BANKS are continuing to make a beeline for Changi Business Park (CBP) as they set up vast complexes to handle back office operations that used to be scattered across the island.
The consolidation process has seen the CBP evolve into a major employment hub with thousands of workers relocating there over the past four years.
The experience of Standard Chartered Bank illustrates how relocating to the CBP allows firms to get more of their operations under one roof - and save on the pricey rents they were paying in the central business district (CBD).
StanChart was operating out of eight locations but has cut this to three - Battery Road, Marina Bay Financial Centre and CBP - with plans to eventually bring it to two by leaving Battery Road.
StanChart went to CBP in May 2010 when it opened a 232,000 sq ft building that now hosts about 2,000 staff in human resources, technology and trade operations.
Singapore is the global management centre for its technology and operations, noted Mr Nick Hughes, head of corporate real estate for Singapore and the region.
A new CBP extension - a 154,000 sq ft, six-storey building - that is expected to accommodate up to 1,800 people will begin operations next year.
DBS Asia Hub is also in the midst of expanding at CBP. An annex to be completed in the third quarter of next year will boost its floor space by about 60,000 sq ft.
DBS, StanChart and fellow banks Citi, Credit Suisse and JP Morgan employ more than 10,000 people over 1.5 million sq ft of space at the park, according to The Straits Times estimates.
The bank relocation rush started in 2009, when Citigroup moved its operation and technology units from Tampines Junction and Tampines Plaza. From five offices, it now has three - at Asia Square and Capital Square in Raffles Place and CBP.
Its 400,000 sq ft CBP facility has about 4,500 employees in cash processing units and global processing centre for wealth management, among others.
Like StanChart, DBS made its move in 2010, setting up the 340,000 sq ft DBS Asia Hub. This houses about 3,000 employees, mainly in support units such as technology and operations, human resources and risk management.
Most of these workers used to be at support offices in Technopark@Chai Chee and the former DBS Building in Shenton Way, a DBS spokesman said.
"Housing the support teams under one roof will facilitate faster decision-making and greater teamwork, which will eventually allow us to respond faster to customers' needs," she added.
Credit Suisse joined the move in April last year, relocating most of its staff to One@Changi City, where it leases four floors of the nine-storey building.
Moving to CBP has allowed the bank to consolidate operations from multiple sites to two main locations - One Raffles Link for front office staff and One@Changi City for back office support functions such as information technology, operations, finance and human resources, a spokesman said.
JP Morgan is also reportedly leasing 130,000 sq ft at One@Changi City, having cut down on its space at Capital Tower in Robinson Road.
The consolidation process under way at CBP is not just bringing efficiency gains but also allowing firms to slash leasing costs.
Banks stand to enjoy up to 30 per cent rental savings by moving from the CBD to CBP, said Mr Ong Kah Seng, director of property firm R'ST Research.
He noted that business park rents tend to be lower compared with suburban offices, and cheaper rent means staff may be able to have larger workspaces.
He added that CBP offers larger pockets of space compared with other business parks and office blocks.
CBP is also home to some high-technology businesses, data and software enterprises, and research and development companies, said a spokesman for industrial landlord JTC, which manages the park.
CBP includes Changi City and UE BizHub East; together they house business, retail and hotel operations. These were launched over the past two years.
Citi employee Maggie Poon said: "CBP is like a little city in itself, with a hub of activities... most offices are also within walking distance of Changi City Point and Singapore Expo MRT station, which enhances accessibility."
The JTC spokesman said the park will continue to evolve, with upcoming developments including the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), which is scheduled to complete the first phase of its CBP campus by the end of this year.
The university will also work with the JTC on an integrated masterplan for the park and its surroundings as part of the SUTD-JTC Industrial Infrastructure Innovation Centre established earlier this month.
"We aim to develop CBP to house industries and enterprises that have strong synergies with SUTD and can leverage on its close proximity to Changi Airport, as well as incubate new industries and enterprises that could emerge from SUTD," the JTC spokesman said.
Source: Business Times, 29 Jul 2014