I am honoured to recap the 59th WFE General Assembly & Annual Meeting (GA&AM) held in Singapore, 8-10 October 2019. It always gives me great pleasure to attend the WFE’s flagship conference, which is our industry’s leading platform for robust and in-depth discussions and engagement on emerging trends in the securities industry.
Let me start by echoing 'thanks' to our gracious host, the Singapore Exchange (SGX), led by the Chairman, Kwa Chong Seng, and CEO, Loh Boon Chye. Congratulations on your 20-year anniversary! SGX continually strives for excellence and efficiency, with best-in-class global standards; clearly evident throughout the conference. We must also commend WFE Chairman, Dr. Urs Rüegsegger and CEO, Nandini Sukumar, as well as the stellar team at the WFE, for their hard work and dedication in ensuring high-impact relevant engagements end-to-end. The WFE continues to exhibit the gold standard for promoting our industry’s prosperity.
This year’s theme 'The Changing World' couldn’t be more appropriate given the pace of evolution and disruption in our industry, layered with rapidly unfolding global economic dynamics. Accordingly, we must give a warm-felt 'thank you' to our keynote speakers, including (i) Jacqueline Loh, Deputy Managing Director for Markets and Development at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, who helped initiate the conference with her keynote address on this year’s theme, as well as (ii) Dr. Jaensubhakij, Chief Investment Officer at GIC and (iii) Mr. Masamichi Kono, Deputy Secretary-General at the OECD. Your unique perspectives are greatly appreciated and valued.
On that note, allow me to highlight a few key themes and perspective on the back of the 59th WFE GA&AM.
Key Themes and Perspectives
The Working Committee meeting that was held at SGX focused primarily on the practical and innovative blockchain technology implications for industry business models. The discussions ranged from how exchanges, CCPs and other infrastructure providers can leverage distributed ledger technology for post-trade solution (for instance), to assessing emerging trends in crypto-assets, such as the CME’s CF Bitcoin Real-Time Index. As adoption rates of blockchain and other technologies such as A.I. continue to emerge, we welcome the WFE’s capability to stay at the forefront of these dynamic opportunities.
At the onset on the AGM, I had the unique opportunity of moderating this year’s initial panel discussion, alongside leading industry expects, such as Dr. Urs Rüegsegger (Chairman, WFE and SIX Swiss Exchange), Alex Matturri (CEO, S&P Dow Jones Indices, S&P DJI), Dr. Yazid M. Sharaiha (Global Head of Systematic Strategies, Norges Bank Investment Management) and Caroline Silver (Managing Director, Moelis & Company). The WFE’s first panel typically sets the tone for the remaining conference, and our panel’s sub-theme entitled 'The Changing World: Business as Usual', highlights how constant 'change' is in this industry. We considered a number of emerging themes during our Panel, from the implications and importance of ESG reporting, to evolving business operating models (i.e. the growth of indexed business, market data unanimity requirements, lit vs. dark liquidity pools, etc.).
There were several salient sub-themes questioned, examined and passionately debated throughout the conference, however two particular topics seemed to resonate notably :
- ESG: Mandated disclosures relating to ESG reporting requirements were heavily debated. There are views that argue that ESG adds additional regulatory burdens to companies, and other issuers, who are already burdened with existing listing requirements. Alternatively, there are views that stress the more expensive burden is the lack environmental sustainability (i.e. climate change).
- Data: The New Currency: The global trend in monetising data, while also protecting the data, and the need to harmonise data structuring globally for ease of use by end-users, drove discussions around leveraging data in the future. Certainly, with ~ 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day, we must continually examine how our industry can benefit positively from this phenomenon.
The Road Ahead
It’s clear that, as our businesses continue to manoeuvre in a 'Changing World', there must be heightened focus on the consumer, and deep insights into their needs and requirements (i.e. customer needs frameworks, product development via collaboration/co-ownership, data analytics, etc.). We must assess how we can innovate with agility, if we are not to be disrupted.
Moving forward, we wish you continued success and look forward to seeing you in Shenzhen at the 60th WFE Annual General Meeting in 2020.