Home Estate Planning Neil Bennett: Singapore is too full of life for UK to ignore

Neil Bennett: Singapore is too full of life for UK to ignore

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The notebook is a place for City movers and shakers to get things off their chest. Today it’s Neil Bennett, the global co-CEO of H/Advisors, writing for us from Singapore


I’m in Singapore for the official launch of H/Advisors Klareco, our new office here following our acquisition late last year.

When I first visited here over 30 years ago it was already an impressive city. Now it’s a metropolis, with huge areas of office blocks on land reclaimed from the sea.

No wonder it is a prime target for the UK in our post-Brexit export drive. We signed an early free trade agreement here and since then there have been a series of further treaties. I was lucky to be invited to lunch yesterday by the British Chamber of Commerce to meet Martin Kent, the UK’s Trade Commissioner for the region. It is easy to get mired in gloomy political and economic news right now so it was enormously refreshing to see that the business of promoting the nation is at full pace and being carried out by someone with evident intelligence, charm and determination – Kent left a career with the Boston Consulting Group to serve the nation which is notable in itself.

Singapore has built its prosperity on continuity and the UK is absolutely right to try to tap into it.

Kent told us he had three priorities to boost UK exports in the region – digital, defence and decarbonisation, supporting business in those sectors find new markets and attract orders. All well and good, but I was down-hearted that our largest sector – financial services – barely registered a mention, despite the fact that many of the most successful British companies here are asset managers and banks. I do hope there is room for an A or a B amongst his alliterative Ds, at some stage anyway.

The main focus here though is that the country will soon have a new prime minister. That may not seem big news in the UK where we now appear to change PM every Thursday, but in Singapore it is seismic since they have only had four leaders since 1959.

Lawrence Wong, currently deputy and assumed successor to Lee Hsien Loong, has already published a strategic plan for Singapore, widely seen as his manifesto. For such a conservative country he has even adopted some fairly right-on language – calling for the Singaporeans to have more purpose in their lives. This is an important pronouncement for a country often seen as being all work and no play.

Don’t expect revolutionary fervour however. Singapore has built its prosperity on continuity and the UK is absolutely right to try to tap into it.


One less welcome feature on the Singaporean scene is the epidemic of spam calls and texts, sent by sophisticated fraudsters intent on tapping into people’s bank accounts. If you thought this was just a UK issue, think again – there are warning posters everywhere. Apparently even I’m not safe – a banker said if my phone stays here any length of time I’ll start getting them too. In reality it’s the price of success – the scam artists in neighbouring countries are targeting any unsuspecting locals with increasingly sophisticated ruses.


One British company that is clearly doing well here already is Brompton Bikes. In a fit of eccentricity I have brought my Brompton with me for a ride around town, but I quickly discovered that the place is teeming with them, and that they have attained almost cult status here.

Space is always at a premium in Singapore, so local residents love the fact they can fold their bike away and store it in a cupboard. Given Brompton’s CEO has an ambition to make more than 100,000 bikes a year he need Britain’s trade network to foster more markets like this one.


“So I have never gone looking for extra work but somehow the work finds me”

Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s next Prime Minister, in typically modest mode.


I’m heading to Sydney after this stop to visit our new H/Advisors office there. It’s not all work though – I’ve booked tickets at the Sydney IMAX to see the new blockbuster, Dune II – The Building of a Dynasty. I can’t wait.

While others will marvel at the science fiction, I’m rather taken with the grim allegory of corporate life – the warring planetary corporations extracting vital minerals from pristine environments, the brutality of their takeovers etc. And with this title, the show is going to make Succession seem like a children’s story.

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