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The Business Times - Expanding into Singapore, tap on local talent

By Eve Yeo

COMPANIES from Australia and New Zealand are likely to establish a greater foothold in Singapore as they hire Asian executives from surrounding countries.

As these companies expand their operations here and then elsewhere in Asia, they will get a boost from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) last week.

Under the MOU, the EDB will partner ANZ under the EDB’s ‘multipliers’ scheme to attract businesses from Australia, New Zealand, greater Mekong and the Pacific Islands to use Singapore as a regional hub.

Compared with other Asian cities, Singapore is ideal for expanding into Asia because of its location, sound infrastructure and good corporate governance, said the managing director of Oppeus International, Nicholas Varigos.

‘Chinese cities, like Shanghai, are more suitable as gateways to China while Singapore has a more international aspect where businesses come here looking to develop in Asia,’ Mr Varigos said.

Head of the Oppeus office in Singapore, Lelia Lim-Loges, said: ‘There is a hunger for talent in Singapore and the country attracts the regional knowledge that Australia might not.’

Mr Varigos said Australia’s leading companies were shying away from the ‘expatriate option’ and leaning towards hiring local executives for their overseas offices.

Rising education and housing costs are the main culprits behind the surging cost of expatriate living, which accounts for up to a third of an expatriate’s income.

Executives from the local pool of employees are also preferred for their ability to ‘understand the demands of the Asian consumer’ and in relating to the local business environment, whether they are commercial, cultural or social aspects.

Oppeus International said it is focused on growth sectors such as financial services and minerals and energy trading here, traditional pillars of the economy.

This is consistent with the clusters of growth that ANZ has expertise in and expects the companies to tap on under the MOU. Areas of growth are infrastructure, natural resources and agribusiness.

Vishnu Shahaney, ANZ Singapore chief executive officer, said: ‘With the largest presence of any Australian bank in Asia-Pacific and a super regional focus, we have a natural advantage connecting businesses across markets.’