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Corporate abodes with style

Big names in professional services believe an address in the Marina Bay area will boost accessibility and branding

It’s not only banks that want to be located in a financial centre. The big professional services – law, auditing, management consultancy – are all hustling to Marina Bay, the new downtown.

The suits hobnobbing there will not only be pin-striped bankers, but also legal advisers and accountants. The spanking new One Raffles Quay, for instance, which houses banks UBS, Credit Suisse and Societe Generale, is also home to auditor Ernst & Young and law firm Norton Rose.

‘Being located in the centre of the business district puts us where we can have our finger on the pulse of business activity,’ said Ong Yew Huat, country managing partner of Ernst & Young. The firm occupies eight levels of the 50 in the North Tower of One Raffles Quay.

He pointed out that the heart of Singapore’s business district was shifting southward, towards the bay area from Raffles Place, as the Marina Bay district develops. ‘We welcome and look forward to more offices, shops and other developments being set up nearby, which will inject colour and life to the area,’ he said.

One Raffles Quay was built by the same developers now constructing another massive project called the Marina Bay Financial Centre. Together, the two projects will double the supply of premium office space in the central business district.

Many are expecting the new buildings, which will stand alongside other coming attractions such as the Sands casino and the Singapore Flyer, to further energise Singapore’s business district, which has traditionally referred only to the area around Raffles Place.

‘One of the benefits to Allen & Gledhill is the accessibility to clients located in the area,’ said the law firm, which is located at One Marina Boulevard. ‘It is also convenient for employees, as there is easy access to various modes of transportation, shops and food outlets.’

As it is, some firms in and around Marina Bay are expanding.

Legal firm Drew & Napier, for instance, said it will require more space within Ocean Towers, its current abode right next to Raffles Place MRT station.

‘We will remain in Ocean Towers till 2010. Accordingly, our priority over the next couple of years is to secure more office space, if possible, in Ocean Towers,’ it said. The firm added that it intends to remain in the city area should it relocate. Even in the age of the internet and mobile technology, the firms say that geographical location is still of the utmost importance.

‘There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with our clients,’ said Ernst & Young’s Mr Ong.

Said Allen & Gledhill: ‘Even with the availability of various lines of communication, it is important to us to meet our clients. Accessibility and convenience for our clients are therefore important considerations.’

There’s another reason why companies are choosing the new downtown – image.

Besides the posh offices and their plush interiors, the larger Marina Bay area is also home to the historic Fullerton Hotel, the old Supreme Court and several national theatres and museums. These lend the area a certain highmindedness and sense of the serieux. Simply put, for a top law firm, being located next to a fast-food joint on Orchard Road just wouldn’t have the same gravitas.

Norton Rose’s chief operating officer in Asia, Bob Ikin, said the legal firm’s location ‘enhances brand visibility, as One Raffles Quay is a very new and prestigious building’.

But it is not just the law and auditing firms that are gravitating to Marina Bay, but also Sophis, a software developer and service provider to the treasury, capital and commodity markets. As such, it’s natural that it would be in the financial centre. But besides the obvious need to be close to its business partners, the company also had to think about its brand, said Nigel John Ford, business development director in Asia.

‘Sophis takes particular care in choosing the right office address for its operations around the world,’ he said. ‘In New York we are on Broadway, in London we are in Gracechurch Street, and in Hong Kong we are in International Finance Centre 2. Marina Bay Financial Centre just has to be the address for our business in Singapore.’

For prospective customers, ‘it shows we have discerning standards and reveals something of our corporate culture and brand,’ he said. The company officially opened its Singapore office – on the 25th floor of One Raffles Quay’s North Tower – in February.

For Ernst & Young’s Mr Ong, ‘the choice of a top-notch building and state-of-the-art work facilities reflects our attitude towards our people’.

Besides accessibility and image, some firms said they chose the Marina Bay area precisely because they could be somewhere else, quickly.

Management consultant McKinsey & Company, which is located at Centennial Tower, wanted to be near the city’s main road arteries.

‘Being a consultant often means being on the road travelling to and from client meetings,’ said Chinta Bhagat, head of McKinsey in Singapore. ‘We also fly in experts and consultants from our other global offices. Marina Bay is an excellent location with doorstep access to top hotels, restaurants and other facilities, and particularly rapid access to Changi airport.

‘The people you see running up the boarding ramp just before they close the gate, they’re unfortunately usually us,’ he said.


Source: Business Times 13 Dec 07


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