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KL Congress Focuses On the ‘K Economy’

The 22nd Asia-Pacific Congress of ACI – The Financial Markets Association, which took place in Kuala Lumpur at the end of October, featured a series of interesting and thought provoking presentations focusing on the ‘K Economy’ (or knowledge economy).

The event was well-supported by Bank Negara Malaysia, therefore it was appropriate that after a welcoming address by the president of Financial Markets Association – Malaysia, Megat Kamarruddin Megat Samsuddin, delegates heard a keynote speech from the Governor of Bank Negara, Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Dr Aziz spoke of developments within Malaysia surrounding monetary policy, the establishment of a sustainable economic framework and the Islamic Banking initiative that launched in Kuala Lumpur the day after the congress closed.

Reinvention and Retention

The first panel, entitled “Reinventing the Traditional Treasury Role in Asian Banks Towards a Financial Markets Franchise”, was moderated by Nazir Razak, chief executive and managing director of Commerce International Merchant Bankers. Panellists included: Paco Ybarra, head of Asia-Pacific sales and trading at Citibank; Anita Fung, head of trading, Asia-Pacific at HSBC; Frank Wong, senior managing director, Development Bank of Singapore; and David Wong, managing director and country representative, head of global financial markets, Asia, ABN Amro, Singapore.

Panellists discussed how the markets are taking over some of the traditional banking roles as the buy side increasingly has direct access to the markets. They also looked at how new techniques and instruments are created to unbundle risks and also about new product innovation.

The speakers described how Asian treasuries had developed along similar lines to those in Europe and the US, creating a truly global framework for financial markets. The renewed focus on the client was also discussed, in particular how the banking industry needs to be focused on delivering solutions to client problems rather than just selling them a service. Panellists also stressed the necessity for banks to focus on their own core competencies when looking at their regional operations, and how white label solutions from the global institutions could facilitate this.

Panel two, entitled “Developing Knowledge and Expertise: Aligning Motivation and Retaining Talent”, investigated a rarely explored area – the definition and retention of talented staff – something that is vital to any business. It was moderated by Ooi Sang Kuang, deputy governor of Bank Negara, and, continuing the theme from panel one, had panellists drawn from leading organisations. In this case, delegates heard presentations from Cezar Consing, managing director, investment banking, Asia, at JP Morgan; Tim Miller, group head of human resources, Standard Chartered Bank; Loh Boon Chye, managing director, head of global markets, Asia at Deutsche Bank; and Eustace Gomez, human resources director, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Malaysia.

Panellists described how talent could be created and motivated, how such talent was interested in a broader learning base and working in different cultures, as well as how it had a drive for results. Some interesting statistics were presented, specifically regarding how talent is developed by the top 20 companies compared to all other companies and how staff turnover can be avoided – and how much increased turnover could cost.

The panel also explored the disciplines needed by both management and staff to ensure that talent was utilised to the full, how the recognition in both financial and benefit terms had changed over the past few decades and what attracted talented candidates.

Development – Technical and Moral

The Saturday session provided another two panel discussions. The first, moderated by TJ Lim, most recently at Merrill Lynch, was entitled “Challenges and Advancements in the Trading and Distribution Platforms”, and looked at how the advent of online trading had impacted the wider markets. Panellists included Sean Foley, director of technology at Cognotec; Albert Cobetto, chief executive officer, BondsInAsia; Mark Robson, managing director, Treasury Broking Services at Reuters; and John Lockhart, director of electronic broking, Asia-Pacific and Middle East at Icap. They spoke about issues ranging from the simple online execution process to the more complicated hybrid solutions conducted by some organisations.

The panel presented a range of opinions and service options, including bank-to-customer, interbank and white labelling models. Delegates were also given a very interesting appraisal of how electronic trading had impacted fixed income trading, with a specific focus on Asia. As with the other panels, this session provoked a spirited question and answer session between the floor and panel.

Panel four was moderated by Yves Mersch, Governor of the Central Bank of Luxembourg and member of the executive board of the European Central Bank. A high powered panel brought the business session of the congress to an appropriately interesting close. Panellists were Ng Kok Song, managing director, public markets, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation; Richard Koo, chief economist, Economic Research Department at Nomura Research Institute; David Clark from the Financial Services Authority of the UK; and Encik Mahd Razif bin Abdul Kadir, assistant governor at Bank Negara.

This panel discussed the outlook for the financial markets with detailed presentations on the developing financial services industry in Malaysia, including further details of the imminent launch of the Islamic Banking initiative. An interesting presentation was made on the problems facing the Japanese banking sector, a recurring problem that the government there is struggling to solve.

The panel was rounded off with the thoughts of GSIC, a market-leading investor, and a somewhat provocative presentation on the changing attitudes towards risk by Clark, who looked at how the markets are developing, are part of a wider global community and have a responsibility towards that community.

Profit & Loss

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