Director and Area Vice President in Asia, Chia oversees a team of more than 100 people in his home country of Singapore. He joined ServiceNow, which makes software that automates business processes to help its customers work more efficiently, in 2019.

He previously worked at Oracle, Red Hat, Qlik, and the Singapore government’s Infocomm Media Development Authority.

He told Insider that despite the pandemic, “2020 has been the best year of my working life.”

While he used to fly around Asia for work on a weekly basis, he said he now has more time to spend with his four-year-old daughter, Chloe. Here’s a peek into his daily routine in 2021. 

Editor’s note: This is a look at a typical day in Chia’s life before May 16, when Singapore reimposed COVID-19 restrictions like closing public schools and instructing most office workers to work from home.

6:45 a.m: Chia wakes up, showers, and drinks his coffee. Then he has breakfast with his wife, Susan Tan, and their four-year-old daughter Chloe.

Wee Luen Chia servicenow singapore

“I try to get up at least 15 minutes earlier than my four-year-old daughter so I can prepare for the day before I wake her up,” Chia told Insider.

On weekends, the three of them often go out to breakfast for more family time.

In the pre-pandemic days, Chia woke up at 4 a.m. about once a week to catch a flight to meet with customers and other ServiceNow teams across Asia.

8 a.m: It’s time for Chloe to head to preschool. Chia sees his daughter off and his wife takes her to school.

Wee Luen Chia servicenow

“She is currently attending full-day pre-school, so we’re very fortunate to be able to have the time to concentrate on work,” Chia said.

Tan, Chia’s wife, also works in the IT industry for National Computer Systems.

Chia said he and his wife have tested out different ways to balance their work and family lives.

“What has worked best for us — I get up early to prep our daughter for school while Susan prepares for her work day,” he said. “We have breakfast together as a family. Susan takes on sending Chloe to school so that I can get an early start on planning for the day ahead.” 

Chia’s meetings typically start between 8 and 9 a.m.

Wee Luen Chia servicenow singapore

He uses any free time to go over emails that have come in overnight, which are usually from colleagues in different time zones.

Before he started working from home last year, Chia didn’t have a proper work-from-home setup, but he slowly built one up. Both he and his wife have dedicated home office setups and work in different areas of the home.

8:30 a.m: His first meeting of the day is a one-on-one with Albert Li, ServiceNow’s Managing Director for North Asia, who joined the team in March.

Wee Luen Chia
Albert Li, left, and Chia have a one-on-one virtual meeting.

They brainstorm ideas and check in about onboarding progress.

“These one-on-one catchups really help when the agenda is not too structured – there’s an opportunity to build rapport, share challenges and experiences, and work together to learn from one another,” Chia said.

Throughout the pandemic, Chia said he’s continued to hire and onboard team members virtually across Asia. 

9:30 a.m: Chia has a meeting with a customer in Malaysia, market expansion services company DKSH, for a “go live” event.

servicenow singapore exec

“The ‘go-live’ event is the moment in time all of the hard work is realized and the product is ‘live’ in the hands of the consumer – either consumers, citizens, employees, or business partners,” Chia said.

11:30 a.m: If he’s home and not traveling between meetings, Chia tries to fit in some exercise.

servicenow singapore executive

He keeps weights and other exercise gear in his home office to work out between meetings in short, two-to-three-minute intervals.

“It’s not a lot, but a little goes a long way over time,” he said.

12:30 p.m: Chia has lunch with his team at a sushi restaurant in Singapore’s Bugis neighborhood.

servicenow expat singapore

“I make it a point to bring my team out to lunch once a week, when it’s possible,” he said. “I like the opportunity to meet in small groups, connecting employees from different functional areas.”

They talk about how they’re adapting to the changes in where and how they work, how they’re dealing with the pandemic, and how their customers are adjusting.

Chia said he values face-to-face interactions more than ever. “Each moment I spend with someone is focused on building our relationship,” he said.

1:30 p.m: After lunch, he heads into ServiceNow’s office in downtown Singapore, which is the company headquarters for the Asia-Pacific and Japan region.

Wee Luen Chia servicenow singapore

ServiceNow transitioned to remote work in March 2020, a company representative told Insider.

“The Singapore team, much like the other teams globally, will continue to be allowed the flexibility to work in a way that is most productive to them – and this will look different for different people,” the spokesperson said. “The hybrid workforce is definitely here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company hired 3,000 people in 25 countries, growing its global workforce by 25%.

4 p.m: Chia leaves the office to head to off-site meetings.

servicenow singapore expat
Chia’s meeting with SGTech.

One of those meetings is with SGTech, a trade association for the tech industry in Singapore.

“I joined the committee as a means to use my years of experience to give back to society by helping Singapore-based companies accelerate their digital transformation journeys,” he said.

6:30 or 7 p.m: Chia is home for dinner with his family.

servicenow singapore exec

Tonight, the group includes his 69-year-old father, his 32-year-old brother, and his 43-year-old brother-in-law.

7:30 p.m: After dinner, the family plays Monopoly and Chia has to console his daughter after she loses.

servicenow singapore executive

“Sometimes there’s a teaching moment – it’s OK not to win every time,” Chia said, adding that he teaches her to be humble when she wins and gracious when she loses.

“This is currently one of my key focus areas in her development so she grows up to be able to take failure in her stride and be a good sport about things,” he said.

8 p.m: He reads his daughter a bedtime story, which he says is one of his “favorite moments” to spend with her.

servicenow singapore exec

“Her favorite book is ‘Rapunzel’ but I try to change stories when it’s possible to introduce new ideas,” Chia said. “She loves the classics including ‘Snow White’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel.'”

8:30 p.m: In the evenings, Chia goes on a run around his neighborhood.

servicenow executive singapore

He lives in Serangoon, a residential area in northeast Singapore.

“Each time, I change something in my routine,” he said. “Sometimes I listen to recorded Zoom calls during the run or listen to lectures on Udemy on different topics like AI and design thinking. I like to fuel my body and my mind.”

9:30 p.m.: Back at home, Chia showers and catches up on the news on TV and prepares for the next day’s meetings.

servicenow singapore exec

Around 11 p.m., he usually spends an hour reading a book or watching a Netflix show with his wife. Recently, they’ve been watching “The Last Dance” on Netflix and Chia has been reading Simon Sinek’s “Infinite Game.”

Around midnight, it’s bedtime. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

A day in the life of Google’s highest-ranking executive in Southeast Asia, who lives in Singapore, has 40 hours of meetings a week, and used to live on a sailboat

google singapore stephanie davis
Davis, who’s from the US, moved to Singapore in 2017 in the role of Google’s Country Director.

  • Stephanie Davis is Google’s Vice President for Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.
  • Since April, she’s been back at the office two days a week and working from home the other three.
  • Davis has about 40 hours of meetings per week, most of which are virtual.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Stephanie Davis is Google’s Vice President for Southeast Asia, making her the company’s top-ranking executive in the region.

google singapore stephanie davis
Davis is from Georgia in the US and has lived in Singapore since 2017.

Davis, who’s in her 40s, has worked for Google for 15 years. Originally from a small town in Georgia in the US, she spent stints working in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dublin, and New Zealand before moving to Singapore in 2017 as the company’s Country Director.

Now, she’s Google’s highest-ranking executive in Southeast Asia, overseeing about 2,000 employees at Google’s Southeast Asia headquarters in Singapore, as well as teams in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. 

Before the pandemic, Davis said she was typically traveling in the region for work eight to 10 days out of the month.

Stephanie Davis

Whenever possible, she would tack on a personal day to a work trip and her husband would join her for a mini-vacation.

“I think it’s one of the beauties about this region,” Davis told Insider. “You have the organization, the safety, and the beauty of Singapore, a professional place to be in terms of career. But then you step on a boat, step on a plane, and you can just be in some of the most adventurous, amazing spots in the world.”

Now, like many office workers, Davis has been working from home for over a year. In April, however, Singapore’s loosened restrictions allowed Davis to start going into the office two days per week and to work from home the other three.

singapore google executive
Davis’ home workstation.

Davis, who lives in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar neighborhood with her husband, Jack, said she thought she had a sufficient home office setup before the pandemic.

“But I soon realized my desk and my small chair may have worked for weekend work and a few hours at night, but it certainly wasn’t cut out for working full days at home,” she said. “So I’ve certainly had to adapt a more ergonomic setup.”

Davis got a better chair, a desk that raises and lowers so she can alternate between sitting and standing, and a keyboard and monitor. 

Google, which is known for providing lavish amenities to its employees like a free café and on-site massage therapists, is saving more than $1 billion a year while its staffers work from home, Bloomberg recently reported.

7 to 7:30 a.m: As often as her schedule allows, Davis starts her day with a yoga session.

singapore google executive stephanie davis

“I have found yoga to be so helpful to my well-being during this time that I sometimes manage to squeeze in two sessions a day, with a second one that’s a nice wind-down before bed,” Davis said.

One of her favorite channels is Boho Beautiful with Juliana Spicoluk, she said. The morning yoga is a new addition to Davis’ routine since she started working from home.

“Singapore is an easy city to get around so it’s not that I have a really long commute, but that saving of time in the morning has allowed me to do yoga most mornings,” she said.

7:30 to 8 a.m: After yoga, it’s time for Davis’ morning coffee made with Malaysian-grown coffee beans from the local Tiong Bahru market and brewed by her “kind husband,” she said.

google executive singapore stephanie davis

“No fancy coffee machines in our home — we lived on a boat for many years, and it’s still a stovetop espresso maker for us,” Davis said. “We love the simplicity and low waste.”

With her coffee in hand, Davis starts getting ready for her day.

“Another pandemic-driven change: I get ready for WFH much faster than I get ready to work from the office,” she said.

8 to 9 a.m: Davis typically spends the first hour of her workday clearing her inbox.

singapore google executive stephanie davis
Davis at her home workspace.

Davis said she gets “hundreds” of emails per day and tries to “carve out time each day to read and respond to top priorities.”

9 to 10 a.m: Davis’ first meeting of the day is with the Southeast Asia Search Product and Marketing team. It’s one of about 40 hours of meetings in a typical week.

singapore google executive

They discuss how to make Google Search more useful for consumers in the region. 

“We know that people in Southeast Asia are increasingly using voice search to discover a wide range of information — from song lyrics to recipes to store hours, restaurants nearby and items to buy,” Davis said. “The number of people across SEA who used their voice to interact with Google on their phone grew 49% compared to the previous year.”

10 to 11 a.m: Her next virtual meeting of the day is with Southeast Asia’s YouTube team.

singapore google executive

Google sees YouTube (which Google owns) as an “integral partner” to the growth of the internet economy in Southeast Asia, Davis said.

Five of YouTube’s biggest markets globally, based on watch time, are in Asia: India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, she said.

After the meeting ends at 11:00 a.m., Davis takes a 15-minute break to stretch and refill her water bottle.

11:15 a.m. to noon: Davis meets virtually with Farhan Quresh, Google’s country director in Pakistan, for South Asian frontier markets.

singapore google executive
Quresh and Davis.

Davis typically meets with her direct reports for 45 minutes every two weeks.

She and Quresh discuss how Google can help start-ups and developers in Pakistan. 

Noon to 12:30 p.m: Davis sits in on an in-person meeting at Google’s office in Singapore, where the company’s Incident Response Team is discussing their continuing efforts to make the offices safe for Googlers to return.

singapore google executive
A socially distanced meeting with the Incident Response Team in December 2020.

The meeting is typically virtual, but some members of the team were able to meet in-person at the end of last year.

12:45 to 1:45 p.m: Davis has lunch at a local café with a founder who has decided to start a new business that aims to fight climate change.

singapore google executive
Davis had the Oriental Shrimp Salad at Singapore’s Little Part 1 Cafe.

“I look forward to when we can once again host guests at our offices, but I’m also thankful for the many local cafes in Singapore, where we can easily meet up and have productive business discussions,” Davis said.

2 to 4 p.m: After lunch, Davis has more virtual meetings, including one with Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to get an update on its recent projects.

stephanie davis google singapore

Google.org announced on April 26 that it was contributing $18 million to the COVID-19 crisis in India. The philanthropic arm also works with local organizations in the Southeast Asia region to support education for underprivileged children, Davis said.

Then she has a 30-minute call with a large e-commerce company in the region about how the two companies can work together to get more small businesses online.

At 3 p.m, Davis takes part in a regional Google town hall to celebrate diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

“Town halls like these are an integral part of Google’s culture, and at this one, we hear personal stories from Googlers across the region,” she said. 

4:15 to 6 p.m: Davis is a few minutes late to the monthly meeting of the Singapore Computer Society, where she’s an Executive Council Member.

stephanie davis google singapore
Singapore Computer Society president Dr. Chong Yoke Sin, left, with Davis, right.

The Singapore Computer Society is an infocomm and digital media society with 42,000 members — including industry professionals, students, and tech enthusiasts — that helps grow the tech industry in Singapore, she said.

The meeting is in-person, with masks and social distancing, Davis said.

6:15 to 6:30 p.m: Just as she gets back home, Davis gets a video call from her brother in North Carolina so she can say good morning to her 1.5 year-old niece, Vivian Cora.

stephanie davis google singapore

“It’s been more than a year since I last saw my family in the US,” Davis said. “I come from a close-knit family, and it’s been difficult to not see them, but I’m grateful that we’re healthy and well connected via video calls.”

6:30 to 8 p.m: Davis and her husband go for a hike at Singapore’s Mount Faber, a 138-acre park with scenic views of the city. It’s a hike they do several times per week, she said.

google executive singapore stephanie davis

“He and I catch up on our respective days, but then our earbuds go in, we listen to our favorite podcasts or books, and then share learnings with one another,” Davis said.

Davis recently finished “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo and said she liked the author’s “straightforward style in suggesting how we can have better conversations about race.”

“A few stretches at the top and some reflection while the sun goes down is a great way to close the curtain on the day,” Davis said.

8 to 9 p.m: For dinner, Davis and her husband have a kale Reuben sandwich. “Jack is the chef in our home – lucky me,” she said.

stephanie davis google singapore
Jack’s kale Reuben and tomato soup

While they eat, they watch YouTube videos including the evening news, late night replays, and some sailing videos like Ruby Rose.

9 to 11 p.m.: After dinner, Davis gets some more work done.

google executive singapore stephanie davis

“This is when I prepare for the next day — read materials for meetings, think through presentations, look at the revenue numbers, etc,” she said. “All with a nice candle burning nearby.”

11 p.m. to midnight: Davis spends some time reading before bed.

stephanie davis google singapore

“So that I don’t wake Jack, I have a little light that attaches to my book — or should I say one of a few books, as it’s common for me to be reading several at once,” Davis said. “I seem to read fiction when on a holiday, but otherwise, I enjoy non-fiction.”

One of Davis’ favorite books is Jane Goodall’s “Reason for Hope,” which she says has influenced how she chooses to lead.

And finally, it’s time to sleep.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A third-party seller whose baby-care business raked in $20 million in sales last year reveals his secret to selling on Amazon, Walmart, and Target

keababies
KeaBabies founders Ivan Ong and Jane Neo pose with their two sons.

  • Third-party sales are becoming an increasingly important facet of the e-commerce business.
  • Ivan Ong, owner of KeaBabies, earned $20 million in sales in 2020.
  • He shared his experiences selling on platforms, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Kroger.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There’s millions of dollars to be made as a third-party seller on online marketplaces run by Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

Just ask Ivan Ong, whose international KeaBabies business offers maternity and baby-care products and generated around $20 million in sales last year. KeaBabies’ products are also featured on third-party marketplaces like Kroger and Macy’s.

The brand, founded by Ong and his wife Jane Neo in Singapore in 2016, additionally utilizes Shopify, wholesaling website Faire, along with plenty of advertisements on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, to drive sales from its own website. Ong credited the company’s multi-pronged customer acquisition strategy to wanting to be present wherever customers are.

“E-commerce really exploded,” Ong said. “Our business doubled last year because COVID accelerated everything. We’re expanding very aggressively. So this year we are aiming for $30 to $35 million in terms of our annual sales.”

Amazon, where KeaBabies first began selling products in October 2017. is far and away the company’s biggest revenue driving platform. With a full suite of services through Fulfillment by Amazon, offering warehousing and delivery, the e-commerce giant simply has the lowest barriers to entry, Ong said.

In 2020, Amazon saw $386 billion – or 54% of its total net sales – come from third-party sellers. And larger merchants have sold their brands for an average of $5 million in 2021, as equity firms begin consolidating corners of the market. Research firm Finbold also found that the online-retail giant is adding 3,700 new sellers daily in 2021.

Every marketplace has its pros and cons

While Amazon represents KeaBabies most important marketplace, KeaBabies has also sold items on Walmart Marketplace for about two years.

Ong said that though total sales on Walmart make up about 5% of the total business the company pulls in on Amazon, the retailer does offer fewer “headaches” because there are currently less competitors on the site, and less instances of saboteurs using “black-hatting” techniques.

Meanwhile, Target is comparatively “very selective about who they partner with” compared to most sites. That exclusivity is a plus, according to Ong, because it allows brands to grow without a ton of competition.

“There’s a different strategy for Target,” he said. “For us to get in, it was about a year of getting our brand in front of the brand acquisition onboarding team, and then presenting our brand and pitching about why we should be on Target. It has been quite a chase.”

Meanwhile, Kroger proved to be an entirely different story, thanks to the brand’s recent push to expand its baby category that was seeing growth during the pandemic. The Kroger team ended up contacting KeaBabies directly, to onboard them onto their site.

“It was a pretty easy process for Kroger because they are trying to open up to more brands,” Ong said, adding that the company’s onboarding process was easy-to-navigate.

As third-party sales continues to grow, more brands will have to contend with attracting an array of retail partners and developing those relationships. But despite the challenges, Ong said the strategy more than pays off in the end.

“Our customers are modern moms looking to buy affordable but quality stuff for their babies,” he said. “Being on all these platforms lets you really access customers.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

James Dyson, the billionaire famous for buying Singapore’s most expensive penthouse in 2019, has moved back to the UK

james dyson singapore penthouse
Dyson paid $54 million for the 3-floor penthouse in July 2019 and then sold it at a loss in October 2020.

Billionaire James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner and a notable Singapore resident for about two years, has moved his main address back to the United Kingdom, Benjamin Stupples reported for Bloomberg, citing filings for Dyson’s companies including his family office.

Dyson made headlines for paying $54 million for a three-story penthouse atop Singapore’s tallest building in July 2019, breaking the city-state’s real-estate record. That same year, he relocated the Dyson headquarters to Singapore from the UK and opened a branch of his family office in the city-state.

Estimates of Dyson’s personal net worth range from around $10 billion to as high as $29 billion, with his wealth stemming from his holdings in Dyson Holdings Pte., the UK’s best-selling vacuum cleaner, according to Bloomberg.

james dyson singapore house
James Dyson’s home

It’s unclear why Dyson, 73, has switched his residency back to his home country. In October 2020, he sold his Singapore penthouse at a $7 million loss, but he still reportedly owns another home in Singapore, a bungalow worth a reported 50 million Singapore dollars, or nearly $38 million.

Dyson’s company, which currently employs about 1,400 people in Singapore, said last week that the company would “shortly” be moving into its new headquarters at an old power station in Singapore, according to the Business Times.

“We do not comment on private family matters and nothing has changed in respect of the company,” a Dyson spokesperson told Bloomberg. “The structure of the group and the business rationale underpinning it are unaltered.”

Representatives from Dyson’s company and charitable foundation did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

Dyson, who designed the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner in 1983, also owns a 300-acre estate in the English countryside. On Wednesday, his luxury yacht, Nahlin, was spotted moored off England’s Cornish Coast, photos on Getty Images show.

james dyson yacht
Dyson’s luxury motor yacht “Nahlin” moored off the Cornish Coast on April 21, 2021 in Falmouth, England.

Dyson may be spending less time in the city-state, but other wealthy foreigners seem to be more interested in Singapore than ever. The number of ultra-wealthy people in Singapore grew in 2020 despite the pandemic, according to Knight Frank’s annual Wealth Report. In the past six months, billionaire Google cofounder Sergey Brin and hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio both announced they’d be setting up family offices in Singapore.

Singapore’s low taxes have long attracted foreign investors, and the city-state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has “cemented the country’s traditional safe haven status” for the ultra-rich, Wendy Tang, Knight Frank’s Group Managing Director in Singapore, said in a recent report.

“When coupled with strong and enduring economic fundamentals, stable governance, and an attractively competitive tax regime, Singapore offers a break in the clouds that pushed some of the world’s mega-rich to have a presence here in recent years,” Tang said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Look inside a Singapore supermarket billionaire’s $50 million mansion, which combines a historic bungalow with an ultra-modern house and has a 100-foot swimming pool

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee
The home is a “good class bungalow,” Singapore’s most rare and coveted type of real estate.

  • Singapore billionaire Lim Hock Leng lives in a $50 million historic bungalow combined with a modern mansion.
  • Lim, who co-owns Singapore’s 3rd-largest supermarket chain with his two brothers, has amassed a fortune of $1.2 billion with his brothers.
  • The mansion features a swimming pool that starts indoors and extends outside.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
On a secluded, leafy street in Singapore, supermarket billionaire Lim Hock Leng lives in a $50 million bungalow.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Lim is the co-owner and managing director of Singapore’s third-largest supermarket chain, Sheng Siong, which operates more than 60 stores in the city-state.

Lim’s older brother, Lim Hock Chee, is Sheng Siong’s CEO, while the eldest brother, Lim Hock Eng, is executive chairman. Together, the three brothers own a majority stake in the company, putting their combined net worth at $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.

Lim’s home is a “good class bungalow,” Singapore’s most rare and coveted type of real estate.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

The city-state has a limited number of good class bungalows, making them a status symbol reserved for the ultra-wealthy.

The design of Lim’s home combines a historic Singapore bungalow with an ultra-modern home.

“From the front, it looks very unassuming,” one local real-estate agent, who has visited the home and wished to remain anonymous, told Insider. “But if you look from the back it’s a monstrous house that towers over the whole neighborhood.”

The back of the home shows off the modern addition that was designed as “as a series of stepped terraces with green roofs,” according to the architecture firm.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Singapore-based architecture firm Ta.le Architects oversaw the restoration of the colonial bungalow and designed the new bungalow.

Lim paid 35 million Singapore dollars – or about $26.2 million – for the land and the historic colonial bungalow in 2015, a spokesperson for his company confirmed to Insider.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

The executive then spent roughly SG$30 million ($22.4 million) to restore the bungalow and build the attached modern bungalow, which was completed in 2018, the spokesperson said.

That brings Lim’s total investment in the property to nearly $50 million.

The architecture firm, Ta.le Architects, dubbed the finished property “Hidden House.”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The home has three courtyards, one of which features a grassy lawn and sits between the historic bungalow and the modern bungalow.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Another courtyard separates the living room and the dining room of the new bungalow and brings light and air into the center of the house.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The third courtyard on the lowest level of the home is where you’ll find the 98-foot swimming pool, which extends from indoors to outside of the house.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Above the pool is a staircase designed to “glow in the night,” according to the architects.

Indeed, the entire rear facade of the home does appear to glow at nighttime.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The bungalow sprawls across 33,700 square feet.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Rather than going for pure opulence, the architects said they designed the home to create a “minimalistic luxurious experience.”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Last month, Lim gave a tour of his home to the South China Morning Post and told the publication that he shares his home with different generations of his family.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: South China Morning Post

The architects therefore designed large bedrooms – almost like independent apartments – to accommodate Lim’s four children and his parents.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The bungalow’s formal dining area can accommodate at least 15 people.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Many of the home’s common areas appear to open up to the grassy terraces.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

Photos of the home show lavish marble bathrooms. There’s also a massive walk-in closet.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The spacious office seems appropriate for the managing director of a major supermarket group.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

The home’s amenities include a fitness center, a sauna and squash court, a pool table, and a home theater with 14 seats.

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

Source: Ta.le Architects

When he set out to build the house, Lim said he told the architects, “‘You are building this house for my neighbors, not me.'”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

“When you build a house, that house has to become scenery for your neighbors,” Lim told the Post during the tour.

Lim told the Post that he considers spending so much money on a house to be a bit “extravagant.”

singapore billionaire bungalow Lim Hock Chee

But for Lim, the cost was justified. His father always wanted the whole family to live together but couldn’t afford a large enough home, Lim said, so he sees the house as realizing his father’s dream.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I got a tour of Citi’s new wealth hub in Singapore for high-net-worth clients, a 30,000-square-foot space with ‘garden pods’ for meetings. Look inside.

singapore citi wealth hub
The space features “garden pods” for meetings.

  • I toured Citi’s new wealth hub in Singapore for its high-net-worth clients.
  • It was designed to cater to clients with assets starting at 250,000 Singapore dollars, or about $186,000.
  • It felt more like an upscale lounge than a bank. It was full of trees, a free café, and “garden pods” for meetings.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Global investment bank Citi has opened a 30,000-square-foot wealth hub on Singapore’s Orchard Road, the city-state’s glitzy luxury shopping thoroughfare.

singapore citi wealth hub

The Citi Wealth Hub on Orchard Road, Citi’s largest wealth hub globally, was created to cater to the bank’s Citigold and Citigold Private Clients, who must have at least 250,000 Singapore dollars ($186,000) and SG$1.5 million ($1.1 million) in investable assets respectively. 

The idea is to bring together Citi’s Singapore-based relationship managers and wealth specialists in a central location where they can advise these clients on building their wealth, according to a Citi spokesperson. 

While Citi doesn’t disclose its numbers of Citigold and Citigold Private Clients, there’s no shortage of wealthy potential clients in Singapore.

singapore

The city-state is home to 3,732 ultra-high-net-worth individuals, or individuals worth at least $30 million, according to Knight Frank’s 2021 Wealth Report.

In the 2021 Global Financial Centres Index that ranks global financial centers, Singapore ranked fifth overall after New York, London, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

“Citi has an enormous opportunity to serve the growing affluent segment in Singapore,” Brendan Carney, CEO of Citibank Singapore Limited and Global Consumer Banking, said in a statement announcing the opening of the wealth hub in December. 

I recently got a tour of the Citi Wealth Hub, which spans 30,000 square feet across four floors. The seventh floor is dedicated to the Citigold Centre for Citigold clients, who must have at least SG$250,000 ($186,000) in assets.

singapore citi wealth hub

Clients are greeted by a sleek reception area with fresh flowers. Like everywhere else in Singapore right now, everyone is required to check in with contact tracing app Trace Together.

The Citigold Centre is a large glass-walled atrium with meeting pods, a cafe, and an abundance of greenery.

Singapore citi wealth hub

Ministry of Design, the interior design firm responsible for the space’s biophilic design, refers to the atrium as a “Banking Conservatory.”

It certainly didn’t feel like any bank I’d been in before.

singapore citi wealth hub

Instead of tellers or conventional meeting rooms, there are “garden pods” where clients can meet with their wealth managers.

Each pod is set up with a round table, four chairs, and a screen where a relationship manager can advise the client using a larger screen instead of a laptop or tablet.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

A free cafe serves Lavazza coffee, TWG tea, and chocolate bon bons from local pastry chef Janice Wong.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

And there are other nooks throughout where clients can meet with their relationship manager or just lounge with a coffee.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

The most exclusive part of the wealth club is the Citigold Private Client Centre on the eighth floor.

singapore citi wealth hub

To become a Citigold Private Client, you must have investable assets of at least SG$1.5 million, or about $1.1 million. 

These clients gain access not only to the wealth hub in Singapore, but to a dedicated relationship manager who consults with a team of specialists, including portfolio counselors and mortgage specialists, to best advise the clients.

The Citigold Private Client Centre is a smaller, intimate space, filled with small meeting nooks – and still plenty of greenery.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

From this area, Citigold Private Client members can order something from the cafe with one of the staff and have it delivered to them.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

The wealth hub has 30 client advisory rooms that are named after national trees and flowers of countries where Citi has a presence.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: Citi

The Citi employees who work at the wealth hub occupy the sixth floor.

singapore citi wealth hub

Plastic dividers separate individual workspaces in the plant-filled office.

The wealth hub can house more than 300 relationship managers and wealth specialists, but in Singapore, only 75% of a company’s employees are currently allowed to be in the office at one time.

singapore citi wealth hub

Source: The Straits Times

My tour of the Citi Wealth Hub made it clear that the luxe space was designed for a world where in-person meetings and events were the norm.

singapore citi wealth hub

During my tour, the Citi spokesperson emphasized that the wealth hub was meant to bring clients together with their relationship managers and wealth specialist for in-person rather than online meetings.

The initial plan was also to hold seminars and talks with business leaders, according to the Citi spokesperson. Right now, the only events are online.

In the pandemic, people have grown more accustomed than ever to virtual meetings, and in-person events have become much more limited.

Still, Singapore is likely closer to a return to in-person normalcy than most other countries, as the city-state has contained the virus and reported only 30 deaths throughout the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A tech founder’s wife just paid $96 million for a house in Singapore’s most exclusive neighborhood, marking the priciest home sale of the year

30 nassim road house singapore ladyvale
A Google Maps street view of the home’s entrance on Nassim Road.

The wife of a Singapore tech founder paid 128.8 million Singapore dollars, about $95.6 million, for a house on exclusive Nassim Road, according to property website EdgeProp.

The home sits on a 32,160-square-foot lot next to the British High Commission on Nassim Road, Singapore’s most prestigious road that’s lined with embassies and multimillion-dollar mansions. Jin Xiao Qun, who’s married to Shi Xu, the founder of Nanofilm Technologies International, bought the property from businesswoman Oei Siu Hoa, who’s also known as Sukmawati Widjaja, per the report.

Jin’s purchase is the priciest single home sale of the year, according to property records. The highest overall residential sale came earlier this month when a buyer paid SG$293 million – about $217.5 million – for all 20 units of an ultra-luxury condo building.

nassim road singapore
Nassim Road is a lush, quiet neighborhood full of mansions and embassies. Jin’s home not pictured.

Sunita Gill, CEO and founder of real-estate firm Singapore Luxury Homes, said she was surprised by the high purchase price of the Nassim Road property, noting that it’s “not ready for move-in.”

“Usually purchases like that are influenced either by a potential feng shui decision or external advice on why she was willing to pay this kind of a price,” Gill told Insider.

Known as Ladyvale Bungalow, the house was built in 1964 and sold by the British High Commission in 2000 for SG$19.3 million, according to Tatler Singapore. Oei, the most recent owner, bought the home for SG$25.5 million in 2003.

Although the home is designated as a “good class bungalow” – the most rare and coveted type of housing in Singapore – it will likely require a full renovation that could cost from SG$500 to SG$1,000 per square foot, Gill said.

“So if you calculate that into size of the property, she is potentially looking at another 20 to 30 million [Singapore dollars] just on rebuild cost,” she said.

Jin could not immediately be reached for comment for this story.

The Nassim Road home sale also breaks Singapore’s price-per-square-foot record, which was set in 2019 when vacuum billionaire James Dyson paid SG$50 million for a home on a 15,101-square-foot lot on nearby Cluny Road.

james dyson singapore house
James Dyson’s bungalow in Singapore.

Bruce Lye, cofounder and managing partner at Singapore Realtors Inc, said he thought the price was fair for the location, even considering the cost of potential renovations.

“A piece of regular land in Nassim is like fine art or wine,” Lye told Insider, adding that the prices of such properties “keep reaching new highs all the time.”

The deal hints that 2021 could be another banner year for Singapore real estate after home prices recently reached a two-year high as Singaporeans and foreign nationals snap up homes during the pandemic.

“Our high-end market is very resilient,” Lye said. “Singapore is much sought after due to our safe haven status for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. With amendments to the Global Investor Program and benefits of setting up family offices in Singapore, we will see many more eye-popping deals being inked in the near future.”

Read the original article on Business Insider