• 19th March 2024

Singapore story

Last month, Navis Consulting’s Associate Director, Neil Dexter, embarked on an amazing (work) trip to Singapore! Read on to delve into his diary and find out all about his experience of this incredible island country…

Sunday 18th

The journey to Singapore begins! With only a few hours’ sleep on Saturday night, following my return to London from a ski trip to Italy in the early hours of Sunday morning (I know, it’s a hard life), I wake up at 6am to make my way back to Heathrow airport. I thought to myself: “It’s ok, I can just catch up on sleep during the 13-hour flight to Singapore.” I was wrong – due to a mixture of excitement, nerves and the fact that it was a daytime flight, I only manged another couple of hours of shut-eye. Nonetheless, the flight was smooth and the service on Singapore Airlines was some of the best I’ve ever experienced.

Monday 19th

Touch down in Changi Airport, Singapore! I switch my phone off of airplane mode and it tells me it’s about 7.30am Monday morning, but with the 8-hour time difference that means it’s 11.30pm Sunday evening back in the UK. I’m functioning on less the 5 hours’ sleep since Saturday night, so I should be ready for bed, but I’m not. I’m buzzing to have finally arrived!

In any case, against the advice of some of my wiser colleagues, I have no time to rest. I haven’t allowed myself any days to adjust; my first meeting is scheduled for 11am Singapore time – Just over 3 hours! Luckily, the airport is super-efficient and by the time I’m through security, my suitcase its already waiting for me. I grab it and make my way outside where the heat and humidity make it feel like walking into sauna. Luckily, the taxi is air-conditioned and we make the 25 minute drive to my hotel in Bugis area. After check-in and a quick shower, I’m suited and booted and ready for a busy day of meetings.

My first meeting is an existing client with whom I recently placed a great candidate. I love getting to meet the people who are settling so well into their new jobs. I then meet clients that are recruiting but do not currently work with me – new jobs now secured! Next are some candidates that I’ve worked with for a long time, and some candidates that I’m speaking to for the first time. All of them providing me with an education on the culture and market in Singapore.

Monday felt like a whirlwind, from one meeting to the next, fuelled by a traditional, strong black coffee from a local Vietnamese café over a lunch-time meeting. I get back to my hotel around 6pm where I finally hit the wall. I am ready to recharge and get some sleep. The biggest lesson learned from day 1: Do not wear a suit and tie in Singapore!! It’s way too hot, and you stand out like a sore thumb! Trousers and a smart shirt will do just fine.

Tuesday 20th

After a great night’s sleep, I have miraculously avoided any signs of jet lag. I wake up just before 6am as I’ve planned to go for a run before my first meeting of the day at 9.30am. I had an idea of some of the sights I wanted to see on my route, and after a quick detour via Fort Canning park, I headed straight towards the Marina Bay area. The sights of Marina Bay Sands and the famous Singapore skyline are breathtaking. I never usually stop when I’m out for a run, but I can’t help snap a few pics on my phone of the amazing views. Running back to my hotel, I catch sight of the famous Singapore F1 track. It’s amazing how many iconic locations are just a stone’s throw away from each other.

Feeling energised from such an incredible start to the day, I prepare for another busy day of meetings. Today, 20th February, is P&I Renewals Day. I purposely picked this time to visit Singapore as it’s such a poignant week in the P&I calendar. There’s an extra buzz from everyone I meet with who’s connected to the P&I industry. I hear nothing but positivity about how most Clubs’ renewals have gone – it seems that somehow everyone is a winner. During the day, I hear numerous mentions of a P&I Renewals party later. I think this is something unique to the Singapore market; representatives of all the Clubs, along with close associates, get together on Renewals Day to celebrate another year of hard work and look forward to what the New Year will bring. The P&I Clubs take it in turns to host the prestigious event and this year was the turn of Skuld. This annual event taking place over the Chinese New Year celebrations seems very fitting.

Although I didn’t secure an invite to the Renewals party, (I’m not sure how welcome a recruiter would be, mingling with all of the companies’ top talent!), I was lucky enough to be taken to the East Coast Lagoon Food Village by one of my amazing clients. What a way to sample some of the local cuisine. Stingray, Otak-Otak, Oyster Omelette and sugar cane water were all on the menu and we ended the evening with a stroll along the shore, seeing the countless ships queued up along the coastline, representing something similar to the M25 motorway during rush hour!

Wednesday 21st

They say time flies when you’re having fun. It’s certainly the case during my time in Singapore. Day 3 already and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. I feel settled in the country now and I’m using the immaculately run public transport to easily navigate the city. MRT stations run like clockwork and are extremely clean and safe to use at any time of the day.

My day is filled with plenty more productive meetings, including a leading marine insurance broker, more P&I Clubs and a number of shipping lawyers. I spent a significant amount of time today at Suntec Towers. I’m told the 5 buildings of Suntec Towers and the fountain at the center represent a palm and 5 fingers from the sky. Another stunning example of the beauty of this country.

In the late afternoon, I took a stroll to the Pasir Panjang area as I wanted to see the sheer scale of the PSA container terminal. It’s the world’s largest transshipment hub and truly something to behold. It is this extensive affinity with the maritime industry that has seen Singapore become the central hub for the entire Asia market for all manner of maritime business and shipping companies.

Thursday 22nd

It’s my last full day in this amazing country and I wanted to allow some time to tick a few more things off of the bucket list whilst I’m here. I manage to squeeze in one more run in the morning and head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, taking in the amazing scenery and admiring the beautiful natural habitats contrasting elegantly with the impressive skyscrapers in the background. I head to the last few meetings of my trip, getting details of some exciting recruitment plans taking shape in the next couple of months.

I have one more meeting scheduled over dinner at Guoco Tower, at Tanjong Pagar, but before I head there I have just enough time to head to the one and only Long Bar at Raffles Hotel – the home of the Singapore Sling cocktail. I’ve been told by numerous people that I simply have to have one whilst visiting the country. The Long Bar itself has a unique charm, It feels like a stylish, Gatsby themed venue with a twist; there are giant sacks of peanuts scattered around and smaller bags served to you with your drinks, and it’s encouraged that you throw your empty peanut shells on the floor. The irony is, that in such a classy hotel, it’s probably the one place in the whole of Singapore that you’ll see any litter!

Looking back

I feel very lucky to have had the chance to travel to Singapore on behalf of Navis and the STR Group. It was a fantastic personal experience, made possible by the trust and opportunity provided by the management at STR. When I joined the company over 10 years ago, I could only have dreamed that opportunities such as this would become a reality.  The trip has reaffirmed the exciting growth taking place in Singapore, and I’m certain that only a fraction of the recruitment potential is being realised so far – Watch this space!

To everyone I met during my stay in Singapore, thank you all for being so welcoming and hospitable. You have an amazing country overflowing with diverse cultures and I feel like I have only scratched the surface. I’ll be back!

Like the sound of Singapore?

Do you want to work for a company that invests in its people and provides the opportunity for worldwide travel? We are recruiting! Contact our Talent Acquisition team today to find out what roles we have available and learn more about the fantastic opportunities that await you at the STR Group.

All aboard!

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