The first in a series of ten SWIFT Business Forums throughout Asia Pacific was held in Singapore on 8 and 9 April. The forum was well-attended by over 300 participants from the financial services industry and corporates from five Southeast Asian countries.

Asia Pacific market harmonisation was the forum theme, with industry speakers presenting a view that common standards and interoperable market infrastructures in Asia Pacific are more likely to be driven by market forces and competition than governments. In his plenary address. M. Ramaswami, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Head of Operations & Technology, Singapore Stock Exchange Limited shared his view that Asia cannot take 50 years to achieve harmonisation – nor does it need to take 50 years. “No-one is going to wait for governments to harmonise,” said M. Ramaswami. He highlighted that “the single biggest driver (for harmonisation) is the many shallow capital pools across Asia” and the potential to grow these pools. “The rise of the middle class will see an increased appetite for individual investments.”

He added that Chinese domestic companies listing in London and Singapore are looking outside of their domestic market for capital and this will drive domestic capital markets to change. While four of the world’s top 10 financial centres are in Asia, they represent only 14% of global market captialisation – “Asia is punching below its weight”, said M. Ramaswami. Sahba Saint-Claire, Chief Information Officer, Wholesale Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, described market harmonisation as “more of a marathon than a sprint race”.

“As a bank we shield our clients from the unharmonious nature of the markets in Asia”, in order to provide customers with better business services across markets explained Sahba Saint-Claire.  Customer needs for efficiency and ease of doing business will drive market harmonisation – business has a vital role to play as a catalyst for harmonisation.

"To anticipate customer demands and expected transaction volume growth in the region, the industry must drive standards and market practice harmonisation. This will allow process automation and scalability. It is just as true for capital markets, as well as payments, cash management and supply chain."

April 8, Singapore


Source: SWIFT

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