In The Spotlight: Singapore
A cultural melting pot, garden city, and a blend of old-world and new architecture, Singapore boasts one of the world’s busiest ports, as well as thriving finance and services sectors. Its rich history and growing economy attracts many international companies.
BGRS’s Singapore service center, established in 2001, supports our clients’ relocating employees with moving into and within the APAC region. To reflect Singapore’s unique cultural makeup, our employees are multilingual, speaking Mandarin, Malay, Hindi, and English, with a mix of backgrounds, which contribute to our acumen for customer and client expectations and needs.
Christina Ng is the Vice President of Client Services in BGRS’s Singapore office; she shared her experience in this vibrant, multicultural region with us.
BGRS has been operating in Singapore since 2001. What do you think attributes to our enduring success?
Christina: I have worked in the relocation industry in Singapore for over 20 years. For me, BGRS has excellent, longstanding client relationships which contribute to our overall success. Our teams work really hard to continually customize solutions for our clients as their needs evolve and market dynamics continually shift.
Despite the fact that we’re a relatively large organization in the relocation industry, we’re extremely agile. We react quickly and have some of the most talented people in the industry helping our clients make better business decisions.
Following on from my last point, not only does BGRS have the best people in the industry, they’re supported by great technology. Our clients have real-time access to all of their program information and their relocating employees can take advantage of a full range of mobile solutions to help manage and track their moves.
What are some of the key considerations for companies moving talent into Singapore?
Christina: Singapore is considered by many as ‘Asia light,’ but we always recommend that there is still the same due diligence and candidate assessment rigor applied prior to relocating someone to Singapore. Some of the rules and regulations here are somewhat unique to Singapore and may seem strange or unfamiliar to expatriates, some examples include:
- Chewing gum is not available for sale in Singapore and it is illegal to bring into the country, though one is allowed to have a reasonable (but very small) amount in one’s possession for personal consumption.
- There is a “No Eating/Drinking” rule on the MRT (trains) – so you can’t enjoy your Starbucks coffee on the ride in to the office.
- Smoking is discouraged by the Singapore government and is not allowed in most buildings, public areas and in all restaurants; there are designated areas for smoking in public. There is no duty-free allowance on cigarettes and you are not allowed to bring cigarettes into the country without declaring and paying duty. Electronic cigarettes are also not allowed to be brought into the country.
Also, for companies relocating employees with children, we recommend full support in identifying the best options. Schooling can be extremely expensive for expatriate children, even from a very early age, so companies should give some consideration to what level of support will be provided, at least for a fixed settling-in period.
The rising cost of living is the single most important consideration today. Singapore has been, as of late, characterized by studies as the most expensive location for assignments; even as locals we see this rise in costs.
Many companies have seen a rise of localization and permanent moves, ultimately looking to deploy more talent, but on a more cost effective benefits package.
How is talent mobility in Singapore different today compared to five years ago?
Christina: It’s certainly a much more mature market; five years ago there were fewer in-bound or intra-regional moves, fewer service providers and more companies managed their relocating employees in-house. Today, the needs of clients are more complex, and therefore the need for and expectations of high-quality end-to-end relocation management services have risen. As a result, the level of mobility management outsourcing is far greater than it used to be. Also, the industries relocating talent into Singapore are far more diverse.
Far fewer companies are mobilizing talent to Singapore on traditional expatriate terms. The proportion of expatriates arriving into Singapore on local employment terms has increased significantly, and in my opinion that will only continue.
We also see far more people using Singapore as a location to commute from into South East Asia and further afield. Singapore has great infrastructure, great schools and one of (if not THE best) airports in the world, so it is an ideal location to be based for today’s mobile executives.
Given your deep knowledge of Singapore, you must be overflowing with recommended “must see” spots. What are your top three places to visit in Singapore – whether as a relocating employee or longtime resident?
Christina: Well, really all Singaporeans do two things, we either eat or we shop. So I would most certainly recommend the local street food, it’s something you have to try. The street food is representative of our mixed ethnography and a lot of fusion between the various cuisines. There’s so much that is available and very affordable, so it’s a great way to get a flavor of Singapore.
Secondly, while our downtown area is stunning with pockets of greenery, beautiful buildings and landmarks, I would recommend exploring our parks and nature reserves, like Bukit Timah Hills, where you can go hiking, off-road biking, and experience our city-state’s beautiful landscape.
And well, you’ve got to shop, right? Find the local markets, which we call “wet markets” because they have fresh produce including fish, meat, fruit and flowers. Singapore is summer year round so we get so much wonderful produce from the region.