By Joyce Koh and Faris Mokhtar
(Bloomberg) — Standard Chartered Plc plans to cut half of its existing office space in Singapore’s financial district, according to people familiar with the matter, in what is set to be the biggest floor reduction by a bank in the city-state in recent years.
The London-based bank is giving up nine of the floors it leases at Marina Bay Financial Tower 1 in the business district, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. Bloomberg previously reported the bank was considering slashing its office space by at least four floors.
With the downsize, bankers may not have their own desks and could have to reserve their spots before coming to the office, the people said. The lender’s current lease expires in October this year, one of the people said.
“With 80% of our Singapore-based employees adopting flexible work arrangements, we are reinvesting in and refreshing our premises to create a more open, conducive and collaborative environment,” a Standard Chartered spokesperson said. Singapore is a critical global hub for the bank and it retains a significant presence in buildings in the city, including Marina Bay Financial Centre, the spokesperson added.
Banks worldwide are grappling with returning workers to offices in a bid to live with the pandemic, now in its third year. Just 3% of white-collar workers want to go to the office five days a week, according to a recent poll, which warned employees will quit if bosses force them back full-time.
The downsizing of Standard Chartered’s Singapore workplace makes it the biggest office space cut among lenders in the city in recent years. Citigroup Inc. has already given up three of its office floors to Amazon.com Inc., while Mizuho Financial Group Inc. has also cut some space.
Prime-grade office rents in Singapore’s financial district rose for a third straight quarter in the first three months of this year, according to a Knight Frank report. Rents inched up 1.2% from the previous quarter, the report said.
More people are expected to return to offices after Singapore massively eased virus curbs late last month, allowing up to 75% of employees who can work from home to go back.
(Updates with comment from Standard Chartered in the fourth paragraph)
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