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Getting to know FT’s Singapore correspondent, Stefania Palma

Stefania Palma is the FT Singapore correspondent covering the city-state, Malaysia and Indonesia. She reports on a wide spectrum of news covering financial markets, economics, politics, but also society, life and arts. Before joining the FT, she reported from across Asia Pacific for five years as The Banker magazine’s Asia editor.

How long have you been in Singapore?

Less than a year. I moved to Singapore in June 2018, the week of the Trump-Kim Summit, in what was a true baptism by fire!

What do you find most interesting/love most about Singapore thus far?

Summer all year round was a welcome change after living in grey London for over a decade. Singapore’s ease of living is another big plus. 

One interesting fact about yourself?

I speak Mandarin. I started learning the language in the UK and then spent a semester at Peking University for archival research and more language learning.

Tell us about a typical day for you in the newsroom and how you prioritise your work.

I start off my day by reading the FT, of course! I check the news, local press, Twitter and then set off for the rest of the day. I typically have a draft schedule for the week centred around upcoming events or announcements to look out for. 

No day is like the next. A day in the newsroom can involve anything from chasing a scoop to reporting on breaking news, to working on longer features or investigative pieces. The way I prioritise my work is essentially based on what is of interest to the FT reader.

What makes your stories different from other media perspectives in SEA?

As an FT correspondent, I always have to bear in mind we are a global newspaper and our readers sit in all corners of the world. That is why in any piece, it is critical to incorporate the significance of the story in a broader context. The best FT journalism is able to link an event in a specific country or sector to bigger trends unfolding on a global level.

Where are we leading in terms of SEA coverage?

Our Wirecard investigation is leading the way on coverage of the fintech giant’s Asian operations, headquartered in Singapore. 

Our coverage of the aftermath of Mahathir Mohamad’s electoral win in Malaysia last year was very strong, including Kuala Lumpur’s pushback against China and the escalating probe into state investment fund 1MDB. Our exclusive interviews with Anwar Ibrahim and Malaysia’s finance minister Lim Guan Eng unveiled the country’s position vis a vis Goldman Sachs, which got dragged into the 1MDB scandal.

This will also be a big year for elections in south-east Asia, with Thai elections happening this month and Indonesia going to the polls in April. 

Coverage of home-grown tech companies is also of interest, especially with big players headquartered in Singapore and Indonesia.

It’s also clear that many readers value our long-form journalism. Many have told me how much they enjoy the FT’s Big Read or the infamous Lunch with the FT, as well as taking the time to indulge in FT Weekend. I mean, who can blame them. 

We often hear that there isn’t enough Singapore or SEA coverage. Why do you think it is still important for readers to read the FT in SEA?

The FT isn’t a news wire, and we’re not a paper of record. The true value of FT coverage is the concise, clear and crisp analysis of any event happening across the region and across the globe. Contextualising a single occurrence within a broader trend - regional or global - is what truly differentiates the FT from other outlets.

I have received feedback from readers saying they appreciate how even our fastFT posts - the closest thing the FT has to a wire service - are not just a dry summary of events, but include succinct analysis putting the story into context. I think that’s what makes us stand out.

Has anyone told you about an FT piece that has impacted them specifically?

I’ve had people tell me that Laura Noonan’s piece about constantly living in airports truly resonated with them. Martin Wolf’s recent column about London aspiring to a Singaporean model post-Brexit and our analysis of the city state navigating regional turmoil were very popular in Singapore. More recently, our investigative series on Wirecard has gotten readers in this part of the world very excited.

Why is it important for companies in Singapore and SEA to have corporate access to the FT?

Having access to the FT means having access to coverage on companies’ own performance but also on their competitors’. This rings particularly true in Singapore, which is a critical financial centre in Asia hosting a number of multinationals’ headquarters. 

More broadly, the wide range of economic, financial and political trends the FT reports on and analyses is bound to affect any business. 

You can read about Stefania's move from the UK to Singapore here: Exploring Singapore - city of 'Crazy Rich Asians'

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