More Technology … Less Physical Space?

Businesses are going virtual. People are moving around. Do you still put down cash for that piece of property? By S. Sakthivel

The sharing economy is rewiring how we live and work. Ku Swee Yong, CEO of International Property Advisor, notes that technological changes are affecting our space needs.

He suggests that co-working spaces and the emergence of sharing economies are causing structural changes in the property sector, to the point that he has even been advising many of his clients to divest their property interests.

Co-working spaces have made housing multiple organisations in one location much more efficient but on the flip side, it has also decreased the demand for office space. The dip in demand for retail space in Singapore’s malls has also exacerbated the turbulent nature of the property market.

With the digitisation of services, space is no more a constraint, or even a need, for many industries. An uptake in digital banking means one server stack can handle the duties of a roomful of bank tellers — Ku predicts that in the near future, neighbourhood bank branches would be all but obsolete.

Even the role of the property agent has been displaced by digital options —prospective buyers can hunt for spaces, view locations and discuss terms from behind a screen. But Ku believes that there are still opportunities in the industry.

Being prepared to function across borders, says Ku, presents a clear opportunity to remain relevant in the industry. With travel around the region increasing, particularly for business, Ku believes that there is an increased local demand for expertise in the region. Learning the ropes in emerging ASEAN markets like Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia could soon be essential.

Ku tells us more about the challenges that await his industry and the efforts he has taken to remain relevant.

Ku Swee Yong is a panellist at STORM magazine’s upcoming event, Keep It Going 2016, which brings together leaders and decision makers from various industries who talk about Protecting Against Headwinds.

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