Singapore: A case study on First Derivatives

Singapore case study

This feature is the fourth in our ‘Spotlight on Singapore’ series of collaborative articles providing insights into the dynamics of the region and potential  opportunities for Northern Ireland businesses in Singapore; a gateway location to Asia.  This article is a case study on First Derivatives, a global technology provider from Northern Ireland that have successfully established their Asia Pacific (APAC) headquarters in Singapore. 

About First Derivatives

First Derivatives (FD) is a global technology provider with more than 20 years of experience, working with some of the world’s largest finance, technology, automotive, manufacturing, telecommunications and energy institutions. The Group’s Kx technology, incorporating the kdb+ time-series database, is a leader in high-performance, in-memory computing, streaming analytics and operational intelligence.

When and why did First Derivatives and Kx enter Asia?

Asia is an incredibly fast-growing market for firms looking to extract value from their data, especially when looking to make business decisions in real-time. FD first established a presence in Sydney, Australia in 2009, through an acquisition of a local company, with the objective of servicing our global finance clients across the Asia Pacific region. After securing a number of flagship clients in Tokyo and Singapore for our ultra-high performance Kx analytics technology, it soon became clear that due to the long flight times to reach the major Asian centres to service our global clients, we would need to establish a base in Asia. In 2013 we opened our Singapore regional headquarters, with Sydney continuing to be the focal point for our Pacific clients and from where regional support is carried out.

Why did the company make the decision to set up the APAC HQ in Singapore, what was the attraction?

From FD’s perspective without doubt Singapore is a great hub with English being the common language.

Besides being a good place to do business, we have won a number of key clients in the market. Many of our global customers have established their APAC HQ in the country or at least have a sizeable presence there. The journey times between other Asian centres are far more accessible, making it easier to visit North Asia (Hong Kong, China and Taiwan), South Korea, Japan and South Asia (India). Connectivity to other global centres such as London, New York and Europe and the Middle East are also well established - making it an obvious focal point from which to build out FD’s regional functions.

Our Singapore office has grown from less than ten staff four years ago to a current headcount of over 60. 

Singapore is consistently rated as one of the easiest places to do business globally, what has your experience been to date?

Asia Pacific is an attractive region in which to do business and with that attraction comes a lot of competition...while it is possible to do business from an office in Northern Ireland, we’ve found it a lot easier having a presence in region.

From FD’s perspective without doubt Singapore is a great hub with English being the common language. There is also a great infrastructure from an IT, communication, education, travel and general facilities perspective. A good regulatory framework, with political stability and easy access to the rest of the region whether that is North Asia, Japan, Pacific or South Asia.

It is, however, essential to have a clear view of your objectives when establishing your business here. There are a number of important considerations such as how and where to source local staff, local employment law and how to engage with local academia. These were primary issues for our organisation in the early days.

We are very grateful for the support and assistance provided by Invest Northern Ireland’s Singapore office with additional assistance from the UK’s Department for International Trade and the British High Commission Singapore.

We are now embedded into the fabric of Singapore’s fast-growing data analytics industry and are able to leverage the close relationships developed with Singapore Government agencies and Singapore’s universities. FD has an active policy of recruiting locally across all of the major universities and polytechnics on the island. We also hold regular meetups and workshops for our client-base to understand new developments in Data Analytics, Machine Learning and Data Science. It has been hard work, but it is also very rewarding.

Now that you have become established in Singapore, what opportunities does that afford you outside of the country?

As the business grew, we opened satellite offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul. Across the region we have grown from zero people on the ground to over 170. We have also grown our client base from two clients to more than 50, including those in China and India. In each office, we are committed to working with local clients and growing business organically. This strategy has allowed us to build a diversified portfolio across the whole region with marquee names using our core technologies in finance, manufacturing, telecommunications and utility industries to name a few.

Could you provide advice to Northern Ireland tech companies considering Singapore and Asia Pacific as an export destination?

Asia Pacific is an attractive region in which to do business and with that attraction comes a lot of competition. It’s also a diverse region with well over 30 different countries each with its own language, regulations and cultural norms. While it is possible to do business from an office in Northern Ireland, we’ve found it a lot easier having a presence in region.

On the ground, business communities want to see a commitment to their local market, industries and academic institutions as well as employment opportunities for local people. Being embedded in the culture and business environment and staying connected to in-market stakeholders will open many more doors and opportunities.

We’d also recommend utilising the services of Invest NI, UK’s Department for International Trade and the British High Commission Singapore. With a proven track record of helping Northern Ireland tech companies grow their business in the region, they were a big help to us as we navigated the various hurdles to establishing and growing our presence.



We would like to thank First Derivatives for collaborating on this case study.


Invest NI’s in-market trade experts can help you explore opportunities in the region and will be hosting an online ‘Spotlight on Singapore’ event on Tuesday 6th October 2020 to further explore opportunities for Northern Ireland digital businesses in Singapore.

To register for this online event, click here.

To find out more about how we’re here to help your business succeed in the region, contact singapore@investni.com

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