UOB to Invest $375M in Singapore Tech Centre

UOB in Punggol Digital District 1

Rendering of UOB’s planned innovation centre in Punggol Digital District. (Source: JTC)

United Overseas Bank Ltd (UOB) expects to invest at least S$500 million ($375.3 million) to build a new global technology and innovation centre in an upcoming smart district in northeastern Singapore’s Punggol area as part of the local banking giant’s digital push.

The third largest lender in the Lion City by total assets announced on Tuesday a plan to build a 300,000 square foot (27,871 square metre) office project in Punggol Digital District which would make it the first local bank and largest commercial investor in the 50-hectare (124-acre) smart district.

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“Our investment here reinforces our commitment to grow our Singapore core, and to support our customers in Singapore and across ASEAN on their digital journey,” said Wee Ee Cheong, deputy chairman and chief executive officer of UOB. The bank said in the same statement that it plans to complete the project towards the end of 2026, with the new centre expected to house around 3,000 employees from its tech, innovation and digital departments.

With Singapore’s JTC industrial development agency set to begin opening the Punggol Digital District next year, UOB will be counting among its neighbours companies including China-based Wanxiang Blockchain as well as local firms Target Media Culcreative and Delteq when it opens the new building in three years time.

Ramping Up Digitalisation

The lender controlled by the family of tycoon Wee Cho Yaw says its upcoming Punggol centre will be an innovation lab where functions of its digital banking mobile app, UOB TMRW, along with new digital products, will be developed, piloted and rolled out regionally.

UOB chief executive Wee Ee Cheong (Image: UOB)

UOB chief executive Wee Ee Cheong (Image: UOB)

“UOB is the only Singapore bank that has standardised its regional technology platform across ASEAN,” the bank said. “This new global design and developmental hub will further enhance the bank’s digital capabilities to drive and scale innovation to advance UOB to be the most preferred bank for both consumers and businesses in ASEAN.”

The new facility is also set to house the bank’s FinLab innovation accelerator, which aims to help tech firms, start-ups and small businesses grow their digital initiatives.

The bank said the tower will integrate green features including rooftop solar panels as well as systems to reduce energy consumption such as integrated building management, smart lifts and alternative cooling systems.

Smart features including LED lighting system, facial recognition access and workspace booking systems, will also be installed to boost efficiency in the workplace.

Located in the waterfront town of Punggol near the border with Malaysia, Punggol Digital District is designed as Singapore’s first-ever tech-enabled business district, with JTC aiming to host an ecosystem of companies, educational institutions, industry associations and government agencies focused on tech and innovation in the area.

Unveiled in 2018, the business park is scheduled to officially launch in time for the 2024 opening of the new Punggol Coast station on the MRT’s North East Line.

University Connection

On the same day that UOB announced its new development project, the bank also inked an agreement with the Singapore Institute of Technology to set up a Fintech Innovation Lab in the university’s planned Punggol campus to enable students to collaborate with UOB staff through fintech workshops, seminars, training and other activities.

The move builds on existing programmes for SIT students to serve internships at UOB, with SIT’s Punggol campus expected to house more than 10,000 students and teachers when it opens next year.

Speaking at an event marking the establishment of the Punggol Digital District (PDD) Living Lab Programme by JTC and SIT on Tuesday, Singapore Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong said that with online media agency Target Media Culcreative and systems integrator Delteq committing to the district, JTC will add three buildings spanning 1.2 million square feet of space to the development.

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Singapore-based cybersecurity provider Group-IB is also relocating its regional headquarters to Punggol Digital District, with smart living solutions provider Delta Electronics Int’l (Singapore) and robotics design company Boston Dynamics also setting up shop in the district, according to an initial roster of tenants announced in 2021.

Gan said the upcoming development will bring about 28,000 jobs closer to the residents of Punggol town.

“Even with the recent wave of tech layoffs, our digital economy continues to offer tremendous growth potential and Singapore remains well-positioned to weather the current challenges to seize these opportunities,” the trade minister added, stressing the need to further boost efforts to make the Southeast Asian nation “an attractive place for tech businesses.”

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