WHEN Ms Clodagh Bannigan heard her husband was being sent to Singapore to work at Swiss bank UBS last year, there was a lot on her mind.

She had just had a baby and was heading up the emerging markets practice for recruitment agency Alexander Mann Solutions. To think of relocation and leaving her job during the critical first few years of being a mother was a daunting prospect.

But she need not have worried. Her employer of 13 years simply offered to relocate her to Singapore while letting her remain in her role as global head of emerging markets.

Now 38, the Irish-born Ms Bannigan, who had worked in London for 13 years, spent four weeks in Singapore and decided to relocate permanently.

'I was open to anything. I'd left my home in Ireland since 1998, built up my skills in London for 13 years and now I feel it's a great time to be in Asia. I was very thankful that I had the opportunity to stay with my employer,' she says.

Hers is not a lone story of what human resource experts call 'the mobile intelligence of a knowledge worker'.

Another is Mr Lindsay Pudman, 50, who moved to Singapore last September to consult as a recruitment manager for oil and gas company Baker Hughes.

Like Ms Bannigan, he worked and grew his portfolio in London. After 20 years in the business, he had built up his expertise, giving him more choices in employment.

As a 'knowledge worker', he believes having choice and mobility is paramount to career growth.

'Where will I be? Say in five years? It really depends on where the client is. But also, whether you're doing well or otherwise, it's always good not to overstay your welcome,' he says.

'If you don't move, you tend to get into a comfort zone and you don't learn new skills. You get stale and you stop growing. So I recommend that you move every few years so you get to learn more and are exposed to different things in your career.'

His views are very different from those of most baby boomers who still see staying at one company for life as a sign of success. Anything less than 10 years is viewed as job-hopping. But 'knowledge workers' are a very different breed and think very differently.

Ms Paula Baskus, Ms Bannigan's boss at Alexander Mann, says Ms Bannigan and Mr Pudman were good examples of the 'knowledge worker'.

Her definition: a person who spends a good amount of time on 'knowledge gain' - or expertise in his field.

Once such a worker is ahead of the pack, he will keep going up and fast. Once he is mobile, the world will be his oyster.

Ms Baskus adds: 'In the future, knowledge workers will spread more widely and thinly across the globe. They will take up shorter periods as consultants, or being on exchange programmes - for a duration of six months on average.'

The challenge for companies is how to attract and retain these workers.

Ms Baskus explains: 'Organisations should find ways to capture and retain knowledge workers. They should adopt learning and development measures. This will be critical to retain knowledge workers.'

In this respect, Singapore has been ahead of the curve.

Since the mid-1990s, the Government has been talking about building a knowledge-based economy and urging companies to attract knowledge-based workers. And with the turn of the century, expatriates with skills in biotechnology and information technology (IT) were highly welcome.

A study titled 'Global Mobility of Talents: What Will Make People Move, Stay, or Leave in 2015 and Beyond?', published by Insead School of Business, addressed the same issue, looking to the years ahead.

It said that a factor likely to affect the creation of knowledge workers' ability to produce the talents required by a country's own development strategies stemmed directly from investment made in past decades in educational systems.

The study said: 'Tertiary enrolment in this respect is not the only variable to consider.

'The quality of education in mathematics and science will also likely have an increasingly important impact on the value that a particular society can provide for itself, as the expansion and improvement of global information networks create more opportunities to share such value.

'In this area, countries such as Singapore will continue to benefit from a comparative advantage built relentlessly over the years, while India and China seem to be quickly moving up that same ladder.'

Apart from education, Singapore also did well to cultivate knowledge workers specifically in the IT sector, says Ms Baskus.

'With IT making things much easier to transport, especially knowledge, Singapore stands in a good position because of the IT infrastructure it has invested in.

'Once a country prepares itself to attract knowledge workers, the economic rewards grow exponentially because it's ahead of the curve in terms of thought leadership. The transfer of knowledge will be greater and the economy will undoubtedly benefit.'