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Singapore’s Conglomerate Golden Equator Group Expands to Brunei; Appoints Country Head

Singapore’s Golden Equator Group has announced its expansion into Brunei, following the SNG24.6 million strategic investment it received in April 2019, led by serial entrepreneur-investor Taizo Son along with individual investors from the Asia Pacific and Middle East, including Brunei.

The expansion will see three of the Group’s businesses established – Golden Equator Wealth, Golden Equator Consulting, and potentially SPECTRUM – in Brunei. The Group has also appointed Aziemah Abdullah as Country Head who will spearhead the Group’s in-market expansion activities in Brunei.

Golden Equator Wealth (GEW) will focus on educating and providing Ultra-High-Net-Worth (UHNW) families and individuals in Brunei with a more holistic approach to wealth and legacy preservation. The expansion into Brunei is also part of its efforts to deepen understanding of the ‘family office’ concept and its relevance for the UHNWs in Asia.

Shirley Crystal Chua, Founder& Group CEO, Golden Equator, said “from our conversations with Bruneian families, we understand that there’s a desire to understand proper wealth management and legacy preservation. There is also an encouraging interest in initiatives that involve the next-generation members of these families, which shows that the older generations are starting to plan how to pass down the family business and wealth to their children (NextGens) to manage.”

In May 2019, GEW officially launched its NextGen Programme and Bruneian families participating in the launch event showed interest in the programme which cultivates the NextGens to be custodians of the family wealth and enterprise. Some of the families’ NextGens then went on to attend Golden Equator’s NextGen Club soft launch later in 2019, which saw the gathering of an international network of NextGens discussing topics important to them while building connections.

In 2019, GEW also launched Family Office 2.0: Beyond Wealth Management, a publication that delves into the family office concept, succession planning, legacy preservation, and their growing importance especially in Asia, where wealth is accumulating at a significant rate. GEW hopes to share this publication more broadly in Brunei as an introductory educational resource about Asian family office.

Since 2018, Golden Equator Consulting (GECo) has been working with Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), Brunei’s national SME agency, to facilitate the learning bootcamps that help equip Bruneian startups with the core business skillsets while providing them with access to networks and international exposure.

To date, GECo has completed a total of 3 startup bootcamps (Accelerate) and microbusiness bootcamps (The Micro Bootcamp) in Brunei, and will be conducting 7 more in the next two years. The learning bootcamps have guided more than 200 start-ups, raised more USD1 million in investments, and helped provide employment to approximately 500 people in Brunei.

GECo has also facilitated several partnerships for Singapore and Brunei start-ups that led to the expansions of their different businesses including Vault Dragon with BloodKad and Glints with Grominda. Consequently, Vault Dragon has successfully expanded into Brunei working with BloodKad, and together, they are in discussions with the Brunei government for a potential national initiative.

With GECo’s establishment in Brunei, it is also looking to work with more private companies in 2020 to offer its digital transformation solutions, working with them to optimise their workflow and to future-proof their businesses using technology.

Community-focused workspace SPECTRUM is currently in discussions with Brunei’s government agencies to potentially set up a workspace that drives community-building and collaborations. Such collaborations aim to grow Brunei’s start-up ecosystem by leveraging on the extensive regional network of SPECTRUM’s parent, Golden Equator Group.

The SPECTRUM expansion also aims to draw more entrepreneurs from Borneo into Brunei, transforming Brunei into an entrepreneurship hub and allows start-ups to be part of a regional innovation ecosystem. This ecosystem will provide these start-ups with access to a wider network of investors and partners, allowing regional market exposure and collaboration opportunities for growth.

Launched in 2018, SPECTRUM has recently signed partnerships with similar workspaces in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea. Besides the Brunei government agencies, SPECTRUM is currently also in discussions with potential partners in Dubai and Korea to set up a presence in these countries.

As part of its commitment to further its relationships in Brunei and to lead the Group’s in-market expansion activities, Golden Equator has appointed Aziemah Abdullah as the Country Head for Brunei in November 2019.

An experienced leader in business development and management, Abdullah has strong networks and insights on the business and operating landscape in Brunei. She was most recently with the Royal Brunei Technical Services (RBTS) leading the company’s business development and expansion initiatives.

Abdullah now leads the development strategies for Golden Equator’s businesses entering Brunei, helping with the establishment and expansion of their footprints in the country.

Aziemah Abdullah, Country Head, Brunei, Golden Equator, said “There are many aspects of the Group’s businesses that will benefit Brunei’s UHNW families, private and public companies, and start-ups. More importantly, I am excited to leverage the strength of the Group to contribute to the financial knowledge development, growth of Brunei’s start-up ecosystem, and help companies be future-ready through the adoption of technology.”

Golden Equator’s expansion into Brunei is also a result of its discussions with the country’s government agencies, and the Group’s commitment includes Helping develop services- and finance-related talents through training and employment opportunities in Brunei creating opportunities for Bruneian graduates to be more employable regionally; imparting digital and ‘work from anywhere’ skill sets for Bruneians; helping build the innovation ecosystem, entrepreneurship capabilities; and connect Brunei to regional countries and vice versa.

Chua said “Our expansion into Brunei marks our commitment to the development of Brunei’s start-up ecosystem and is an example of ecosystem-building in the region via Singapore. This means we will be able to continue using Singapore as a base to build other nodes in the region, connecting the different markets to build an even stronger business environment. Our strategic investment in 2019 from an international group of investors with strong influence and network in their respective market was an intentional decision to strengthen our touchpoints in these markets.”

In 2019, Golden Equator Group received a SNG24.6 million strategic investment from investors based in the Asia Pacific and Middle East to build the region’s innovation ecosystem. The investment was led by renowned serial entrepreneur-investor Taizo Son and joined by other individual investors from Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia as well as Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UAE, and Qatar. Their profiles include members of the royal families, Chairmen of large MNCs, C-level executives from sovereign wealth funds, and academics.

Javed Ahmad, CEO, Darussalam Enterprise, said “We have been working with Golden Equator for the past few years, and with their successful track record in building start-up ecosystems and helping start-ups grow regionally, I welcome the Group’s initiatives. The Group also possesses strong finance, wealth management, and legacy planning capabilities, which we need to grow and establish the necessary infrastructure in Brunei. I look forward to their contributions in building the finance and innovation ecosystems here, working closely with the public and private sectors in reaching our Wawasan 2035 goals of diversification.”