Singapore has a responsibility to lead a smart world

Gianfranco Casati, BUSINESS TIMES: ALL eyes and ears this week will be on Formula One in Singapore – it is hard to miss the fast and furious display in our city each year. But more quietly, in the background, is another event: the Milken Institute Asia Summit, a gathering of corporate, finance and political leaders to discuss the future of Asia.

The central theme is: A global transformation is underway, and Asia is at the epicentre. Market movements, political changes, emerging demographic trends from the region, our growing wealth and our leadership in embracing new technological solutions means that our decisions made in Asia on the future will impact the world.

It makes sense that the Milken Institute Asia Summit is hosted in Singapore, where our focus on developing a Smart Nation highlights that we intend to take the lead. But with potential comes great responsibility.

Put simply, Singapore has a responsibility to be smart. That calls for a need to focus on driving growth, which happens through efficiency, productivity and in wise investment in future offerings and business models. It does not happen by investing in tech for tech’s sake. It does not happen by layering on new tech to make it look like there us a shiny new product.

It means embracing digital solutions that make a difference. Consider blockchain. We have seen a lot of claims about applications of blockchain, many of which do not stand up to scrutiny. In any industry, a solution using blockchain has to solve business issues by changing the process to be successful, rather than compound them, or move them from one technology to another.


Here in Singapore, we designed a solution that is transformational (but perhaps not sexy enough to grab headlines so you may not have heard about it) for businesses around the world. A consortium comprising AB InBev, Accenture, APL, Kuehne + Nagel and a European customs organisation has successfully tested a blockchain solution that can eliminate the need for printed shipping documents and save the freight and logistics industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually. A traditional paper-based bill of lading contains 20-25 per cent inaccurate data. Our approach changes that process and greatly increases the accuracy of the information that is transferred along the value chain of an ocean-based cargo transaction because documents are no longer exchanged physically or digitally. If you eliminate the need for printed shipping documents, you can improve the bottom line.

The brain trust for this solution is sitting in Singapore. That is where we built it. We also worked with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) to manage and develop a prototype using three distributed ledger technology (DLT) platforms to help create a solution for interbank payments. This prototype for interbank payments is the groundwork for transforming financial services.

I am confident that we are going to continue to build new, world-changing solutions right here in our city-state that are genuinely transformational.

Sometimes, though, I fear, we do not always celebrate our leadership. I look at Changi Airport and see a digitally-savvy hub for transport that we perhaps take for granted. I look at our tax system and recognise that few places in the world rival us for streamlined efficiency, but we just consider it normal.

As the world descends on Singapore for race cars and business discussions, we should step back and take stock. We are world leaders showcasing our city. We should be proud of Singapore.

But we also have a responsibility beyond this week to carry that torch. Whether you are a university student thinking about your first job, or an employee in a multinational or a startup in one of our numerous new businesses, take a moment to reflect on what you can do to make a difference. Dream big – because you are in the right place to make change a reality

The writer is Accenture’s Singapore-based group chief executive, Growth Markets. The opinion was first published on Business Times Singapore. (Click here)

Asia pacific’s first millennial 20/20 summit draws over 1,500 in attendance

Asia’s first Millennial 20/20 Summit opened its doors yesterday at the ArtScience Museum, Singapore. Designed to discover the future of next-generation commerce in a marketplace where innovation, disruption and technology are reshaping business, the Asia debut of the world’s first summit for brands, retailers and start-ups provided 1,500 attendees from over 30 countries with a platform to engage in meaningful dialogue around the future of next-generation commerce.

The two-day summit hosted more than 170 world-class speakers across 70 panel discussions, presentations and showcases led by some of the world’s most influential brands and personalities.  Premiering earlier this year in London, Singapore was the second city in the world to host the summit which looked into some of Asia Pacific’s most revolutionary sectors of Travel & Hospitality, Food & Beverage, Fitness & Sport and Fashion & Beauty.

Speaking at the close of the summit, Simon Berger, Founding Partner, Millennial 20/20 said: “We are heartened by the overwhelming response to the Asian debut of the summit and are more determined than ever to deliver a platform to ignite conversations that are paramount to helping brands and businesses adapt and stay relevant in one of society’s most influential movements.”

Key themes included discussions around emerging trends impacting the millennial marketplace in Asia such as a growth in direct-to-consumer business models and approaches; evolving food consumption habits; millennial entrepreneurs.  Speakers from Singapore include brands such as Changi Airport, Diageo, Facebook, Mondelez, Royal Sporting House, Grain, One Championship, Zalora Group and GRAB.  On the agenda are riveting discussions around the millennial consumer in a digitally savvy environment bursting with new business models and trends and the future of the marketplaces they create.

“The millennial generation is one of the most connected generations in the world, with technology embedded in their DNA. This technological mentality has prompted businesses to redefine the way they interact and engage with consumers. To be successful, businesses must adapt and innovate to remain relevant in the marketplace,” said Rupa Ganatra, Founding Partner, Millennial 20/20.

Headline sponsor Accenture announced key insights from a research study into the expectations and shopping habits of consumers, in particular millennials in the digital age in the APAC region.

Tech Cos investing heavily on predictive algorithms to curb attrition

Top technology services companies across the world such as IBM and Accenture have grappled with the problem of high employee turnover in an industry that typically witnesses high attrition rates.  (Economic Times)

However, with the emergence of predictive algorithms and tools that crunch data in seconds and provide crucial insights and indicators into employee behaviour, IT companies may finally have found a solution to the problem of attrition. And the likes of IBM are investing heavily on such predictive analytical tools, as they look to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually, which otherwise is wasted on hires that may not have been the best fit for the company in the first place.

“You can do an analysis and you can look at whether the benefits in your compensation program is really targeted at the people who are the most productive and the most likely to stay because you can spend a lot of money on people who have a low probability of staying with you,” said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president for Smarter Workforce Engineering at IBM. “So you’re largely going to be wasting that compensation. And we’ve done some work in IBM where we found that we could save millions of dollars by targeting our benefits and compensation for the people who are most productive and most likely to stay with us,” Cavanaugh told ET on Thursday.

Attrition rates are typically higher across the global technology services industry. According to a Deloitte study, in FY15, the highest voluntary attrition across sectors was seen in the IT services sector at 21.9%, whereas the lowest was in the energy and natural resources sector at 10.5%.

Companies like IBM have, therefore, been forced to find newer ways of retaining employees and have had to take a fresh look at traditional technology industry metrics. And the results are starting to show, as companies are now deploying a more strategic approach towards hiring and only investing on talent that is likely to help drive long­term growth. “We’ve saved millions and millions of dollars as a result of (these tools) and we’ve had a stable workforce. We’re pretty sure that we can replicate those capabilities – a lot of this work has been done on a case­by­case, company­ by ­company basis.

And one of our challenges at this point is to try to find some general models that will bring down the cost of doing this work, so that we can apply it in a less bespoke manner, in a more general manner to help people,” said Cavanaugh. In the past few years, companies have gathered socioeconomic data from incoming engineers such as the educational qualifications of parents and household incomes. Armed with such information, human resource (HR) departments are able to use algorithms and analytics in recruitment.