ULI Singapore Annual Conference 2020 | Expert Insights

Terence

Contact Terence Seah, 董事, 新加坡
terence.seah@benoy.com

On 30th April, the 2020 ULI Singapore Annual Conference fully took place online, a testament to the industry’s resilience and innovative spirit during these unprecedented times. Benoy was delighted to support the event as Patron Sponsor, which explored how real estate that creates great live-work-play environments has become an important asset for cities and businesses.

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“The Conference was forward-looking and optimistic. Panelists and participants alike were saying, ‘we can build a positive future and rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of this experience.’”

In particular, the session entitled Live-Work Discussion: The blurring boundaries between work and life in high density cities’ considered how COVID-19 could create lasting workplace changes. Here, Terence Seah, Head of Benoy’s Singapore Studio and the session’s moderator, answers questions about the event and the key messages emerging from it. 

PRESENTATIONS & VIDEO

The key discussions at the recent ULI Singapore Annual Conference LIVE online are now available on YouTube: 

Live-Work session:
https://​youtu​.be/​T​U​f​z​W​V​4T4Lw — moderated by Terence Seah, Benoy

Capital markets session:
https://​youtu​.be/​X​X​U​8​u​l​JQvJc

Universities and Innovation District:
https://​youtu​.be/​O​9​J​J​z​e​4JoMc

Hospitality and F&B session:
https://​youtu​.be/​M​k​b​F​q​-​EeYIs

Leadership Closing Session:
https://​youtu​.be/​q​n​d​C​d​j​dfGnk

Full playlist:
https://​www​.youtube​.com/​p​l​a​y​l​i​s​t​?​l​i​s​t​=​P​L​B​I​m​q​6​7​c​_​T​S​z​u​m​U​c​o​m​a​L​N​Z​F​8​f​3​H​F​dpEdT

Speaker presentations can be downloaded here.

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“I moderated a very interesting session, speaking with key leaders in their fields. A theme that resonated is that with ‘business unusual’, companies are being forced to adapt and innovate, which has revealed what is possible in terms of future working patterns. They’ve seen how adaptable and flexible their people can be, and the improvements that may come out of this.”

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“The Learning of the Future session with the Singapore Institute of Technology demonstrated, via a ‘smart’ perspective, how the partnership between innovation and big data will create new economies, and how they’re using the whole precinct as a data mining site for urban management.”

What did you think of the Annual Singapore Conference this year? How was it, participating in the event online? 

Taking place online, the conference this year was very tight and focused. The shift from offline to online was a success, with increased attendance year-on-year due to the ease of access and participation via simple log-in. I’m sure the fact that people didn’t have to travel contributed to the uplift in numbers. 

Were any aspects of the event enhanced through being delivered remotely? 

In addition to increased participation, online delivery meant the whole event could be recorded, which is useful for people who want to capture the conference messaging in its entirety. It’s also available for people to revisit, re-engage with, and follow up on key points of interest, rather than just hearing it once. So the ability to disseminate key content and messages, irrespective of location and time, was definitely an enhanced feature this year. 

The audience questions submitted via Slido also provided good interaction opportunities for speakers, allowing them to share ideas and information about their specialisms and organisations. They enabled the panelists to showcase thought leadership in an unconstrained format – much more so than in a physical, 30-minute slot in a conference venue. I think the potential for live event chatrooms is something that could be explored further.

What for you were the major highlights and key takeaways from the event? 

I was intrigued by the Learning of the Future session with the Singapore Institute of Technology, and how they’re approaching this topic from a smart’ perspective. I was interested to hear how the partnership between innovation and big data will create new economies, and how they’re using the whole precinct end of the city as a data mining site for urban management. Their efforts to leverage smart city tech to assess energy consumption and traffic patterns is really impressive…

What were the major discussion points around the impact of COVID-19 on workplace behaviours and environments? 

There seemed to be a lot of uncertainty around this issue, as well as a genuine desire to solve the workplace problems posed by the pandemic. I moderated a very interesting session — one of the panelists Tang Wei Leng, Managing Director of Colliers International in Singapore, made the excellent point that business unusual’ presents an opportunity to think about the recovery processes and weigh up available options. As all the panelists agreed, we need to think about how we reconfigure operations post-COVID, and how, if we do this well, we may achieve a better work-life balance for staff. 

Focusing on the mid- and long-term options, the other panelists –Ben Robinson of Raffles Quay Asset Management, and Leong Teng Wui from The Ascott Limited – took a positive view of the opportunities ahead, which was good to hear. One key message was, although our movements may be constrained at the moment, we can plan and look ahead”. What’s more, working arrangements that might have seemed untenable pre-COVID will be entirely feasible in the post-pandemic landscape. Panelists observed how, with companies being forced to adapt and innovate, many have seen what’s possible in terms of future working patterns. They’ve seen how adaptable and flexible their people can be, and the improvements that may come out of this – for example, more streamlined operations and better optimisation of space. 

In terms of workplace flex and core’, we heard how the flex is now more real, and will be critical to businesses as they begin to rationalise and rethink their operations. Of course, the requisite IT infrastructure and bandwidth will be needed to make remote working truly viable. But in terms of a preview of the world to come, what emerged was how important it is to start thinking about the future possibilities now. 

How well positioned is Benoy to respond to the trends, impacts and implications highlighted at the conference? 

In terms of business unusual’, Benoy is fairly well placed to look forward from this scenario. As a globally dispersed company, we operate across different markets and time zones. Our notion of the office’ is deconstructed in time and space, and arguably we’re already working remotely’ through our network of studios. We’re also extremely agile in the way we deliver work in each region, plugging into our wider network of leadership, resources and expertise when required. 

We also specialise in making spaces work’, and in shaping space to a specific purpose or experience. As such, I would say our people will have no trouble adopting to new working patterns in non-conventional working environments.

If you had to select one overarching message from the conference, what would it be and why? 

The key takeaway for me is that the work-life balance agenda may ultimately be strengthened as a result of the crisis. The conference distilled thinking around how people are responding to this situation; how they’re looking to recover, and how the pandemic will accelerate new changes. 

Overall, the conference was forward-looking and optimistic. Panelists and participants alike were saying, we can build a positive future and rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of this experience.’ At this most difficult time, we have to think about what we want to do as an industry; we need to hunker down, and we need to prepare for the work that is to come.

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