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Banking on the appeal of women's tennis
PIERRE Veyres, the CEO of BNP Paribas Singapore and regional head for South-east Asia, is not alone in hoping the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals tournament will continue to call Singapore its home even after its current five-year run ends in 2018.
Many top tennis officials have in the past also expressed their wish that the prestigious event can remain in the Lion City, given Singapore's successful hosting and organisation of the first two editions in 2014 and 2015.
The season-ending tournament, which takes place from Oct 23-30, features the top eight female singles players and doubles teams as they compete for a slice of the US$7 million prize purse. Last year saw more than 130,000 people flock to the Singapore Sports Hub to soak in the action.
Among the players who have already confirmed their spots for this year's competition are the new world No 1 Angelique Kerber, American star Serena Williams, and last year's champion Agnieszka Radwanska.
"Personally, I hope the tournament will stay in Singapore beyond the five-year term," said Mr Veyres (pronounced "vair"), the 51-year-old Frenchman who heads one of the largest foreign banks in Singapore with more than 2,000 employees.
The French multinational bank is the title sponsor of the tournament, which is called the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
BT Weekend popped by Mr Veyres' office at Ocean Financial Centre earlier this week to chat about the bank's sponsorship and involvement in tennis, and this is an edited transcript of the interview.
BT: Two editions down, three more to go including this year. How has the event in Singapore been so far, from the bank's perspective as the title sponsor?
Pierre Veyres (PV): Overall, it has been a great success, thanks to the commitment of all the partners: the government, WTA, (event partner and promoter) Lagardere Sports, and ourselves.
The attendance has been quite remarkable, with 130,000 people coming last year, not just from Singapore but many other countries too. As far as BNP is concerned, we want to continue to add value to the event as best as we can.
BT: BNP has been involved in tennis for 43 years, and it was the title sponsor for the WTA Finals in Istanbul from 2011 to 2013. Why did the bank decide to commit for the full five years in Singapore?
PV: While it is a significant investment and commitment from our side, considering it's for five years, the decision to continue came quite naturally for us. The group as a whole realised that it will make sense for us.
Personally, I hope the tournament will stay in Singapore beyond 2018. The WTA Finals is our most high-profile event in Singapore, by far.
It's very encouraging to see the high level of interest from our clients, partners and investors when they come to watch the matches and network in our suite at the Racquet Club (the WTA Finals' official hospitality programme).
BT: What's the secret to a successful sponsorship of a sports event? How does one maximise the investment in time, energy and resources to make it worthwhile?
PV: First, you need to have the patience and the appetite for it. And second, you need to put in a lot of work. The beauty about the WTA Finals, for instance, is that it is a multi-dimensional event.
There's the tennis, of course, but we will organise an inaugural Sustainable Future Forum during the tournament, there will be CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities, we'll get children from The Little Arts Academy involved, and many of our staff will be active volunteers too.
For us, a successful tournament is when all stakeholders feel happy and proud of being a part of the whole process. That's what we've achieved in the last two years, and we hope to do more this year.
BT: There's just a month to go before the WTA Finals starts. Why should people go?
PV: It's the best women's tennis tournament in the world featuring the top eight players. The level of the matches is really impressive, and there's so much energy and talent on the courts.
When you consider all the work done by the different partners to make the tournament happen, what you have is a world-class event that all sports fans can enjoy. It's a must-watch.
BT: Are you a tennis player yourself? How do you keep fit?
PV: I used to play tennis on a social basis. What I like about tennis is it's tactical, and you need energy, tenacity and style. It's a demanding sport.
These days I go out for runs and I also like to cycle. I've always believed in the benefits of sport. If you do sport, you live better and you also work better. It's very important for the equilibrium of everyone to have some activity, whatever it is.
In any given day, I make sure I do two things: One is exercise, and the second is to see my clients. I usually start my day with some sports, it could be a run or a workout at the gym. It depends on where I am. It's important to enjoy life, and sport is part of that.