Speech by MOS Faishal Ibrahim at Singapore Realtors Inc (SRI) Keynote 2024 Ceremony

Mar 26, 2024

Mr Thomas Tan, CEO, SRI
Ladies and Gentlemen


A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for inviting me to your Keynote ceremony today. I am very honoured to be able to be with you here today.

The theme for our Keynote today is “Innovate. Elevate. Unleash.” It is timely and relevant, given how business models are being disrupted and how technology is changing professions and industries. The real estate sector is no exception. As an industry, it is important that our professionals continue to innovate and upskill, to deliver value-added services while combating crimes that are enabled by technology, such as money laundering and scams.

Updates on the real estate industry

Over the years, our Singapore economy has managed to stay competitive. We continue to be a destination of choice for many companies and investors in the region and globally.

  • This is made possible due to our strong governance, stable political landscape, an open, welcoming and transparent operating environment, and a skilled and competitive workforce that businesses can easily tap into. We have an extensive financial network with easy access to global capital and professional services.
  • Businesses and investors trust us and are confident in what we can offer. They establish their presence here, bringing along a wealth of knowledge and skills that contributes to our economic growth and prosperity. This in turn benefits our property market, attracting investments and capital flows.

However, these very advantages which allowed us to shine, have also attracted bad actors trying to exploit our systems for gain.

  •  Recently, we have seen how a group of foreign nationals have sought to abuse our financial and property markets to launder their funds. They took advantage of our business-friendly banking systems that are designed to facilitate and encourage legitimate activities, and hid under complex corporate structures to avoid detection.
  •  Property is a valuable and attractive asset class, and money laundering is often carried out through acquisition. 
  • Besides money laundering, we have also seen the emergence of scams in the real estate sector in the recent years. In some cases, scammers impersonate landlords to cheat unsuspecting tenants of their deposits. In others, scammers impersonate CEA-registered property agents and pressurise victims into making deposits to secure or view the property. 
  • We take this seriously, and will come down hard on anyone who abuses the system or seek to legitimise their illicit gains.

The best defence against such criminal activities is a vigilant and discerning community, with stakeholders playing their part and working closely together.

  • In the case of money laundering, money launderers see stakeholders like financial institutions, lawyers, corporate service providers, and property agents as expendable pawns, using or entangling them to the extent that they become complicit.
  •  Money launderers will exploit any weaknesses in each of these sectors to conduct their criminal activities.
  •  This is why we have set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), led by Minister Indranee Rajah, to coordinate the efforts across various government agencies and strengthen our anti-money laundering regime to ensure that it keeps pace with the evolving modus operandi. The IMC targets to complete its review and share its findings by this year.

As leaders and professionals of your industry, not only do you not play a crucial role as gatekeepers against these threats, but you also have an important responsibility to educate and equip your clients with the latest information.

  • I am encouraged to hear that some of you have come forward to share feedback and suggestions with us since the news of the recent money laundering case broke.
  •  I would also like to thank SRI, for playing their part by helping to share anti-scam messages and publicising CEA’s anti-rental scam webpage on your social media channels.
  • We cannot completely prevent people from trying to abuse our systems. However, your contribution and efforts can go a long way in detecting and deterring such criminal activities right from the start, to safeguard consumer interest and stay ahead of evolving trends. So, you play a very important part because, in the processes, you come across people. As such, it is important for us to work together. 

Shifting consumer trends and technological advancements

With digital connectivity, easy access to information online and tools such as generative AI, your clients now have access to more services and advice beyond the traditional agent-client relationship. In that regard, we need to continue to upskill ourselves and tap on digital tools to increase productivity and provide better value-add to consumers. 

  • We understand that upskilling is not always easy, amidst your busy schedules. 
  • Thus, in May last year, CEA announced enhancements to the Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, ecosystem under Project ADEPT, to prepare you for the real estate agency industry for the future. We will raise the quality of CPD training and increase the required CPD training to 16 training hours from Oct 2025. This ensures that all property agents keep abreast of the latest knowledge, and pick up skills and competencies to stay relevant and resilient.
  • I am thankful for the support of property agencies like SRI, which have committed to achieve the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map target of having 100 percent property agents trained in at least one digital marketing tool or skill by 2025. SRI’s efforts to invest resources to develop in-house digital tools enables individual agents to access real-time data analytics, electronic forms and financial calculators, providing value-add to consumers and paving the way for an improved customer experience. 

SRI has also played an important role in the real estate industry’s digitalisation journey. As a member of the Alliance for Action on Accurate Property Listings, SRI together with other industry stakeholders, contributed time and money towards developing a prototype to address the longstanding pain-point of dummy, unauthorised, inaccurate and duplicate property listings. 

  • The prototype has been completed, and CEA is studying the feasibility of developing it into a full-scale platform to be used by property agencies and agents in the future.
  •  CEA will continue to partner with stakeholders such as SRI to work towards a more seamless and efficient property search experience for consumers and property agents.

Navigating changes in the evolving real estate agency landscape

Over the past two years, we have experienced a series of global interest rate hikes and geopolitical conflicts, leading to growing economic uncertainties amidst surging borrowing costs and increases in global energy and food prices.

  •  The Government has introduced a suite of support measures to help Singaporeans cope with cost-of-living concerns.  
  •  On the housing front, we are firmly committed to supporting Singaporeans’ aspirations to own their own homes, and will continue to ensure that there are housing options for every budget and need. 
  • Further, for families who have booked a flat but need temporary accommodation while awaiting their flat completion, we are ramping up the supply of flats under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme, or PPHS, to 4,000 units by 2025. In the meantime, we have recently announced the PPHS (Open Market) Voucher. This is a one-year voucher to support eligible families who need to rent HDB flats or bedrooms on the open market.
  • We have scoped the parameters of the voucher carefully, to support these families while minimising the potential impact on the broader rental market. From July 2024, each eligible family will receive $300 per month, for renting a HDB flat or bedroom. We hope that this will help to defray the cost of renting and provide some financial relief.
  • As professionals entrusted by your clients to advise them on their journey, it is important that you understand the various measures intended for the benefits of the respective demographic, and guide your clients towards the option that is most suitable for their needs.  

In this volatile economic climate, it is crucial for your clients to manage their risk exposure, remain financially prudent and avoiding overleveraging. As property agents, you are uniquely positioned to guide your clients to make well-informed decisions in their property transaction. 

  •  We hope that all of you, as real estate professionals, will help us in this process –
  •  Continue to share market developments and new initiatives with your clients,
  •  Encourage them to make prudent decisions,
  •  And guide them to choose homes that suit their needs and long-term interests.

Future and Closing

First, I would like to sincerely thank the leaders and management of SRI, as well as all your agents for working together with the Government and society in developing Singapore. We are small but we are special because of you and the rest of our fellow Singaporeans. I hope you will continue to journey together with us, so that while we maintain a robust, stable real estate industry and economy, you also enjoy fulfilling your role as professionals. 

In summary, real estate professionals like yourselves play an important role to help your clients understand the broader trends that affect the property market, and help them to make sound decisions.

  • In fulfilling these significant responsibilities, it is important for the industry to continue to upskill, innovate, and transform to serve your clients better.

I would like to end by congratulating all our award recipients. Keep up the good work and continue to push ahead with an innovative spirit. Thank you for having me and please enjoy the rest of today’s conference.  Thank you.