Keynote Address by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Finance, at The Official Opening of UBS' New Premises at 9 Penang road on 17 November 202117 Nov 2021
Dr Axel Weber, Chairman of the Board of Directors, UBS Group AG
Mr Ralph Hamers, Group CEO
Mr Edmund Koh, President, UBS Asia Pacific
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am very happy to join all of you and the UBS team for your double celebration today. UBS as an organisation has been around for nearly 160 years. Your office in Singapore is much younger. But time flies and you are now middle-aged. But 50 is the new 30, so there is still much you can look forward to. Today, let me congratulate UBS on 50 years of business in Singapore, and on the official opening of your new office building here at 9 Penang Road. Both celebrations had to be postponed due to Covid-19, but I am glad that they are taking place now, with your global management team flying in to grace this happy occasion.
Growing Business & Developing People
2. UBS Singapore has come a long way these past 50 years. You’ve weathered through multiple economic cycles since starting out in 1970. What began as an endeavour with a handful of professionals has grown into the UBS of today, with over 3,000 employees across Wealth Management, Investment Banking and Asset Management.
3. UBS’s growth in Singapore has contributed immensely to the competitiveness and strength of our financial services industry.
a. You have been an active member of the Private Banking Industry Group, or the PBIG, since its inception in 2011.
b. You took on the co-chair role in 2019, and you’ve led the PBIG on a series of meaningful initiatives, including introducing structured undergraduate internships to ensure a healthy talent pipeline for the sector, and deepening the philanthropic capabilities of the sector to channel greater wealth into meaningful causes.
4. We all know that finance is ultimately a people and talent business. This rings true for Singapore as a country too. People are our only resource. And that’s why we have been focused almost obsessively on people development for a very long time. We’ve always invested in formal education. A few years ago, we stepped up significantly our investments in pre-school education, so that every child can be assured of a good start in life, and to help those who start off with less have every chance to level up. At the same time, we are investing a lot more in adult education and training – what we call SkillsFuture. We are putting in significant resources to provide a massive infusion of skills at every stage of one’s career. Then we can help every Singaporean stay abreast of new technologies and keep their skills current in a rapidly changing world.
5. To do this well, the Government has to work with corporate partners. We are putting in more funding. We are setting up training frameworks. We are building up training providers. We are even getting our universities and Institutions of Higher Learning to focus on adult training. But it is very hard for the Government to dictate and tell individuals what new areas they have to train for. Employers are in a much better position because you are close to the market. You can identify what the market and technology trends are, and the areas of training needs for your staff. So we are very happy to have a partner like UBS that also places great emphasis on developing your people.
a. For example, you have set up the UBS University here to serve as your APAC Centre of Excellence for capacity building and personnel development.
b. And I am glad that the University is now housed under the same roof here at 9 Penang Road, bringing upskilling opportunities even closer to your staff.
6. Of course, during this period of crisis, we have also seen UBS redoubling your efforts to support people development. As Finance Minister during a period of crisis, my inbox is filled with requests for more funding, help, and payouts. Understandably, because people out there do need help, be it businesses or workers. But there are a few companies like UBS who are able to do well throughout the crisis and have very responsibly decided that you do not need these payouts and you are prepared to give them back.
a. You have decided to channel your Jobs Support Scheme payouts to launch the Singapore University Program for Employability and Resilience (SUPER).
b. Under this programme, UBS undertakes to recruit job-seekers as trainees. You put them on a year-long structured training programme. For the first cohort of around 90 trainees, I’m glad that around 95% have been hired by UBS as well as the industry, and some even before their training period ended. So I thank UBS for your deep sense of responsibility in standing together with the Singapore Government and with Singapore to tackle this crisis together.
7. We also applaud UBS for your emphasis on developing Singaporeans, so that they can expand their skills, and contribute and compete on their own merits in your high-quality organisation. Indeed, we’re very proud that there are many Singaporeans who have progressed in their careers and taken on senior leadership roles in the bank. Many of them are here today and we look forward to many more in the years to come.
8. All of these efforts will help to build a strong Singapore core in our financial workforce. Even as we work hard to develop and grow our own timber, I want to assure everyone that Singapore will continue to stay open to talent, ideas and investments. This is important for us. In fact, this is not just essential, it is existential. That’s why we are committed on this path.
9. More importantly, we will continue to develop Singapore as an open, exciting and vibrant city – a place where people want to live, work and play, and like (UBS Group CEO) Ralph Hamers said, when you are away and you come back, there must be buzz, there must be movement and you must see things changing and the city progressing. Where people will want to come back again and again. Then we can continue to attract the best from overseas, and they will complement the strong core of Singaporeans we have in the workforce. And we can continue to compete and excel as one team, to create new successes, and to take Singapore forward as a leading financial centre.
Contributing to the Community
10. Of course, our corporate partners are important not just for economic reasons. Many companies are also engaged in corporate giving and becoming a force for social good. In this regard, UBS too has led the way, and played an active role in contributing back to the community.
11. You have set up a Singapore office for your Optimus Foundation, to support your clients in giving back to society. Since its establishment, the foundation has raised over S$15 million in donations towards improving the lives of children as well as the environment in Singapore and the region.
12. With the move to 9 Penang Road, UBS has also been actively building connections with your new neighbours.
a. For example, you have worked with the LASALLE College of the Arts to launch the “UBS Youth Sustainable Art Programme” to support therapeutic learning for young people.
b. UBS is also launching the “UBS Youth Academy” with community partners, where you work closely with UBS Volunteers to provide youths with enrichment, tuition and leadership programmes, right here at 9 Penang Road.
13. And there will be many more possibilities for such collaborations, not just in this building but all around the Dhoby Ghaut area. URA has a masterplan for the entire Orchard Road and part of that masterplan includes a whole revamp around the Dhoby Ghaut area; possibly looking at stitching up the green spaces, such as Istana Park, Dhoby Ghaut Green, the open space outside of Plaza Singapura, and pedestrianising a section of the road. This whole space can become family-friendly and green, and a flexible space for events and festivals. Many possibilities can open up for collaboration and for you to do more in this part of Singapore.
14. So, over the past half century, UBS has been an excellent and steadfast partner to Singapore. We value your close and long-standing relationship and we are happy that you will continue to grow your presence here.
15. UBS’ purpose is to harness the power of investing, and to create a better world, one that is fairer and more sustainable. That’s our aspiration and purpose in Singapore too – to invest in our people, to maximise the potential of every citizen, and importantly, to build a fairer, greener and more inclusive society.
16. So as a company, and as a country, we have much in common. We look forward to strengthening our partnership with you to achieve these shared goals together. We want you to be successful, so that Singapore can succeed together with you. On that note, my very best wishes to everyone in UBS on your 50th anniversary and congratulations once again on this iconic space at 9 Penang Road.