The vibrancy of the talent space in Singapore, together with a safe and cosmopolitan environment, makes it an ideal location for companies looking to expand into Asia.

Singapore is an attractive option for those looking to gain international experience that will set them apart in their careers. In the 2014 Quality of Living Worldwide City Rankings survey by Mercer, Singapore was ranked 25 th, making it Asia’s top location in terms of quality of living. INSEAD, in partnership with Singapore’s Human Capital Leadership Institute places Singapore in second place behind Switzerland in its Global Talent Competitive Index which measures elements of human capital and its connection to competitiveness.

National commitment to talent development

In 2010 the Human Capital Leadership Institute was established along with the Ministry of Manpower and the Singapore Economic Development Board (in partnership with the Singapore Management University). The Institute offers best-in-class faculty staff, thought leadership, and the provision of insight on doing business in Asia. Through its efforts, the institute aims to develop global leaders with a strong understanding of leading in Asia, as well as to build Asian leaders with the ability to lead on the global stage.

Few governments have made such an investment in talent development at a national level. Whilst Singapore has demonstrated its commitment to the development of corporate leaders, the pace of economic growth in recent years and demographics of the nation mean there continues to be a reliance on expatriates in the short to medium term.

The appeal for multinational companies

Companies such as BASF, UBS, Sony and Unilever have set up talent and leadership development centres in Singapore. Unilever’s Four Acres Singapore is the organisation’s first corporate university outside London. Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Paul Polman commented on its opening in June 2013:

“Singapore sits at the nexus of the developed and emerging world. It’s a leading hub for leadership and innovation, and a gateway to the rapidly growing Asian economies. When our future leaders come here, whichever part of the world they come from, we know they will gain exposure to new insights and perspectives.”

For organisations that are committed to developing a global mind-set in their future leaders, Singapore can be an ideal market in which to nurture them. Our research findings, particularly within the banking sector, show that the majority of individuals at leadership levels are non-Singaporeans with international work experience prior to taking their current posts. Although the local talent pool at an executive level is fairly shallow, there is a population of Singaporeans at a mid-management level that are being prepared to step up from ‘ready later’ candidates into ‘ready now’ talent that can step into more senior roles.

Singapore as the gateway to Asia

Singapore is known as the gentle gateway to Asia due to its culture, efficiency, weather, schooling and location, thus attracting talent to the country is less of a challenge than in some of its Asian counterparts. Armstrong Craven’s talent reports have frequently noted that once expatriates have left Singapore they are often open to considering a move back.

Singapore certainly has the feeling of a market on a growth trajectory. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was interviewed on 14th January 2015. He said: “Singapore has come a long way in the last 50 years, but this milestone should be seen less as a final destination than a springboard to an even better future. The 50th year is a good time for us. It is like reaching the end of a fifty metre swim. I touch (the wall), I take a breath and I swim on.”

Heather Travis is Director, Asia Pacific at Armstrong Craven. She can be contacted at heather.travis@armstrongcraven.com

Return to blog