Business seminar to give firms overview of prospects for 2018

The new year is looming and business owners have mixed feelings about what is in store for them over the next 12 months.

Whatever the prospects, there are plenty of variables at play - from global economic trends to regional geopolitics.

Keeping a handle on all of this while running an enterprise can keep business people awake at night, so the upcoming Outlook 2018 seminar offers some timely assistance.

Organised by The Business Times and supported by Canon Singapore, the half-day seminar will feature experts from the market and academia. They will help provide clarity for small and medium-sized enterprises to make sense - and decisions - in the uncertain times ahead.

Ms Gennie Chin, who runs Culum Capital, an online supply-chain finance platform, is keen to get insights from the event.

Ms Chin said she is wary of an economic slowdown, noting that some suppliers are taking longer to receive payments from customers.

"And next year marks the 10th anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis," she said, hinting at fears of a possible cyclical downturn.

NEED TO STAY RELEVANT

Retailers and online players are converging towards an omni-channel business model. In this disruptive backdrop, consumer companies must reinvent their value proposition to stay relevant in an uncertain economy.

MR JIMMY KOH, UOB's managing director of group wholesale banking, sector solutions group.

"What I'd like to hear from the experts is whether the era of digitisation and the rise of fintechs will bring about a more optimistic outlook... or will it be another dot.com bubble?" she added.

Lam Kee Fisheries deputy general manager Sam Tan said he has concerns that go beyond economic influences. He said: "It's the lack of hunger among the new generation of entrepreneurs.

"The good times that we grew up in spared us from the kind of worry our forefathers once had, to put three meals on the table. And as a result, this authentic lack of drive has caused us to fall behind in the global market rat race."

Some of these concerns will likely be addressed by Mr Jimmy Koh, UOB's managing director of group wholesale banking, sector solutions group.

He will be speaking on where the economy might be heading, and its impact on local businesses, as well as how they can prepare to face the consumer of 2018 by leveraging on technology and big data.

He said: "Retailers and online players are converging towards an omni-channel business model. In this disruptive backdrop, consumer companies must reinvent their value proposition to stay relevant in an uncertain economy."

The second speaker, Dr Joseph Liow Chin Yong, is professor of comparative and international politics and dean, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University.

He will cover the implications of the impact of geopolitics on business, from the unorthodox diplomatic approach of United States President Donald Trump to Chinese President Xi Jinping's consolidation of power. He will also touch on issues like the Rohingya refugee crisis, and its impact on the region.

Mr Vasu Menon, OCBC's vice-president and senior investment strategist, wealth management Singapore, will speak on markets. He said: "The US Federal Reserve and other major central banks are expected to unwind their ultra-loose monetary policies in the coming months, and this could cause markets to be choppy as nervous investors grapple with the new reality."

A panel discussion moderated by The Straits Times associate editor Vikram Khanna will round up the seminar, with speakers discussing the kind of business model that will likely succeed in the coming year.

The panel will be joined by Monk's Hill Ventures managing partner Lim Kuo Yi, who will be representing the Future Economy Council (FEC).

The council comprises members from the Government, industry, unions, and educational and training institutions, and oversees the implementation of the recommendations put forth by the Committee on the Future Economy.

Dr Lim said: "I can't speak for the entire council, but from my time spent in meetings and conversations, I would characterise the perspective as one of cautious optimism and determined execution.

"The country's GDP growth, projected at the higher end of the estimated 2 per cent to 3 per cent for 2017, has been driven by a broader base of sectors, but the future remains unpredictable."

He added that the FEC will continue to drive the industry transformation mapping process over 23 sectors, which will cover about 80 per cent of the economy and look into ways to better support businesses to handle the fast pace of economic change.

"This includes accelerating the adoption of digital technologies and supporting internationalisation efforts to help firms take advantage of growth in the region," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline 'Business seminar to give firms overview of prospects for 2018'. Print Edition | Subscribe