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Temasek, StarHub tie up for pure-play cybersecurity firm

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Newly-launched cybersecurity firm Ensign InfoSecurity - a joint venture between Temasek and StarHub - will invest majorly in talent and R&D (research and development) to become Asia's leading pure-play cybersecurity firm, said its executive chairman Lee Fook Sun on Tuesday.

Singapore

NEWLY-launched cybersecurity firm Ensign InfoSecurity - a joint venture between Temasek and StarHub - will invest majorly in talent and R&D (research and development) to become Asia's leading pure-play cybersecurity firm, said its executive chairman Lee Fook Sun on Tuesday.

This comes as Singapore's cybersecurity spending is found to hit some S$750 million this year and projected to exceed S$1 billion by 2020, according to market research portal Statista. This growth is reportedly driven by increasing cybersecurity demands, evolving cyber threats and the proliferation of Internet-connected devices.

In an exclusive interview with The Business Times (BT), Mr Lee said that "scale is important" in the cybersecurity sector, and that Ensign is a merger of three companies that will each bring to the table unique and best-in-class expertise, in addition to customer networks.

"What we have assembled here today is an entity made up of Quann, the largest managed security services provider in Singapore, StarHub's Cyber Security Centre of Excellence, which has a strong team focused on cyber analytics, and Accel Systems & Technologies, a cybersecurity systems integrator."

Collectively, the three founding partners will provide a "nice, end-to-end" cybersecurity solution for enterprises and government agencies, said Mr Lee. Quann is the cybersecurity arm of Certis, the integrated security organisation owned by Temasek, while Accel is a security infrastructure company majority-owned by StarHub.

As part of the deal, Ensign will buy all of Accel's 23 million shares, as well as all 801 Quann shares. Ensign will also buy "certain cybersecurity business-related assets" of StarHub's for a S$120 million consideration. Temasek will hold a majority 60 per cent of Ensign (156 million Ensign shares) and StarHub will own the remaining 40 per cent (104 million Ensign shares).

Asked what had inspired Ensign, Mr Lee said that Quann had been looking at ways to offer its customers a "more relevant set of offerings", and build capabilities and talent, as cyber attacks become increasingly sophisticated. He told BT: "Talent is so important. Consolidation was quite the obvious answer, so we looked around and found a like-minded partner in StarHub."

With the merger, Ensign will boast a total of more than 500 cybersecurity specialists who will operate from the company's corporate headquarters in Singapore. These employees will have the opportunity to work alongside cybersecurity professionals from around the world and hone their skills, by way of Ensign's partnerships with global companies, said Mr Lee.

With the merger, Ensign will also immediately generate revenues in excess of S$100 million annually from providing cybersecurity solutions, systems integration and managed services. While Mr Lee did not disclose revenue targets for the near-term, he said that Ensign will continue to support enterprises and government agencies, and has plans to expand regionally.

"While it is important to think about revenues and profits, what is more important is how we engage our customers and make them feel happy and secured. How can we do that? We put together a team with expertise and we continue to invest in them, so that when they approach customers, they can do their jobs well."

To grow its cybersecurity capabilities, Ensign will boost R&D efforts in cyber analytics (with a focus on advanced threat detection), and build a network of global cyber R&D labs as well as a joint threat intelligence centre with global partners. The company is currently in talks with potential partners, said Mr Lee.

The latter - who is executive chairman of Quann, chairman of the Singapore Building and Construction Authority, and formerly president of ST Electronics from 2009 to 2016 - noted that the biggest challenge to cybersecurity advancement in Singapore today is the scarcity of talent.

"We have to increase the quantity and quality of cybersecurity talent here," Mr Lee said.

Asked about his thoughts on a career in the sector, he said: "Cybersecurity is fun. It is a sector that is live and dynamic. You learn new issues every day, and it's almost like a game between an attacker and a defender. Someone is always coming at you and you have to be able to defend yourself."