GaWC Research Bulletin 27

GaWC logo
  Gateways into GaWC


Expatriate Communities in Asia-Pacific Financial Centres: The Case of Singapore

J.V. Beaverstock and R.A.M. Bostock*


Professional and managerial migrants play an important role in the accumulation of capital within the network of international financial centres (IFCs). Expatriate labour has become a major determinant of the IFC, creating both financial and 'cultural' capital, both in the workplace and through complex social relations. In this paper, the role of the expatriate is considered in the accumulation of capital in Asian-Pacific financial centres: and in particularly Singapore. The paper is divided into three major parts. Part one discusses expatriate labour as 'transnational community' and highlights their contribution to knowledge production and social formation in the IFC. Part two presents an empirical profile of the social and cultural experiences of British expatriates who work in Singapore's financial district. Finally, part three revisits the theoretical work on transnationalism in order to conceptualise the position of these expatriate workers in the transnational communities and skilled transient international migration literatures.


Skilled international labour migration is increasingly becoming acknowledged as a fundamental globalization process in the (re)production of the global city (Beaverstock and Boardwell, 2000; Findlay et al, 1996; Yeoh, 1999). Such labour brings highly-specific knowledge, skills and networks into the city which contributes significantly to their magnetic agglomeration economies, wealth creation and global reach. In a similar vein, these workers are transnational elites. As they flow into or through the city, they bring with them well established cosmopolitan: networks; cultural practices; and social relations (Hannerz, 1996; Smith, 1998). Skilled transient international migrants (Appleyard, 1991) or transnational elites (in the Hannerz [1996] sense) are key 'flows' in Castell's (1996) theorization of the global city as being a 'space of flows,' rather than a fixed, bounded space as depicted by Sassen (1991). Conceptually, considerable attention has been focused on the role of highly-paid, highly-transmobile and highly-educated labour in global city formation, especially from an institutional or corporate migration dimension. But, from a conceptual and empirical perspective, there is a dearth of work that has addressed the 'individual's' experience as a skilled migrant or transnational elite in the global city (Beaverstock, 1996a). One extremely fertile avenue of research in this growing field has been the recent work on gender, and in particular the phenomenon of the 'trailing spouse' (e.g. Yeoh and Khoo, 1998; Weyland, 1997). Also, another major untapped research field which provides the platform to study the role of the 'individual' in the transmigratory circuit is found within the realm of international finance, and the international financial centre (IFC).

According to Thrift (1994), a major social and cultural determinant of IFCs, like the City of London, is the knowledge structures, networking activities and cosmopolitanism of its global-local workforce. Transient migrants, working for foreign banks or other advanced producer service organizations embody the 'practical' knowledge of international financial. They also co-habitat within very tightly-bounded spaces to ensure the sharing of information and intelligence in very well established 'meeting places' and social arenas (Amin and Thrift, 1992; Leyshon and Thrift, 1997). It has been argued that transient migrants, in conjunction with national domiciles, facilitate the spatialization of both 'practical' and 'tacit' knowledge within the IFC through their involvement in business and social relations, which are wrapped together in complex networks (Beaverstock and Boardwell, 2000). But, like what has gone before in skilled migration research, this premise is derived principally from evidence gathered from an institutional framework, rather than investigating the individual's experience in the migratory chain and IFC.

In this paper we make a small contribution to the corpus of work which is now addressing the individual in the migratory circuit by analyzing the work, cultural and social experiences of British expatriates employed in Singapore's financial district1. Since independence in 1965, Singapore has always been an expatriate society, in both low- and high-income occupations (Yeoh and Khoo, 1998). But, whilst many have studied low-waged labour or 'expatriate spouses' (e.g. Huang and Yeoh, 1996; Yeoh and Huang, 1999), very little attention has been given to the role of transnational elites or skilled expatriates in the city-state. Accordingly, the aim of this paper is to explore the expatriate experiences of British bankers, lawyers and accountants in particular, in the accumulation of knowledge and network formation in their Singaporean business and social environments. The paper is divided into three major parts. In the following section of the paper, we visit the transnationalism and transnational communities, and skilled transient international migration discourses, in order to consider the role and significance of expatriates in both global city and IFC (re)production. In part two of the paper, we analyze an interview-based case study of British expatriates working and social experiences in Singapore, with the particular remit of investigating their transnational: career paths; knowledge accumulation and dissemination practices in work spaces; and knowledge accumulation and dissemination practices in social spaces. Before making some concluding remarks, in part three of the paper we revisit the conceptual discourses and from evidence presented in the empirical study, attempt to re-evaluate the position of expatriates in both the transnational communities and skilled transient literatures.


In our quest to understand the role and significance of professional and managerial expatriate labour in the service economy of global city IFCs, we need to explore two relevant conceptual issues: expatriates as transnational communities; and expatriates as skilled 'transients' and constituent members of IFCs' corporate global networks. In the former, the linking of migration studies with transnationalism and transnational communities is just beginning to receive theoretical and empirical analysis by geographers (e.g. Kong, 1999)2. In the latter, and following the work of geographers such as Beaverstock (1996b), Findlay (e.g. Findlay and Garrick, 1990) and Salt (e.g. Koser and Salt, 1997), studying transient migration has been at the centre of research investigating skilled international migration since the late 1980s (e.g. Findlay and Gould, 1989)3. A recent addition to these investigations has been the focus on expatriation within Offshore Financial Centres (Cobb, 1999). Beaverstock in particular (e.g. Beaverstock and Smith, 1996), has considered expatriates as important constituents of the IFC's corporate global network. It is within the spatiality of these networks that financial knowledge is accumulated and wealth created. In the following section of this paper, we explore expatriation and transnationalism, and expatriation as transient migration and knowledge producer in the IFC.

Transnationalism, and Global City Transnational Communities

Outside of the geographical community, sociologists, anthropologists and others, have been concerned with "conceiving and researching transnationalism" (Vertovec, 1999, 1). For Guarnizo and Smith, "[t]ransnationalism is clearly in the air. Expansion of transnational capital and a mass media to even the remotest of hinterlands has provoked a spate of discourses on 'globalization' . [and] . 'transnationalism'" (1999, 3). Commentators such as Portes, Guarnizo and Landolt (1999) have theorised the production and socio-cultural manifestation of 'Transnational Communities' in the USA, originating from Latin America, as complex process of globalization "from below" (also see Guarnizo and Smith, 1999). Here, the reference to globalization "from below", refers to the "local resistances . of transnational migration and its attendant cultural hybridity" (Guarnizo and Smith, 1999).

In Guarnizo and Smith (1999) seminal text Transnationalism from Below, they explain that understanding transnationalism, transnational practices and agency, transnational processes, transnational flows and the location of transnationalisms, is a difficult task. But, they concede, that the "complexity of transnationalism" can be viewed as productions of: the globalization of capitalism; technological and transportational change; decolonization and the universalization of human rights; and "the expansion of social networks that facilitate the reproduction of transnational migration, economic organization, and politics." (1999, 4). Thus, as transnational immigration, transmigrant communities, transmigrant networks and diasporas have their own distinctive cultural, political and social hybridities, which are embedded within distinctive cultural practices and rituals, they not only counter the status quo of the nation-state, and produce globalizations "from below", but they also ensure that transnationalisam is "a multifaceted and multi-local process" (Guarnizo and Smith, 1999).

Conceiving and researching the 'process' of transnational communities in the global system can go beyond the rich empirical studies of Latin American immigrants in US cities or agricultural belts and Diaspora communities in the nation-state (which are the two major empirical groups which have produced the principal theorization on transnational communities). By researching transnational elite communities, those being the highly-educated, highly-skilled, high-paid, highly-mobile and "trans-local" (Smith, 1999) corporate actors/agents of global capital, we can begin to also understand transnationalism and transmigration in the urban context, and specifically, the global city.

Transnational elites have long been associated with the process of the global city. Friedmann and Wolff (1982, 322) suggest that "[t]ransnational elites are the dominant class in the world city," and the work of Sassen (1991, 1994) and Beaverstock (1996a), have focused on highly-skilled immigrants in US cities, particularly New York. But, two writers, Hannerz (1996) and Smith (1999) present seminal work on transnationalism, elites and the global city. First, Hannerz (1996) Transnational Connections, suggests that the cultural role and global flavour/character of world cities are produced by four transnational social categories of people: Third World populations; artisans; tourists, and most importantly, transnational elites. For Hannerz, transnational managerial elites make up "one of the more conspicuous populations of the city . many of them are from elsewhere, people whose occupational career mobility is combined with geographical mobility" (p. 129). But, also, given their very strong economic, social and cultural positions in the city's corporate space of flows, he argues that they "stand a better chance than others to extend their habitats from the world cities into their other locations" (p. 139).

Smith's (1999) 'Transnationalism and the city' in The Urban Moment, suggests that the global city is " . an endless interplay of differently articulated networks, practices, and power relations best deciphered by studying the agency of local, regional, national and transnational actors." (p. 120). He, argues that the globalization-localization processes articulated in the global city are embodied in "transnational social space," or the "translocality", through the agency of "transnational migrant networks," in particular (p. 121). Consequently, Smith suggests that an important factor in the emergence of transnationalism in the urban dimension, is "the sociospatial agency of transnational social, economic, and political networks" (p. 124). Here, transnationalism, transnational community practices and territorialization, are all intertwined/connected in social relations, and transnational community network formation. Moreover, spatially, "translocalities" are created by transmigrant flows, and the territorialization of their practices and discourses. But, as Smith (1999, 134) argues "[a] current limitation of existing knowledge about transnational networks, translocalities, and transnational urbanism is the dearth of comparative urban studies . in my view future research should focus considerable attention on comparatively analysing diverse cases of transnational network formation" (p.134). We agree with Smith's (1999) call for more empirical studies of this urban phenomenon.

Skilled International Transient Migration and Global Corporate Networks in International Financial Centres

Paradoxically, skilled transient international migration still remains an 'invisible phenomenon' of globalization in contemporary society (Findlay, 1996). On the one hand, skilled transient international migration is an extremely important process for wealth creation in the global economy. Such migration is often stimulated through the activities of transnational corporations as they move staff around the global via Inter-Company Transfers, in order to bring human capital and intellectual leadership to their foreign branch plants or office environments (Beaverstock, 1996a; Koser and Salt, 1997; Perkins, 1997; Salt, 1992). Yet, simultaneously, their flows are extremely difficult to quantify (Salt et al., 1994). Moreover, the problem of quantification becomes even more problematic within the international service economy, as globalization processes goes beyond embedded 'stat-istics' (Taylor, 1996), as flows of transient migrants enter the network of global cities.

It is now very well established that IFCs like London, New York, Tokyo and Singapore are global sites for international finance because of their (re)producing agglomeration economies, encompassing: financial markets (securities, FOREX, futures); foreign banks; and advanced producer services (like accountancy, law and management consultancy) (Budd, 1998, 1999; Lee and Schemidt-Marwede, 1993; Pryke and Lee, 1995; Thrift, 1994). Yet another very important determinate of the IFC is professional labour. These are the very highly-skilled, knowledge specific workers who for example: trade or provide market intelligence in the international financial markets; service clients' needs as international bankers, accountants or lawyers; and underwrite deals as insurance specialists. According to Beaverstock and Boardwell (2000), highly-skilled professional migrants are important determinants of the IFC. Transient migrants constitute an array of different nationalities and they are (re)produced between IFCs as they circulate within the internal labour markets of advanced producer service firms. In their analysis of transient migration within global banks, they found that banks posted staff out of London to other IFCs, on a yearly basis, in order to: disseminate specific corporate knowledge and expertise; check skill shortages; and develop individuals' career paths within Management Development Programmes. Also, they found that the banks' used transient migrants for 'face-to-face' interaction with clients and competitors, in order to gather market intelligence and generate new clientele and business opportunities. In essence, expatriates were used as a major organizational strategy for surveillance purposes to collect financial intelligence from both competitors and clients alike.

Finally, there is another strand of work that is relevant to understanding our analysis of skilled transient international migration within IFCs, and that is the importance of embeddedness, the spatialization of knowledge and corporate networks in their explanations accounting for the organization of contemporary economic activity at the global-local scale (Lee and Wills, 1997; Thrift and Olds, 1996)4. With regard to the IFC, Amin and Thrift (1992; 1997), Beaverstock and Boardwell (2000), Leyshon and Thrift (1997) and McDowell (1997) have all illustrated that the concentration of financial activity within the IFC is being reinforced in these times of informational technology encouraging dispersion because of the spatialization of corporate knowledge structures. Far from witnessing The End of Geography (O'Brien, 1992), the need for knowledge 'intermediaries' within IFCs is concentrating the spatialization of knowledge within such spaces (Leyshon, 2000; Thrift, 1997). We would like to argue that the spatialization of such knowledge is embodied within the intermediary of the expatriate, and that such knowledge is collected in two main ways. First, practical' knowledge is collected and disseminated by individual's in their institutional workplace. Second, tacit' knowledge is accumulated from an individual's participation in social and cultural experiences (Beaverstock, 1996c), involving networks and other 'softer' processes (e.g. international seminar participation - see Thrift, 1997). As Beaverstock and Boardwell (2000, p**) suggest such tacit knowledge and reflexivity is derived from "an individual's: involvement in business and social networks; cultural life experiences; gender relations; wealth; 'meeting places'; and, reaction/involvement in the day-to-day financial atmosphere." Moreover, given Thrift's (1994) comments that the global corporate network of the IFC is inherently produced by the passage of workers through its space, as each brings with them different knowledge structures, cultural values, social experiences and networks. Accordingly, we can extend Thrift's (1994) interpretation of the composition of global corporate networks to include flows of skilled transient international migrants, who bring with them considerable 'transnational business, social and cultural knowledge capacities, practice and agency to the IFC. Skilled transient migrants therefore become very crucial actors in the accumulation of capital within the spatial matrix of the IFC, through both practical and tacit knowledge (re)production. As Beaverstock and Boardwell (2000, p**) argue, " the competitiveness of a financial TNC in New York City, is just as dependent upon the success of its transient expatriate professional migrants in creating cultural capital . [through social interaction and business networking] . than creating capital from conventional financial transactions."

In the following section of this paper, we attempt to empirically ground the work of Beaverstock and Boardwell (2000) and others (e.g. Thrift, 1994), and many of those considering transnational elites in the city (e.g. Hannerz, 1996; Smith, 1999). This is achieved through a detailed survey of the everyday working and social experiences of British expatriates in Singapore, employed by transnational advanced producer service firms (principally banks, accountancy and law firms).


In this section of the paper we undertake a detailed study of British expatriates in Singapore and analyse their role in knowledge accumulation and network formation5. In doing so, we address three major issues raised in the conceptual material reviewed so far. First, we boldly answer Smith's (1999) call for more empirical research on transnational communities, and especially their transnational network formation. Second, in the context of skilled transient international migration we make a switch from analysing corporate migration within the firm, to studying the individual's expatriation experience in the city (like for example: Beaverstock, 1996a; Findlay and Li, 1997; Hardhill and MacDonald, 1998; Robinson and Carey, 2000). Third, from the perspective of those who theorise embedment, the spatialization of knowledge and global corporate network formation, we bolster this work with an empirical study of expatriation. The remainder of this section of the paper is divided into three parts. In the following section we discuss the personal characteristics and transnational career paths of the individuals' under study. In parts two and three, we investigate their transnational knowledge creation practices and network formation in both the workplace and social environment, respectively.

Transnational Expatriate Career Paths

Before we focus on the transnationality of the expatriates studied, for context we would like to highlight the personal characteristics of these transnational workers. From our survey, we can make three major observations about the characteristics of these expatriates (Table 1). First, all were men, reinforcing the very gendered global labour market for highly-skilled expatriates, and financial service workers especially (Beaverstock, 1994; Hardhill, 1998; MacDowell, 1997.). Second, with respect to household formation, 71% were married, with half of the total sample having children (all attending international expatriate schools in Singapore). Third, with respect to occupation and grade, most all of the expatriates interviewed were very senior members of the firm: partners in law practices; heads of specific departments in banks (e.g. FOREX; Equities; Credit); or senior accountants/managers in accountancy firms. It was no surprise to discover that the ages of the majority of these expatriates were in the thirty to forty age-bracket. Age reflected their seniority within the firm and their trans-mobility, as we shall see now.

Transnational Expatriate Career Paths: An important process by which expatriates nurture and accumulate knowledge in the financial service industry is by changing firms and changing workplaces. A major aim of this research was to record the transnational career paths of these expatriate staff, as they climbed the internal labour markets (ILMs) of transnational advanced producer service firms, between different IFCs. An examination of the transnational career paths of the expatriates interviewed revealed that thirteen (55%) were still with the same firm since graduation from University. Whilst, the remainder had moved firms on an average of three times, since initial entry into the labour market and up to the present time (Table 2). When we examined the transnational spatial career paths of the expatriates, the research indicated that nineteen migrants (79%) had past experiences of working abroad, with either their current or an array of former employers (for the other 5, this posting to Singapore was their first expatriate assignment) (Table 2). An analysis of the spatial career paths of these 'transnational expatriates' revealed that the magnitude of flows between London other IFCs, were circulations between east, and south-east Asia especially: Hong Kong, Jakarta, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, and Tokyo (Table 2). A small corpus of expatriates had also lived and worked in European cities (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Paris, Rome), the Middle-East (Dubai), and the USA (New York City). For four transnational expatriates, this posting to Singapore, was their second (3 expatriates) or third (1) assignment to the city-state (for 6 months or more) in their transnational career paths.

Mobility, between firms and other IFCs, were perceived by all relevant expatriates interviewed as being the most important ingredient for their own knowledge accumulation; with respect to both specific technical expertise in financial systems, markets and/or client-relationships (practical knowledge); and the 'know-how' of applying such knowledge and expertise in different working and cultural environments. As one expatriate lawyer commented:

"I mean I've now worked in three different common law jurisdictions and one civil law jurisdiction and I've worked in the Far East, the Middle East and Europe and not very many people have got that experience . so I've got a lot of experience ... I have generally found common themes running wherever you are in the world to the sort of relationships that you have to have with your clients" (1)

In addition, the prevalence for some transnational expatriates to remain within the circuit -London - east, south-east Asian network of cities was not purely a coincidence. Many of the transnational expatriates who were involved directly at the firm-client interface, gained extremely valuable knowledge and 'know how' of being able to apply their expertise with Singaporean, Asian, Chinese or Japanese clients. Consequently, as these expatriates began to accumulate more specialised skills in nurturing firm-client relationships in the region, it became apparent that a new assignment to say Europe or North America would be somewhat counter-productive for these staff, as these 'softer' skills wouldn't be as readily transferable to Americanised or Euro-centric business environments. This was an important characteristic of partners in the law profession, who would have lost their client bases if they had moved assignments, but also, those corporate and private bankers who liased much more with regional clients, including nation-states and Asian transnational corporations, than financial markets. Thus, as we shall see now, for the majority of the expatriates interviewed, the knowledge that they brought to Singapore, from London, or any other sending city, was much more that the individual part (management, financial or clientele expertise) it was the sum of their practical knowledge and 'know how', and experiences of previous expatriate assignments, if applicable.

Knowledge Transfer in the Expatriate Workplace

Empirical research findings from both the human resources literature on expatriate assignments (e.g. Mahroum, 2000; Perkins, 1997; Tung, 1987) and geographers on skilled transient international migration (e.g. Beaverstock, 1991; Salt and Findlay, 1989), all agree that staff are posted within the firm in order to (I) fulfil business strategy and (II) develop international human resources. Accordingly, staff who are selected for international assignments are screened by the organization to ensure that they have the specific expertise to fill the specific vacancy: or as near as you can get to fitting the round peg into the round hole. All of the expatriates interviewed acknowledged that they were selected for their present Singaporean assignment because they had the management experience, specific skills and expertise, whether in banking, law or accountancy, developed from experiences in London or other IFCs, which were in demand in their new workplace, at that particular moment in time. As we have already suggested, this group of expatriates occupied relatively senior positions within their respective organisations.

An important rationale for their selection to this international assignment was knowledge transfer, and also their previous accumulated expatriate working experiences, where relevant, which transcended a range of different organisational cultures and working environments, in other IFCs. As these three expatriates suggested:

Are you bringing specific knowledge from HQ? "It's not so much the advanced financial systems I mean it's the application really of em theory . so your very much sort of representing the bank in terms of trying to engender an overall bank spirit as well as specific knowledge in terms of the products we do." (10)

". so we are more like the old fashioned set up where by you just have expats who are skilled in these international skills if I can call them that and then we work with local law firms in each of the jurisdictions . in a sense it's helpful for the company because it helps project our image as an international firm which then attracts...tends to attract larger clients perhaps back in there is a premium to being known as an international firm so that's partly...that's what we are...we're siting here trying to present that image." (11)

Are you bringing specific knowledge from London HQ? "Yeah you've got expertise and knowledge of the market which is global I mean the banks operating in the market, the project developers in the market you've got a mix as I say of Asians and eh... or if you like local players and international know the international players are the French, German, American, Japanese, British they're global businesses and they I mean the people working in them have you know worked in Frankfurt, Paris, London, New York and they know what...they know what international standards are and they expect something along those lines so you need a culture of eh performance you need know how." (14)

Whilst the research showed that expatriates were assigned to Singapore to transfer particular knowledge, expertise and skills, it became very clear that this was one only half of the story. It was one thing to bring specific knowledge to the city, but there was quite another series of processes involved in the assimilation of that knowledge into the workplace (and ultimate accumulation). Assimilation of specific knowledge, referred to as 'the tricks of the trade', by more than one interviewee, in most instances, came through interaction with work colleagues, both local and other expatriates, competitors, and through the experiences and trust gained with increased client interaction, with both Asian, and non-Asian groups. As two expatriates commented:

" ... in terms of actual technical expertise it's a little bit more difficult . There's one thing I mean you have to remember here is that we are all, it's the same banks operating in the same markets so what I pick up here from working with I don't know the Deutchers, Goldmans, J.P. Morgan's will also be picked up over there . [his competitors] . except the flavour here will be different but your facing the same problems ... I think what you also tend to do is you tend to work a bit closer with your peer groups if you like the Morgans, Goldmans etc. etc. because your all facing a common issue which is trying to get through to say a Japanese market etc., etc." (23)

"Yeah because Masons have done projects . in 150 countries . there is a very broad experience of international projects so we bring to the party a knowledge and an ability that people working just locally don't have. The other thing specific about our role on projects . we have to do business with international contractors, international consultants, international bankers and half the time they want to have somebody that knows how those people operate and what the tricks of the trade are and how do you get the best out of those people, how do you protect yourself against those people so if you've got that situation you want somebody on your side who is familiar, experienced works for them as much as against them knows how they approach a project because that's part of the battle. There is a huge amount of knowledge obtained by being in a place you get to know the market and the people and the way it operates. It's not so much the technical legal side I mean I couldn't profess to have a deep and meaningful knowledge of say Thai law for example ... so your knowledge the best knowledge you gain when your here is not what the local law say's but how to actually work it, how to deal with clients, know how they work. It's knowledge of a market and the people rather than the law." (12)

The success with which these expatriates embedded themselves within the global-local Singaporean financial system, and disseminated their knowledge and accumulated new expertise and skills, were, in many cases, linked, to their participation in different layers of business, social and household networks: the subjects of our next discussion.

Knowledge assimilation and accumulation in work-based networks: All expatriates were questioned about how they accumulated 'local' knowledge into their portfolio: of markets; clients; projects; legal systems; and financial legislation. All 25 expatriates stated that they did not receive any 'formal' training in the local financial terrain by their employers before they departed from London, or any other IFCs. The expatriates' perceived view of their employers was that they had selected them on their specific knowledge of financial systems, the law, or accountancy procedures, and therefore, they had the 'formal' knowledge and that would suffice such a posting. Thus, assimilating knowledge transferred from London into, and accumulating 'local' knowledge from, the Singaporean context, was, as two expatriates suggest, " . comes from you know you arrive there and you . your setting up shop." (16), and " . its not just knowledge, its relationships." (14). In this sense, 'setting up shop', and 'relationships', first and foremost, came through an individual's involvement in work-related and business networks, with colleagues, competitors and clients, all involving both expatriates and locals alike.

The research revealed that one of the most important knowledge networks, encompassing both assimilation and accumulation, was the interchange of information, practice and intelligence, within the expatriate's different circles of firm-, and non-firm based transnational expatriate networks. This expatriate's comments on network formation and knowledge circulation within the firm, and the wider expatriate environs, was not unrepresentative of the groups view:

"I mean in a sense em the local knowledge is that sort of gained through just experience? Eh yeah. I mean there's a degree of em trading information with expats. em but actually your real local knowledge you get . [is] . from the locals....Oh right... that's interesting? Well the expats typically tend to sort of have fairly well warn paths that they stick to em its not very difficult to be honest to accumulate the intelligence that's available within the expat community." (15)

Intra-firm expatriate networks: The transfer and accumulation of knowledge between expatriates occurred daily in the working environment of the firm. All expatriates mixed with other expatriate colleagues, of all nationalities, especially with those from other departments within the organization, on a regular basis, with regular membership of that network. The rationale for such networking was to extend corporate knowledge, and to follow specific deals, and or clients, which passed through the different department's of the organization. This interaction tended to occur at lunchtimes and evenings, often included 'western experienced locals', and took place at specific 'meeting places', usually the bars and restaurants, in close proximity to the financial district (Boat Quay) or the expatriate bars off Orchard or Mohammed Sultan Road, for Friday/Saturday night activities. Also, there was a high incidence of members of these intra-firm networks dominating the expatriates' social circle, but minus the local Singaporean workforce.

Inter-firm expatriate networks: All expatriates interviewed regularly networked with their expatriate peers who worked for other firms, of all nationalities, but tended to avoid contact with local Singaporeans who did not work in their organization, unless they were potential clients or useful contacts. It became very apparent that networking interaction between many different expatriates was inevitable in such a small geographical market for knowledge transfer and accumulation, and market and deal making. Moreover, these interactions were rather more focused towards opportunist networking activities, rather than intra-firm formalised networks which met on a regular basis, and had a stable membership. Like with intra-firm networks, these networking activities of expatriates tended to occur in 'expatie' bars and restaurants, either as business lunches, or evening drinks/meals. The views of these expatriates sums up very clearly their role in networking production and reproduction:

I mean is work networking an important part of expatriation ? "Yeah it is. I mean it's em it is an important part ... it's all done in the bars and restaurants or whatever." (1)

"For my company yes because the sales profession are expats so well the big problem here is em the locals may identify a deal em the proposal generally has either been written or will be written by an expat but you could do a hundred deals like that you can write a hundred proposals but it would take a special person to close the deals. And that's where you would come in? The identification of the decision makers within organisations what we found in most markets not all but most markets is that the decision maker is of a level to have to see an expatriate now the decision making process on large deals . need the involvement of an expat either an expat or someone coming in from head office ... parachuting in an expat specialist." (4)

"I mean I . go out of my way to meet new people or expats ... I know some people you know well literally they meet the expat and they'll give them their card and say you know give me a call and we'll go out for a beer . Now there is to some extent I do need to do that obviously because we are service industry and we need to develop our clients but you know we have established clients those clients who are not established who we are trying to win I'm not at the level at the moment." (6)

Also, as Singapore is a regional hub for east-Asia, many of these networking activities involved business travel to Jakarta, Hong Kong and other regional IFCs. Such visits were engineered in order for the expatriates 'to oil the wheels' of knowledge transfer and accumulation via: specific project work; formalised business functions; conferences; and the tendering of work to clientele. All of these visits involved interaction with other expatriates based in the regions IFCs. As one expatriates who regularly business traveled in the region suggested:

"Yeah I mean . the difficulty I suppose is that .your potential clients and contacts . are spread out across the whole region so . in fact I don't do that much sort of business networking in Singapore you do some obviously but em a lot of it has to be trips to Bangkok or KL or whatever but overall yeah it's a bigger part of the job would be in London." (11)

An important event for inter-firm transnational networking activities was membership of formalised business associations. A small corpus of expatriates interviewed, six (25%), were member of business associations like the American Chamber of Commerce and the British Chamber of Commerce. In all cases, membership was paid by their employers, and their role was to interact with other expatriates and local business people in the associations', and 'network', especially to: tout for business; find out about the market; and any government legislation that is going to be introduced. As these two expatriates remarked:

"I attended downtown things . mostly work actually because the American Chamber of Commerce is like extreme line for meeting Americans and stuff like that. So I was doing that a lot initially and you know I was encouraged to do that when I first arrived . maybe a presentation with lunch and type things downtown . and see a few of the functions." (3)

" . there are a number of business associations here I belong to the New Zealand Business Council and the Australian Business Council and they're put together for people to network . people in the financial industry here . certainly do network and meet people but it's more . an exchange of information or even ideas or whatever." (22)

To summarise, work related expatriate transnational network formation focused around (1) the establishment of formalised intra-firm and business association networks, with regular members and meeting places, and (2) adhoc inter-firm networking associated with targeted expatriates, and/or locals and clients, to fulfil strategic business activities.

Knowledge Assimilation and Accumulation: Business and Social Interaction

The combination of undertaking business in a social context, or social events in a business context, with both clients and potential clients, were perceived by all expatriates as being the most important roles of their transnational existence in Singapore. As three expatriates noted:

"It is essential ... for two reasons one you wouldn't be particularly successful in Asia given the fact that all business is about networking here ... at the end of the day people will do business with people that they also know in a social context and that means basically your on call twenty four hours a day seven days a week . you will be visited at week-ends you know customers might come down from Malaysia or Indonesia and eh they'd expect to be entertained because em here there are no holes barred no holes barred at all." (21)

"Asians value the personal contact and the whole sort of contacts issue. Yeah I mean where does it tend to be done? Bars, restaurants, golf courses, lunches em wine tastings em I mean well you know its pretty extensive actually.. I mean that is a key part of our role." (19)

"I mean I mix you know my friends at work are my friends out of work as well so in that sense I'm mixing business and personal but at this stage I don't mix clients and personal like very much ... now I hope that will change as I you know progress because you need to develop personal relationships with your clients." (6)

The close interaction between social and business life was accounted for by the "nature of expatriate life" (10) and the city-state's claustrophobic compactness. As these two expatriates explained:

" . you tend to be a lot closer to your colleagues and your peers so you will go out . meet people in the same industry you know again the cost of Singapore and the cost of expat. life means that there is very limited types of roles and jobs and functions which are really catered that can really afford to set you know set up these sort of expat communities so you'll go out and your meet the traders or the people with a similar function with other banks or other institutions And I mean where will that tend to be done will that be done? Bars and restaurants. Again there's not a great social scene outside of that. I suppose there is the sort of dinner party scene but thats more sort of a subset really. You know on the family side a lot of people will bump into people either in condo's other wives or families at home they'll make their own contacts and you know a lot of people are members of social clubs here. Yeah I was going to say I mean the sort of British Club.? The British Club your Dutch Club or whatever Pintree so they'll all em you tend to get to meet people that way as well or through friends at home I mean the old network from home." (10)

" ... you know Singapore is a very small place and you tend to get to know all the people in your industry very quickly I mean I know you know lots of lawyers at other banks or law firms and our paths cross either professionally or socially or in combination. I may you know run in to people as I say Singapore is a small place and I'll you know parties, dinners, bars I will often run into people that I dealt with." (13)

Moreover, one expatriate commented that his very senior work colleague organised his social live around business networking opportunities, with clients or potential clients:

"At the top end of business people don't have proper friends. They have families some of them ... and everybody else is useful. They may not be unpleasant company but they're, they don't spend that much time with people that aren't useful because their time is very limited . your wife has to be ... a charming hostess to your clients or she is a disadvantage to your career ... which is sad but true." (2)

As with membership of business associations, sporting venues and events were used extensively by expatriates as key sites to build networks and entertain contacts and or clients, including both expatriates and Asians alike, for business purposes. One expatriate interviewed suggested that networking activities in his field of marketing were reliant upon social interactions with clients and potential clients at particular sporting events:

"I mean there is a standing joke . about marketing you know we would say that sitting in a men's bar on a Friday night in the cricket club is actually marketing. It sounds quite self-serving but there is an element of truth to it! . Yeah golf em kind of other events that come here you know there might be a show well I mean you know we've got the circus at the moment that has come here you know that sort of thing. A sporting event they might have you know the sevens for example you know you might get a box or whatever." (9)

Others, suggested they were members of fitness, tennis, rugby, and even Singapore's Cricket Club, but not primarily for sporting reasons, as these places were primarily, to quote one expatriate:

" . I mean I'm a member of the cricket club but that's not . primarily for sport. Its useful for business as well but it's not really what you can describe as a family club . there is a developing area here where at a sort of heavy weight level where people are meeting you know the head of whatever it is Morgan Grenfell may be talking to the head of DBS . I mean for me you know I started playing rugby and I joined the cricket club and you know most . of my contacts arose from that rather than from work in fact and you know there is a pretty good mix of people down there so your not mixing totally with expats." (9)

But, by far the most important sporting-business venue was the golf course. It was the principal location for entertaining Asian clients in particular. One expatriate suggested that "a lot of business was done there", but conceded that it was an extremely expensive business medium: "to join the Tanameria gold club for example would cost a cool sixty thousand pounds." (21).

In summary, network buildings and networking with expatriate peers, locals and clients were very strategic processes, with turnover of people within networks, but a strong emphasis placed upon bars, restaurants and sporting venues as 'meeting places' for business and social, and social and business activities. In the remainder of this section of the paper we will address the issue of expatriate social transnational networks.

Social networks and networking: The social environment provides expatriates' with the most concretised networks, with respect to membership, frequency of participation and 'meeting places'. Membership of different networks included work colleagues and neighbours in particular, which met most weekends or public holidays, and centred around 'just hanging out': B-B-Qs at the apartment blocks; attending the club; and other social events (e.g. sport). Moreover, within these social networks, locals were rarely included, and all expatriates noted that they just associated themselves with their expatriate peers. As two expatriates suggested:

"The social network is I think more critical than anywhere else I've ever lived because em in . Singapore I think that would be fairly critical . because eh em there is less activities . and then because there is this sort of slight division between the locals and the expats you don't have the sort of locals to integrate you know I'm not sure whether that is a function of that there is a real division there or just because expats tend to associate with expats." (13)

"Socially its slightly curious because I think there is relatively little sort of interaction in social time between expats and locals . you've got such a large expat community here that it's varies from other expat communities. I mean you've got . just over three million Singaporeans and half a million expats." (20)

All expatriates agreed that the value of membership to these networks was vital to for their 'survival' in Singapore. This was particularly important in the early months of their assignment, where more 'seasoned' expatriates, and their families could assist in the adjustment process. As one expatriate suggested:

" ... socially I think it is critical . you know obviously make some sort of effort and just get into a sort of social network . because it's not the most sort of dynamic of places that becomes very very important and I've got a very very good group of friends who I can rely on for various things." (13)

Within social network formation, spouses and children also played an important role, as male partners become involved in the wives' social networks, through expatriate schooling activities, mother and baby groups and/or neighbour/apartment womens' groups. As these two expatriates commented:

"my wife knows a lot more people than I do through schools. That would be other expats? Yeah yeah. But I think it is a it will be a process of em whereby my wife gets to know the Mothers and then em . the Fathers get introduced eventually and you build up a social network like that." (11)

"in fact em my wife has got some University friends here actually who have been based here for quite along time so I suppose our social network is rather based around them and with a very small baby . the other social network is probably em as far as my wife is concerned is the mother and baby groups . which are . pretty much expat." (20)

Finally, social network formation, social interaction and knowledge accumulation, whether for business purposes or everyday experiences, were enhanced significantly by the places of residences of expatriates in Singapore. Almost all of the expatriates surveyed live in the city-state's 'expatriate area': principally in and around Holland Village. Places of residence tended to be in detached houses, or condominiums in apartment blocks, whose occupancy ranged between 60-70% expatriates.

Finally, the 'Club' was deemed a major transnational socialising environment, for both social and business knowledge transfer and accumulation. Eight-eight per cent of expatriates interviewed had membership to such clubs, including: The British Club; The Tanglin Club; and the Pintree Club (the latter two included Singaporean membership) (Table 3). Almost all expatriates had their membership fees paid by their employers as part of their expatriate packages. Although clubs were principally 'social' clubs for expatriates, locals and their families, they were used extensively for entertaining clients, other expatriate peers, useful contacts, and work-colleague networks, and as forums for expatriates to 'find work', or 'refer' work. The club scene was perceived by all expatriates who were members, as being vital parts of their expatriate existence in Singapore, where they could "fancy a taste of home" (as in the case of the British Club), whilst simultaneously network, gather intelligence, and enhance both specific and general knowledge bases. The club, and the British Club in particular, provided the expatriate with a sense of Britishness and reinvigorated their national identity.


From our analysis of the corporate, social and cultural interactions and networking activities of British expatriates in Singapore, we would like to argue that these transient migrants articulate transnational tendencies which can be defined as 'transnationalism' and which are grounded specifically in distinctive transnational flows, networks and spaces.

Transnational expatriate flows: If we refer back to Guarnizo and Smith (1999), Hannerz (1996) and Smith (1998, 1999), they all suggested that transnational migration and its cultural hybridities are important process for engineering transnationalism in the global system. Specifically, transnational migration is responsible for the 'flows' of transnational practices and networks into the city (Smith, 1999), which at the elite level, attendents to the production of the global city (Hannerz, 1996). In our study of British expatriates in Singapore it became apparent that this group of transients were transnational migrants, who themselves crossed national boundaries at regular intervals during their international occupational mobility. Moreover, the frequency of their international mobility between IFCs continued to feed global corporate networks as they brought new knowledge structures, cultural hybridity, social practices, wealth, consumption and agency into the global city. We would like to argue then that these expatriates displayed highly-mobile transnational existences, which constituted transnational flows in the global system, and transnational 'spaces of flows' in the 'trans-localities' of the global city.

Transnational expatriate networks: An important process for sustaining the transnational community in space is the agency of and connectivity of networks. Or to put it more strongly, transnational migrant networks are at the fulcrum for understanding the complexities of transnationalism (Guarnizo and Smith, 1999). Our analysis of transnational expatriates in Singapore clearly illustrated that network formation, across both work and home spaces, was vital for the success of their expatriation. With respect to work space, the expatriates continually engaged in network formation with expatriates of other nationalities, and Asian work colleagues. Such activities were invaluable for practical and tacit knowledge accumulation and dissemination. Moreover, corporate network formation spilled over into social time, and for many of the expatriates, the boundaries between work and home, or social time, became very fuzzy. We would not however, suggest that this is an original finding, as in all IFCs membership of global corporate networks at work, or in social time, was a major social and cultural determinant of the IFC (Thrift, 1994). Turning to the social experiences of these transnational expatriates, it became very clear in the research that their social networks were composed of trans-migrants, which occurred in specific trans-localities. We would argue then that these transnational expatriates' trans-networks and trans-networking activities were major characteristics of their transnational existence in Singapore. Moreover, we would like to suggest that the expatriates transnational corporate and social networks, practices and discourses were the major determinants of their 'communities', and in turn, their transnationalism.

Transnational expatriate space: Smith (1998, 1999) in particular, discusses the spatiality of the transnational migrant and transnational network as being the translocality. For Hannerz (1996), of course, the spatiality of the transnational elite is the global city. But, within this space, or 'space of flows', trans-migrants and transnational networks have there own territory. IFCs are extremely important transnational spaces for transnational expatriate workers. The fieldwork in Singapore demonstrated that distinctive expatriate spaces acted as territories for transnational networks, with respect to both work-related activities and social events. We would like to suggest that the British expatriates in Singapore co-habited several layers of transnational space, or translocality, for particular transnational time-specific activities. The first, and most obvious transnational space for network formation was the expatriates' workplace, downtown in the financial district. But, it became very apparent from the research that work related activities were also undertaken in different translocalities: expatriate bars (usually Irish or English); restaurants on Boat Quay; and within formalised business associations (which usually meet in downtown hotels). The second expatriate work-orientated translocality which deserves a special mention is the sporting club, and especially the golf course. But, sporting events and their facilities were also genuinely used as places for spectacle and participation. With respect to the location of transnational social networks, three important translocalities come to mind. First, there was the home environment; the house of the apartment. Almost all of the expatriates lived in the Holland Village district of Singapore, in either apartment blocks (filled with other expatriates), or houses, where many neighbours were expatriates. Clearly then, distinctive expatriate residence are marked in Singapore. Second, there was the social Club. Expatriates kept membership for both work related and social activities, but their facilities were used by both men and women alike for all sorts of activities, which involved interaction with other expatriates, and locals in some contexts. Finally, there was the translocalities, practice and agency centred around the schooling, children and wives' clubs. These were important transnational spaces for expatriate husbands to widen their own networks, and get a sense of their partner's transnational homespace.

Accordingly then, from our interpretation of these research findings, we would like to argue that the working, social and cultural activities of these British expatriates can be included in the 'delimitation' of transnationalism and transnational communities in contemporary society (as outlined by Portes et al., 1999, for example).


The remit of this paper has been twofold. First, to investigate how skilled transient migrants or expatriates in the migratory circuit accumulate and disseminate knowledge in IFCs global corporate networks. Second, to analyse how the working, social and cultural practices of expatriates, embedded in particular networks and spaces, contributes to both the (re)production of the IFC and the spread of transnationalism and transnational practice in contemporary society. Three major conclusions stood out from our analysis of British expatriates employed in Singapore's financial district. First, clearly our study has shown that from a methodological perspective, switching the research emphasis from the corporate environment (i.e. the firm) to the individual (i.e. the migrant) has provided a rich and diverse data set which allows social scientists to uncover the complex processes of transient migration and transnational network formation. Accordingly, a major outcome of this paper has been to answer Smith's (1999) call for more empirical work on transnational migrant networks in urban environments, and provide evidence to support Hannerz's (1996) work on transnational elites in global cities. Equally, this study has complemented the growing body of literature which is investigating gender relations and transnational migration in global cites, and Singapore especially (Yeoh and Khoo, 1998).

Second, and linked to the first, our analysis of the working, social and cultural activities of expatriates in Singapore provides detailed evidence to support Thrift (1994) and others (e.g. Budd, 1998) in their work on the economic, social and cultural determinants of IFCs, Thift's (1997) ideas about the transmission of 'soft' capitalism in economy. British expatriates in Singapore were very clearly active in global network formation, which was activated in different intra-firm, inter-firm, business and social, and social networks. Moreover, these transnational networks were executed in particular 'meeting places', or translocalities, namely: the firm; bars; restaurants; sporting clubs; social clubs; and business associations. All of these 'quantified' networks and spatializations of knowledge production have enhanced and (re)produced the 'institutional thickness' of the Singaporean financial centre (Amin and Thrift, 1994).

Third, as we have discussed in the previous section of this paper, clearly we have identified a group of transient migrants that show distinctive tendencies of transnationalism. In particular, the research findings indicated that these expatriates, which we termed 'transnational expatriates', had very distinctive transnational characteristics, which were (re)produced in Singapore by their transnational: occupational mobility; business and social networks; spaces of knowledge production/dissemination; and social relations. Indeed, we consider that the substantive nature of these findings, particularly those that discussed transnational networks, provides the transnational discourses (as discussed earlier in the paper) with an unparalleled study of a transnational elites in the city.


Amin, A. and Thrift, N. (1992) Neo-Marshallian nodes in global networks. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 16, 571-587.

Amin, A. and Thrift, N. (Eds.) (1994) Globalization, Institutions and Regional Development in Europe. Open University Press, Oxford.

Appleyard, R. (1991) International Migration. Challenge for the Nineties IOM, Geneva.

Beaverstock, J. V. (1991) Skilled international migration: an analysis of the geography of international secondments within large accountancy firms. Environment and Planning A 23, 1133-1146.

Beaverstock, J. V. (1994) Re-thinking skilled international labour migration: World cities and banking organisations. Geoforum 25, 323-338.

Beaverstock, J. V. (1996a) Re-visiting high-waged labour market demand in global cities: British professional and managerial workers in New York City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 20, 422-445.

Beaverstock, J. V. (1996b) Subcontracting the accountant!: Professional labour markets, migration and organizational networks in the global accountancy industry. Environment and Planning A 28, 303-326.

Beaverstock, J. V. (1996c) Migration, knowledge and social interaction: Expatriate labour within investment banks. Area 28, 459-470.

Beaverstock, J. V. and Boardwell, J. T. (2000) Negotiating globalization, transnational corporations and global city financial centres in transient migration studies. Applied Geography 20, 227-304.

Beaverstock, J. V. and Smith, J. (1996) 'Lending jobs to global cities': Skilled international labour migration, investment banking and the City of London. Urban Studies 33, 1377-1394.

Budd, L. (1998) Global cities and finance: a troubled relationship. In S. G. E. Gravesteijn, S. van Griensven, M. C. de Smidt, eds. Timing Global Cities: Nederlandse Geografische Studies 241. Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap/Vereniging van Utrechtse Geografie Studenten, Utrecht. 67-83.

Budd, L. (1999) Globalization and the crisis of territorial embeddedness of international financial centres. In R. Martin, Ed. Money and the Space Economy. Wiley, Chichester. 115-138.

Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society. Blackwell, Oxford.

Castles, S. and Miller, M. (1993) The Age of Migration. Macmillian, London.

Clark, G. L. (2000) The functional and spatial structure of the investment management industry. Geoforum 31, 71-86.

Cobb, S. C. (1999) The role of corporate, professional, and personal networks in the provision of offshore financial services. Environment and Planning A 31, 1877-1892.

Cohen, J. (1997) Global Diasporas. UCL Press, London.

Conway, D. and Cohen, J. (1998) Consequences of migration and remittances for Mexican transnational communities. Economic Geography 74, 26-44.

Findlay, A. M. (1996) Skilled transients: the invisible phenomenon. In, Cohen, R. (Ed.) Cambridge Survey of World Migration. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. **-**

Findlay, A. M. and Garrick, L. (1990) Scottish emigration in the 1980s: a migration approach to the study of skilled international migration. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 15, 177-192.

Findlay, A. M. and Gould, W. T. S. (1989) Skilled international migration: a research agenda. Area 21, 3-11.

Findlay, A. M. et al (1996) Skilled international migration and the global city: a study of expatriates in Hong Kong. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 21, 49-61.

Findlay, A. M. and Li, F. L. N. (1997) An auto-biographical approach to understanding migration: the case of Hong Kong emigrants. Area 29, 34-44.

French, S. (2000) Re-scaling the economic geography of knowledge and information: constructing life assurance markets. Geoforum 31, 101-119.

Friedmann, J. and Wolff, G. (1982) World city formation: an agenda for research and action. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 3, 309-344.

Guarnizo, L. E. and Smith, P. M. (1999) Transnationalism From Below. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick.

Hannerz, U. (1996) Transnational Connections. Routledge, London.

Hardhill, I. (1998) Gender perspectives on British expatriate work. Geoforum 29, 257-268.

Hardhill, I. and MacDonald, S. (1998) Choosing to relocate: an examination of the impact of expatriate work on duel career households. Women's Studies International Forum 21, 21-29.

Henry, N. and Pollard, J. (2000) Introduction: capitalising on knowledge. Geoforum 31, v-vii.

Huang, S. and Yeoh, B. S. A. (1996) Ties that bind: state policy, and migrant female domestic helpers in Singapore. Geoforum 27, 479-93.

Hui, W. T. (1997) Regionalization, economic restructuring and labour migration in Singapore. International Migration 35, 109-128.

Kofman, E. (1996) Whose city? Class, gender and immigrants in Globalizing European cities. In Fincher, R. and Jacobs, J. (Eds) Cities of Difference. Guildford Press, New York. **-**

Kofman, E. (1999) 'Birds of passage' a decade later: gender and immigration in the European Union. International Migration Review 33, 269-99.

Kofman, E. (2000) The invisibility of skilled female migrants in European migratory spaces. International Journal of Population Geography (in press)

Kong, L. (1999) Globalization and Singaporean transmigration: re-imaging and negotiating national identity. Political Geography 18, 563-589.

Koser, K. and Salt, J. (1997) The geography of highly-skilled international migration. International Journal of Population Geography 3, 285-303.

Lee, R. and Schmidt-Marwede, U. (1993) Interurban competition? financial centres and the geography of financial production. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 17, 492-515.

Lee, R. and Wills, J. (Eds.) (1997) Geographies of Economies. Edward Arnold, London.

Leyshon, A. (2000) Introduction: geographies of financial knowledge. Geoforum 31, 67-69.

Leyshon, A. and Thrift, N. J. (1997) Money/Space. Routledge, London.

Mahroum, S. (2000) Highly-skilled globetrotters: mapping the international migration of human capital. R&D Management 1, 23-31.

McDowell, L. (1997) Capital Culture. Blackwells, Oxford.

O'Brien, R. (1992) The End of Geography. Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.

Perkins, S. J. (1997) Internationalization: The People Dimension. Kogan Page, London.

Portes, A., Guarnizo, L. E. and Landolf, P. (1999) The study of transnationalism: the pitfalls and promise of an emergent research field. Ethnic and Racial Studies 22, 217-237.

Pryke, M. and Lee, R. (1995) Place your bets: Towards an understanding of globalisation, socio-financial engineering and competition within a financial centre. Urban Studies 32, 329-344.

Robinson, V. and Carey, M. (2000) Peopling skilled international migration: Indian doctors in the U.K.. International Migration, 38, 89-108.

Salt, J. (1992) Migration process among the highly skilled in Europe International Migration Review 26, 484-505.

Salt, J. and Findlay, A. (1989) International migration of highly-skilled manpower: theoretical and development issues. In R.Appleyard (Ed) The Impact of International Migration on Developing Countries OECD, Paris. **-**

Salt, J. et al (1994) Europe's International Migrants HMSO, London.

Sassen, S. (1991) The Global Cities. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Sassen, S. (1994) Cities in a World Economy. Pine Forge Press, Thousand Oaks, C.A.

Smith, P. M. (1998) The global city - whose city is it anyway? Urban Affairs Review 33, 482-488.

Smith, P. M. (1999) Transnationalism and the City. In R. Beauregard and Body-Gendrot, S. (eds.) The Urban Movement Sage Publications, London. 119- 139.

Taylor, P. J. (1996) Embedded statism and the social sciences: opening up to new spaces. Environment and Planning A 28, 1917-1928.

Thrift, N. (1994) On the social and cultural determinants of international financial centres: the case of the City of London. In, Corbridge, S. et al. (Eds.) Money, Power and Space. Blackwell, Oxford. **-**

Thrift, N. (1997) The rise of soft capitalism. Cultural Values 1, 21-57.

Thrift, N. and Olds, K. (1996) Re-figuring the economic in economic geography. Progress in Human Geography 20, 311-337.

Tickell, A., 2000. Dangerous derivatives: controlling and creating risks in international money. Geoforum 31, 87-99.

Tung, R. L. (1987) The New Expatriates. Ballinger Publishing, Cambridge. Mass.

Vertovec, S. (1999) Conceiving and researching transnationalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies 22, 447-462.

Weyland, P. (1997) Gendered Lives in Global Spaces. In, Oncu, A. and Weyland, P. (Eds.) Space, Culture and Power. Zed Books, London. 82-97.

Yeoh, B. S. A. (1999) Global/globalizing cities. Progress in Human Geography 23, 607-616.

Yeoh, B. S. A. and Huang, S. (1999) Spaces at the margins: migrant domestic workers and the development of civil society in Singapore. Environment and Planning A 31, 1149-1167.

Yeoh, B. S. A. and Khoo, L. M. (1998) Home, work and community: Skilled international migration and expatriate women in Singapore. International Migration 36, 159-186.


* We would like acknowledge the Economic and Social Research Council's Transnational Communities Programme for funding this research from the "Embeddedness, Knowledge and Networks: British Expatriates in Global Financial Centres" project (Award Number L214252001). In addition, we would like to thank the Centre for Advanced Studies, National University of Singapore for hosting both authors as Visiting Scholars during late 1999.

1. The term 'expatriate', derived from the latin Ex-patria, is discussed at great length by Hardhill (1998) and Yeoh and Khoo (1998). For skilled workers in Singapore they are, "generally regarded as belonging to the category 'expatriate' . in that . [they] . are issued with an Employment Pass . [and] . should possess a recognized diploma, degree, or professional qualification, and he or she should earn a basic monthly salary of no less that S$1,500, revised to S$2,000 as of 1 May 1996 (Hui, 1997)" (Yeoh and Khoo, 1998, 162).

2. Of course, outside of the geographical community, many other social scientists have been discussing migration and transnationalism for many years (e.g. Castles and Miller, 1993; Cohen, 1997; Conway and Cohen, 1998).

3. We would also like to acknowledge that investigating gender relations in skilled international migration has also been at the forefront of contemporary work on this subject (see for example: Hardhill, 1998; Kofman, 1996; 1999; 2000).

4. See for example the two recent 'Special Issues' of Geoforum: 'Geographies of Financial Knowledge' (Clark, 2000; French, 2000; Leyshon, 2000; Tickell, 2000); and 'Captalizing Knowledge' (Henry and Pollard, 2000).

5. Twenty-four British expatriates were interviewed in Singapore's financial district, between October and December 1999. All interviews were negotiated with London based Human Resources Directors' of transnational banking, law and accountancy firms, and then confirmed and executed on site during the visit. The interview schedule sought data on the expatriates': occupations and career paths; knowledge transfer/accumulation; working networks; social networks; everyday expatriate experiences; household formation; and, place of residence. All interviews were taped and lasted between 1 and 2 hours.

Table 1: Expatriate Profile

1. Male Married (spouse, 3 children) 45 Partner, UK law firm
2. Male Single 30s Partner, US law firm
3. Male Single 30s Accountant, UK practice
4. Male Married (spouse, 2 children) 40s Corp. Banker, US bank
5. Male Married (spouse) 29 FOREX manager, Dutch bank
6. Male Single 26 Assoc. Solicitor, UK law firm
7. Male Single 32 Head I.T., US bank
8. Male Married (spouse, 3 children) 36 Head Equities, German bank
9. Male Married (spouse, 3 children) 36 Partner, UK law firm
10. Male Single 32 Derivatives Man., Dutch bank
11. Male Married (spouse, 1 child) 38 Partner, UK law firm
12. Male Married (spouse, 2 children) 45 Partner, UK law firm
13. Male Single 34 Corp. Lawyer, US bank
14. Male Married (spouse) 40s Partner, UK law firm
15. Male Married (spouse-local) 37 Audit Partner, UK practice
16. Male Married (spouse, 3 children) 40 Head Fin. Mks, UK bank
17. Male Married (spouse-back in UK) 31 Manager Fin. Mks., UK bank
18. Male Married (spouse, children) 47 Head Fin Mks, US bank
19. Male Married (spouse, 2 children) 38 Partner, UK law firm
20. Male Married (spouse, child) 38 Head Credit An., UK bank
21. Male Married (spouse) 40 CEO, Asia, UK bank
22. Male Married (spouse, 3 children) 43 Collateral Man., NZ bank
23. Male Single 34 Private Banking, Dutch bank
24. Male Married (spouse, 3 children) 36 Head Fin. Mks, Australia bank

Source: Fieldwork


Table 2: Transnational Expatriate Career Paths

  1. London (1979-81) + Hong Kong (1yr) + London (1yr) + Hong Kong (3yrs) + London (5yrs) + Dubai (6yrs) + Singapore (from 1996 - ) (all with the same UK law firm - )
  2. London + London + Singapore

  3. (Baker & McKenzie) + (Slaughter & May) + (US law firm - )
  4. London + London + Singapore

  5. (Deloitte & Touche) + (UK accountancy firm - )
  6. London (15yrs) + Poole, Dorset (2yrs) + Jakarta (2.5yrs) + Singapore (from 1998 - )

  7. (Barclays Bank) + (American Bank) + (US bank --------------------------------------------- )
  8. London + Amsterdam (1.5yrs) + Singapore (from 1997 - )

  9. (US bank) + (Dutch bank -------------------------------------- )
  10. London (1997) + Singapore (6mths) + London (1yr) + Singapore (from 1999 - ) (all with UK law firm)
  11. Hong Kong + London + Various + London + Hong Kong (4yrs) + Singapore (from 1999 - )

  12. (School) + (university) + RAF + (Consultant) + (US bank ------------------------------------------- )
  13. London (3yrs) + Seoul (9mths) + Singapore (from 1998 - ) (all with the same UK/German bank)London + Singapore (6mths) + London + Singapore (2yrs) + London (2yrs) + Singapore (from 1996 - ) (all with the same UK law firm)
  14. London (7yrs) + London (7yrs) + Tokyo (9mths) + Singapore (from 1997 - )

  15. (Barings & Co.) + (Dutch bank -------------------------------------------------------- )
  16. London (1980s) + Tokyo (3mths) + London (2yrs) + Singapore (3mths) + London (3 yrs) + Singapore (from 1999 - ) (all with the same UK law firm)London (3yrs) + Hong Kong (9yrs) + Singapore (from 1998 - ) (all with the same UK law firm)
  17. London + Sydney (3yrs) + Paris (6mths) + London (2yrs) + Sydney (2yrs) + Singapore (from 1997 - )

  18. (law firm) + (law firm ------------------------) + (Inv. Bank) + (Inv. Bank) + (US bank -------------------)
  19. London (3yrs) + London (3yrs) + London (1yr) + Singapore (from 1994 - )

  20. (small firm) + (Slaughter & May) + (UK law firm----------------------------------)
  21. London (5yrs) + Singapore (from 1997)

  22. (Deloittes & Touche) +(UK accountancy firm - )
  23. London (3yrs) + New York (1yr) + London (5yrs) + Paris (3yrs) + London (2yrs) + Singapore (from 1998 - ) (all with the same UK bank)London (5yrs) + Singapore (from 1998 - ) (all with UK bank)
  24. London (2yrs) + Cranfield + London (16yrs) + Singapore (from 1998 - )

  25. (Deloittes) + (University, MBA) + (US bank ------------------------------------)
  26. Birmingham (5yrs) + London (3yrs) + London (3yrs) + Hong Kong (2yrs) + Singapore (from 1996 - )

  27. (Engineer) + (Linklaters) + (Herbert Smith) + (Lovell White Durrant) + (UK law firm ---------------------)
  28. London (11yrs) + Singapore (from 1998 - ) (all with the same UK bank)London (1980) + Munich (1yr) + Rome (1yr) + Munich-Stuttgart-Frankfurt (7yrs) + Singapore (3yrs) + Dubai (2yrs) + Hong Kong (2yrs) + Singapore (from 1997 - ) (all with the same UK bank)
  29. London (early 1980s) + London (late 1980s) + Auckland(early 1990s) + Singapore (from 1994 - )

  30. (Barclays) + (Bankers Trust, New York) + (Broad Bank + National Actual Bank) + (NZ bank)
  31. London (3yrs) + London (1yr) + New York City (1yr) + London (1yr) + New York (1yr) + Singapore (from 1999 - )

  32. (J. P. Morgan) + (Deutsche Bank --------------------------) + (NatWest Markets-----------------) + (Dutch bank)
  33. London (1979) + Melbourne + Sydney + Perth + Adelaide + Melbourne (12yrs) + New York (3mths) + London (3mths) + Melbourne + Singapore (from 1996 - ) (all with the same Australian bank)

Source: Fieldwork


Table 3: Club Membership

The Tanglin Club 3
The British Club 5
The Pintree Club 5
Raffles Town Club 1
The Dutch Club 3
Fort Canning Country Club 1
The American Club 2
The German Club 1

Sub-Total 21 (88%)
No Club 3 (12%)

Source: Fieldwork

Edited and posted on the web on 24th July 2000