The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world to a standstill with disruptions across supply and value chains. We spoke to TRX City CEO Dato’ Azmar Talib on the mitigating steps in facing COVID-19, ensuring progress and resiliency, and delivering the vision for a dedicated international financial district.
2020 was a year full of obstacles due to COVID-19, what are some of the main challenges faced?
The COVID-19 impact is something that the whole world has to contend with. Our progress and timeline were similarly affected, but we were fortunate to be one of the first projects given the green light from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to resume essential work.
As COVID-19 unfolded, we quickly pulled our resources together, and crafted a site-wide system that is prepared to face these adversities. Beyond the SOPs, we equipped ourselves with global best practices. This is made possible due to the local and international talents present on-site such as IJM, Lendlease, and CCC Core. We also drew experiences from those who are going through similar situations abroad.
What were some of the measures TRX took to overcome these challenges?
We had to be agile and quick; we implemented our Business Continuity Processes (BCP) and a dedicated TRX site-wide COVID-19 task force. Managing the development itself is a mammoth undertaking; TRX is a massive project site with six developers, each with their own set of main contractors and sub-contractors. Logistics arrangements in this tight space are complicated. We did face issues where our workers were infected but our contractors demonstrated great discipline in mitigating the further spread of the virus.
TRX, being a master-planned development, facilitates district-level collaboration, and this ensures that quality assurance and control are achievable. As the Master Developer, we paved the way to ensure that work can continue, ensuring tight coordination between plots to safeguard our workers. We followed stringent SOPs and conducted routine mass swab tests. Yes, we did incur significant additional costs, but it is a necessity as we are up against an unseen enemy. We do not want to compromise on the safety of people.
Our processes allowed us to resume work and minimize disruption despite intermittent incidents, and the value of this surpasses the investment we put in testing, coordination, and stringent regulations.
Aside from CIDB, we also engaged with Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN, Malaysian National Security Council) and Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL, Kuala Lumpur City Hall). We aligned our contingency plans with CIDB's SOPs and shared our solutions in managing the situation for the construction industry nationwide.
Has the pandemic affected your plan to fulfill TRX’s vision of becoming one of the International Financial Centres in the region?
We are still very much on track. In 2021, we will see HSBC Malaysia and Affin Bank joining Prudential, locating their headquarters in TRX. This moves us closer to realizing our aspiration to become a centre of excellence for the various facets of financial services covering banking, fintech, Islamic finance, fund managers and trustees, insurance, and investments.
We are also well on our way towards becoming a global investment destination as we already have an international community; our partners are Australian, British, Chinese, Indonesian, French and Malaysian, and we continue to target brands from across the world.
Overall, we have been successful in developing the district’s hardware despite the COVID-19 setback. Although our strategy may change, our vision remains the same.
Some delays that we are facing can be a blessing in disguise. For example, if the mall were to launch during this difficult period, it would be challenging for all parties involved.
The pandemic had tested the robustness of the TRX masterplan, and we found that while work may have been delayed, the masterplan is still resilient and even more relevant in this challenging time, just as it was designed to be future-proof.
We found that this period actually accentuates TRX’s value proposition, to the effect that despite COVID-19 we continue to receive foreign and local interest in TRX.
Have you seen the pandemic impact demand for offices and workplace?
We have seen COVID-19 change the needs and requirements of the market, not just in Malaysia but everywhere. In this pandemic era, we must be agile to change, relate and be relevant with the dynamics of time and market, and be prepared for the changing landscape post-COVID-19.
Contemporary study and surveys suggest that seamless connection between remote working and working in the office will continue to be critical, even after the pandemic. We also know that employers now are giving much stronger focus for the safety and wellbeing of their staff. And in a future of hybrid working, with greater work from home components, we can see that the requirements for the office would not just be to provide workers a place to work, but much more; a place that fosters creativity, learning, and space for collaboration, for engagement, with the right amenities for a safe and conducive environment.
Apart from applying the latest technology to ensure that the future workplace embraces this digital revolution in making the workplace flexible, mobile and resilient, the future design build will have biophilic features like natural light, greenery, and airy spaces.
TRX’s masterplan for example, includes a carefully thought-out public realm that will have ample green oasis and space for outdoor cafes and lifestyle where people can have options to work from wherever they prefer.
We should also consider the personal needs of workers outside of office. We are looking to provide supporting facilities like childcare centre and preschool so working parents may work with a peace of mind. It is features and services like these that add value and make TRX an all-inclusive destination in the near future. TRX will have those differentiating elements providing enhanced level of services that will make it stand apart from other addresses in KL.
Moving forward, what are the Company’s main targets to meet in 2021?
We target to complete the internal infrastructure that was planned to provide the best level of experience and service, ahead of HSBC and Affin’s arrival. We are also looking to further enhance relevant services and amenities, deploying various digital platforms. We are receiving a lot of interests around this and are now drawing up services framework that can support TRX to become an international financial hub.
In 2021, we will be activating key areas in the public realm, this includes the Raintree Plaza, the gateway to TRX from Imbi, and the TRX Link which connects the TRX MRT station and the district. These are the two major pedestrian accesses into the development, and it will feature green spaces with softscapes and shady pedestrian networks for the public to enjoy. These plazas are part of a larger district-wide public realm plan that will make TRX the place to be in Kuala Lumpur.
Once completed, the world-class public realm combined with excellent connectivity by rail and road will propel Kuala Lumpur to the next level and transform TRX into an international destination and the city’s new CBD.