Qinthara Fasya | 27 September 2021
Chew Peet Mun
Managing Director of Investment & Development, CapitaLand Development Singapore
Despite our economy’s cautious optimism about recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, there have been glimmers of brilliance from industries such as medtech and fintech that have thrilled the business community, academia, and, to some extent, the labor market during the last half year. We’ve also seen the emergence of highly active tribes comprised of entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and members of the investment community begin to consider putting together a mutually advantageous ecosystem that can bridge gaps and accelerate this momentum.
What has never happened before is a landlord, such as CapitaLand, taking the lead and beginning to shape some of these projects by matching partners and organisations in order to create a healthy ecosystem through its Bridge+ business. DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Chew Peet Mun to find out how CapitaLand takes the lead and begin to shape projects by matching partners and organisations in order to create a healthy ecosystem through its Bridge+ subsidiary.
Trends in Working Environments & Co-working Spaces
Companies, whether big or small, are increasing looking at their office not just as a space to house work desks and cubicles for their employees. They are looking to the office as a strategic tool to enhance work productivity, build team and company culture, and even used as a shared environment to reach out to their customers, industry partners and service providers. While real estate cost will always remain an important consideration, there is also a growing realisation that just being narrowly focused to minimise real estate cost by squeezing more and more staff into a certain square footage of space could be counter-productive in the longer run. The company’s workspace is a strategic tool that needs to be understood and utilised more holistically.
In line with that focus, companies are also increasingly eschewing traditional workspace design to embrace more flexible workspace options that encourages agile working, foster collaboration, promote social interactions and foster company culture. They are also increasingly looking to embed more flexibility into their real estate options so that there is scope for them to change their space requirements in line with their changing needs in a dynamic business environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the pace of change. In recent times, we notice more companies, particularly large space users, reviewing their space needs to see how they could include “core-flex” and/or “hub-and-spoke” models into their workspace strategy. There is also an increased focus on workplace health and employee wellness by corporate occupiers due to the pandemic.
Key Driver for Companies in selecting co-working offices
There are many drivers for companies who select co-working spaces as their main offices. Some appreciate the quick “plug-and-play” ease for them to start up their offices, while others appreciate the flexibility offered by co-working spaces to scale up and down quickly in a cost-effective manner based on their business needs. There are also companies that appreciate the use of well thought out shared spaces, facilities and programmes that allow for business networking and serendipitous interactions. As hybrid working and “work from-anywhere” acquire traction in a post-COVID environment, co-working spaces could also become one of the flexible workspace options that companies incorporate into their real estate strategies for their employees to be able to work across dispersed business hubs as required.
Bridge+ taps on its CapitaLand parentage to offer purpose-driven flexible workspace solutions that meet real business needs. Bridge+ spaces leverage on CapitaLand’s expertise in development and design, as well as investments in digital and technology innovations to create well-thought-out flexible workspaces and services. Unlike most other co-working spaces, Bridge+ spaces are usually conceptualised as an integral component of the building which CapitaLand also owns or manages. This creates better user experiences and service offerings for Bridge+ members.
Taking the latest Bridge+ 79 Robinson Road (Bridge+ 79RR) for example. Spanning three floors and covering a space of 56,000 square feet, Bridge+79RR offers a mix of purpose driven workspace solutions that enhance the connectivity and productivity of businesses and their employees through a variety of private and controlled social spaces that observe safety measures and personal well-being.
In addition to private work-suites, dedicated desks and hot-desks, Bridge+79RR has more than 16,000 square feet set aside for in-person events, which are also digitally-enabled to hold fully virtual or hybrid events. Bridge+ members are able to use facial recognition for frictionless and contactless access all the way from the main lobby turnstiles to Bridge+ common areas, and even to their private work-suites should they choose to do so. The Bridge+ app is fully integrated with the building’s access control and visitor registration system such that members are able to invite and register their guests to Bridge+ without the need for their guests to subsequently queue up at the building lobby to identify themselves.
Leveraging on CapitaLand’s industry and business network, Bridge+ members have access to curated functions and networking events that include not just Bridge+ members, but also other market players such as business associations, regulatory bodies, and government agencies.
Focussing on the FinTech Tribe
FinTech is a growing industry sector. According to the MAS, investments in FinTech firms based in Singapore reached a record S$1.4 billion in 2020, an increase of more than 30% from 2019. In the first quarter of 2021, FinTech companies here already raised more than S$650 million. The financial services and FinTech sectors together created 2,500 net jobs last year.
In the context of such growth trajectory, we envision 79 Robinson Road to be a destination in the Singapore Central Business District (CBD) where leading members of the international finance and technology communities can congregate regularly, not just within themselves but also with corporates from different industries and other stakeholders. Bridge+ flexible workspaces at 79RR provide the apt infrastructure and services to facilitate business growth, partnerships and collaborations in FinTech.
To that end, Bridge+ has established community partnerships with several key FinTech bodies in Singapore. This includes the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA), ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN), Elevandi – organizer of the Singapore FinTech Festival, and the Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF) – a research institute jointly set up by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the National University of Singapore (NUS). Bridge+ is working closely with these partners to bring the FinTech community together.
The international FinTech community can tap on the Bridge+ network as a platform to connect and collaborate with local partners through seminars, hackathons, lab crawls, industry gatherings and exhibitions that will be housed within the centre’s community spaces. These include an event space which can host activities for 30 to 240 people, 25 well designed meeting spaces, spacious social hubs for collaboration and a private member lounge.
Recent activities at Bridge+ 79RR include the Singapore FinTech Festival Green Shoot series, InvestTech series and workshops covering discussions and practical insights from leading FinTech speakers globally on key issues affecting financial services, technology and public policy. Bridge+ has also introduced exclusive membership privileges for Singapore FinTech Club providing a place for meetings and work. Members of Singapore’s FinTech community can also look forward to a lineup of events to foster deeper social engagements among FinTech professionals in the upcoming FinTech Odyssey such as fireside chats, masterclasses and labcrawls at Bridge+ 79RR.