Build up networks and add value for firms

PHOTO: Build up networks and add value for firms

Building networks and creating more opportunities for its members are priorities for the British Chamber of Commerce's (BritCham) recently installed president Hugo Walkinshaw.

"We aim to further business interests between Britain and Singapore through providing practical support and advice to our members," he said.

Mr Walkinshaw, who assumed the position in May, told The Straits Times that the board is focused on lifting engagement with members while adding value for them.

The chamber is made up of about 370 companies across all industry sectors, with 60 per cent of them British and 30 per cent Singaporean. Other nationalities make up the rest.

In an e-mail interview, he noted that the role of the chamber has evolved over the years.

Historically, it was a forum here for members of British companies to network, but it has become a more inclusive environment, he added.

The chamber targets a broader audience now, focusing on individuals or firms associated with Britain or Singapore that want to engage in business on a bilateral basis.

He said: "I believe that the chamber has developed a role and a responsibility to be the face of British business in Singapore."

This involves working with the government department UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to engage with British organisations currently operating or planning to operate in Singapore.

It also includes working with the Singapore Government and business associations to help Singapore firms set up and operate in Britain, Mr Walkinshaw added.

But there is always more that the chamber can do, he said.

For example, the chamber could continue "to build its network of individuals and organisations, increasing the added value that we offer to our members through more networking opportunities and business-related events and content".

He added that the chamber itself will continue to champion diversity at all levels, looking at areas such as nationality, age and gender, for example.

And BritCham expects to get busier, with more companies from Britain, for example, looking to expand in Asia.

He noted: "There has been a marked increase in the last 12 to 18 months from organisations of all sizes expressing interest in, and making moves into, the Singapore market."

He puts the improved interest down to the depressed economic environment in Europe but mostly due to the potential in the Asia-Pacific, specifically in the Asean region.

Singapore is a logical and easy choice for a company to start its Asian ventures, he said.

But he did point out that cost pressures, both in terms of employment as well as overall operating costs, continue to be a challenge for firms operating in certain industries.

Another area of pressure noted by many of the chamber's members is the talent pool and the pipeline of workers.

But he concluded that Singapore still possesses many advantages in attracting British companies planning to expand into the region.

Singapore offers "first-class infrastructure, a mature talent pool, a long-established and secure financial and legal environment, an English language-based business environment and is a logical hub for both the Asean and the broader Asia-Pacific region", he said.

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