As a leading bank in Asia, we have an abiding commitment to encouraging business investment as a means of driving long-term economic growth and community development.
As our business has grown over the last 80 years, we have built deep connections in all the markets in which we operate. We opened our branch in Myanmar in May 2015, one of only nine foreign banks having been granted a foreign bank licence to do so. We focus our efforts there on supporting clients whose investments are directed towards meeting Myanmar’s growing urbanisation and industrialisation needs and long-term economic growth. This has involved UOB helping to facilitate investments in infrastructure development projects including the construction of three of the country’s gas-fired power plants, essential for Myanmar’s economic growth. Alongside supporting projects that create jobs for the people of Myanmar such as in the energy, automotive and tourism industries, we offer training and technical assistance to the local banking industry as it helps to manage Myanmar’s rapid economic transformation. In Thailand, we have also opened a second Business Banking centre in Chiang Mai Province to support growing cross-border trade flows and increased tourism.
Through UOB Venture Management’s Asia Impact Investment Fund, we have extended an opportunity for our customers to invest in socially responsible companies. Their investment supports companies creating employment opportunities and helping people living in low-income communities.
To support more enterprise and innovation, we invested US$100 million to acquire a 50 per cent interest in Temasek Holdings’ subsidiary InnoVen Capital. This company provides US$500 million venture debt financing to startups in China, India and Southeast Asia as they seek to build the businesses of the future in the areas of healthcare, clean technology and consumer services.
We also set up The FinLab, a joint venture with the investment arm of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore. Over the next two years, The FinLab expects to help at least 30 promising startups test and accelerate their businesses. We have also opened The FinLab to all UOB employees to help develop new, technology-based financial services. These initiatives support the growth of emerging industries and businesses and create opportunities for people to apply their enterprising minds to ensure they stay relevant in our increasingly connected world.
In Asia, small- and medium-sized enterprises are the bedrock of many local economies. In Singapore alone, such businesses account for 99 per cent of all local enterprises 1.
We understand the ambitions of such businesses because it was the same entrepreneurial spirit and determination to succeed that propelled our growth from a small local bank to a regional leader. We want to help businesses grow and, as a result, established the Asian Enterprise Institute, in partnership with the Singapore Management University (SMU). Since its launch in 2012, the UOB-SMU Asian Enterprise Institute has helped nurture more than 310 small businesses by providing business consulting services, research and industry insights.
|1||Source: SPRING Singapore, Grow Your Business|
Our 80th anniversary provided the perfect canvas for us to share with our customers and the community our long-term commitment to supporting art, children and education. We conducted a range of activities throughout the year, each designed to celebrate and to strengthen the bonds within the communities in which we operate.
One of the most significant and long-term commitments we made in 2015 was through our partnership with National Gallery Singapore (NGS) to promote Southeast Asian art. The UOB Southeast Asia Gallery is housed in NGS which holds the world’s largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art – more than 8,000 pieces of art that capture the history, culture and creativity of our region. We also exhibit in NGS several historically important and formative pieces from our own collection including works by renowned artists Chua Ek Kay, Tan Swie Hian and the much-respected pioneer in the Nanyang Art style, Cheong Soo Pieng.
A number of our paintings were also on display at a joint exhibition between NGS and National Museum China to inaugurate the new China Cultural Centre in Singapore in late 2015. The exhibition commemorated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Singapore.
The UOB Art Collection, one which we have been curating for more than four decades, was also the focus of a special exhibition held at Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. The exhibition, titled The UOB Art Collection: Drawing from our past, framing our future, provided a rich, visual commentary on the region’s economic and cultural transformation over many decades.
Our long-term commitment to art is principally demonstrated through our flagship art programme, the UOB Painting of the Year (POY) Competition – the longest-running art competition in Singapore. 2015 was its 34th year. The regional competition today is open to established and emerging artists from across Southeast Asia, and provides an avenue for them to showcase their talent to a wider audience. Local competitions are held in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. UOB then hosts each country’s winning artists in Singapore as part of announcing the annual UOB Southeast Asian POY award winner. This year’s winner was Indonesia’s Mr Anngar Prasetyo for his painting titled Exploration of Fish, a piece which provides a stark reminder of the consequences of over-fishing.
We are also grateful to the UOB POY alumni, who continue to partner with us on art education programmes. Under the UOB Heartbeat Volunteer programme, artists share their time and skill to hold art classes for children who are rarely exposed to art. In 2015, classes ranged from a creative art workshop with 2014 POY Singapore winner, Ms Om Mee Ai, to creating contemporary Chinese ink paintings for Mother’s Day with 2014 POY winners, Ms Hong Sek Chern and Mr Chua Say Hua. The largest class we conducted was with inaugural POY winner Mr Goh Beng Kwan who helped children with special needs paint a two-storey high mural celebrating Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. Themed Home, the mural comprises a collage of each child’s drawing of the people and places closest to their hearts.
Our commitment to the region’s artists also saw us host our first UOB POY exhibition in Malaysia. The well-received exhibition gave 12 local Malaysian artists an opportunity to share their latest works.
We also extended our support for the arts in Hong Kong through the creation of the UOB Art Academy. The Academy runs monthly workshops, forums, exhibitions and mentor programmes. All activities are designed for children with special needs and those from less privileged backgrounds.
We believe in preparing the younger generation for the future. In 2015, we launched the $50 million Wee Cho Yaw Leaders Award scholarship programme. It was part of our 80th anniversary celebrations. The first cohort of scholars will be chosen in 2016, based on their potential to lead as well as their academic performance, community efforts and financial background. Each recipient receives funding to cover their university tuition and will be given an opportunity to build a career at UOB.
Our university scholarship programme in Myanmar is another example of our commitment to developing local banking talent and supporting the local financial sector. In 2015, UOB helped 15 outstanding students to further their education at the University of Yangon and the Yangon University of Economics. The scholars also completed an internship at the Bank to learn new skills and to prepare themselves for their careers after graduation.
As part of giving the younger generation a headstart in life, UOB began offering computer coding lessons for the children of our customers in 2015. Each Sunday, parents conducting their banking at our Serangoon Central and Jem branches are able to enroll their children in The Art of Coding lessons. The lessons teach the children the basics of software and application development.
We also provide financial literacy education programmes to children in Indonesia and Malaysia to equip them with tools and knowledge to understand the basics of sound financial management. More than 170 children have benefitted from such programmes that we ran in 2015.
The care and concern of UOB employees run deeply across all our offices. Testimony to this is the more than 23,500 hours our people volunteer to help charitable causes. On the same day every year we host the UOB Heartbeat Run/Walk across multiple countries. It is when UOB colleagues, their families, friends and customers unite as one to run or to walk to raise funds for those in need. In 2015, we set a new UOB Heartbeat Run/Walk fundraising record of $1.3 million. These funds are channeled directly to beneficiaries that work to improve the lives of children, often those with special needs, and the elderly.
Our team in China donated school supplies to children in two remote schools. At the Central Primary School in Sichuan Province, 300 children received winter uniforms to keep them warm during the colder months, new school bags and stationery sets. At Liu Zao Primary School in Jiangsu Province, students now have access to a refurbished library, dance hall and music rooms as a result of the efforts of our people.
UOB takes an active role in championing a more inclusive society. This might take the form of our own inclusive employment initiatives, exemplified by the award-winning UOB Scan Hub where people with autism are hired for roles requiring their particular strengths of unwavering focus and attention to detail. We take care in the design of our branches, being sensitive to those living with disabilities. And our people also make the time to support organisations dedicated to helping those with special needs, in the desire to help make a difference to their lives.
In 2015, we helped to set up a learning and development centre in Singapore for people with special needs. The UOB Ability Hub, built in partnership with the Community Chest and SG Enable, is a facility to provide on-the-job training, information services and job support for people with disabilities. The UOB Ability Hub also hosts the UOB Auditorium which is the first in Singapore equipped with hearing loop technology to improve the clarity of sound for the hearing impaired.
We also donated $20 million, as part of our 80th anniversary, to charities that support those with special needs, children and the elderly.
As part of our long-term approach to managing our business, we seek to reduce the environmental impact our operations may have on local communities. For example, over the last few years we have deployed digitisation technology to reduce the paper we use when opening customer accounts. In 2015, we continued to make operational improvements and recycled more than 5,000 tonnes of materials at UOB Plaza, and achieved more than 20 per cent energy savings from two of our office buildings in Singapore, UOB Plaza and Alexandra Road building. Our upgrading programme saw the buildings’ air conditioner units replaced and energy-efficient LED lighting installed. Other improvements we made at UOB Plaza include rainwater harvesting and installing water-efficient fittings, providing Green Lot priority parking for hybrid and electronic cars, and bicycle parking lots to reduce the use of private cars. We also maintained almost 5,000 m2 of landscaped gardens.