Heritage buildings in Singapore given new lease of life

More banks and financial institutions in Singapore are using heritage buildings as a training ground for employees in the Asia Pacific region.

These buildings typically date back to the 1900s and have been given a new lease of life. They are often equipped with the latest technology to foster learning and development.

The Command House, originally known as Flagstaff House, once served as the official residence of some of Singapore’s British colonial leaders in the 1930s.

It also hosted many state functions in the late 1990s before being gazetted as a national monument in 2009.

It now houses the UBS Business University.

Swiss lender UBS is a forerunner in terms of banks utilising such buildings as regional training campuses.

Moira Roberts, head of human resources at UBS, said: “We set up the house in 2007 as a testament to invest in our staff in the region and we’ve been running for the last eight years in terms of staff training and development, thought leadership.”

Roberts added that the opportunity came at the time of growth of the wealth management business and the company’s strong desire to grow their talent within this region.

“At the time, we were obviously growing quite substantially. We looked at a number of different options and different sites and we were very fortunate to work with the Singapore government to actually gain access to the house,” said Roberts.

The Kinloss House at LadyHill Road, which served as a boarding school for British forces children from the 1950s to 1970s, is another heritage building that has been given a new lease of life.

Located in the heart of Singapore, the building is now known as AXA University Asia Pacific Campus and serves as a Centre of Excellence in learning for staff from Southeast Asia, South Korea and Japan.

Having invested about S$7.7 million into the university, the campus has conducted over 110 programmes so far.

Caroline Buhagiar, AXA’s regional learning & development director and campus head (Asia), said: “Having ambitious projects and business growth in Asia, it was very easy for AXA to be interested in this proposal and to invest, so we invested heavily but we didn’t do it alone. The Singapore government co-funded in the renovations of the building to bring it to the state of the art that it is today.”

She added: “The capacity is serving us just right and we have planned a whole year of activity making sure there’s a good balance from start to end of year so for the time being and for the next three years, I don’t anticipate we will do expansion for the projections that we have.”

One particular staircase in the campus has been preserved since the early 1900s and when AXA took over the site in 2008, the building was restored into a training ground.

It currently houses 10 classrooms and can accommodate up to 400 employees at any one time. And besides housing a library, all the paintings in this building were done by AXA employees.

The latest financial institution to join the fray is BNP Paribas with its campus in Changi.

The bank invested some S$24 million in the restoration and refurbishment of the two conservation buildings along Hendon Road for its first regional hub outside of France – all in a bid to support human capital excellence.

The BNP Paribas Campus has a modern auditorium which seats 200 people meant for large seminars and conferences, 25 rooms and an in-house restaurant which seats 130 people.

With potentially more companies interested in such set-ups, it certainly bears testament to the often quoted phrase, “everything old is new again”.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 29 Jun 2014

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