Posted by Cognito on Fri, Jul 03 2015

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10 facts you need to know about ASEAN going into Sibos 2015

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Sibos started in 1978 as a banking operations forum. From these humble roots it has developed into a global financial services conference, with over 7,000 attendees annually. This October Singapore will play host, and Sibos is marking the occasion with a special one-day ASEAN forum. This recognizes the growing significance of this burgeoning economic community.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was first formed in 1967 and now consists of 10 member countries; Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei Darussalam.

The community was established to create a single market and production base; facilitating the free movement of goods, services, investment, labour and, of greatest relevance to Sibos attendees, flows of capital.

With a population of over 620 million, it has coolly hit annualised growth rates of 5.1 percent. Representing a combined GDP of 2.4 trillion USD, this places the ASEAN economy ahead of countries such as Brazil, India and Canada.

The regions primary economic focus is to become an export driven powerhouse. Such policies are supported by free trade agreements with partners based regionally, and with ASEAN inclusion in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). These activities have seen trading activity swell to the tune of 2.5 trillion USD in 2013.
This is in parallel with a rapidly expanding consumer base, estimated by Nielsen to represent 50 percent of the global middle class by 2020, with more than 2 trillion USD in new consumption in Southeast Asia alone.

On December 31 2015 the AEC will officially come on-stream. At this juncture, it is estimated that member countries will have achieved 85 percent readiness in their legislative and logistical preparations. This highlights the sheer scale of the endeavor, achieving harmonization while tackling the huge economic and social diversity within the region.

There have also been calls for regional communication campaigns to educate businesses and citizens as to the benefits of the AEC. For example, recent figures suggest that a mere 50 percent of businesses in ASEAN have taken advantage of the tariff reductions under the free trade agreements. Nonetheless with the commitment and goodwill of member government, the AEC is expected to gain momentum and gather pace as its positive impact is felt among its citizens.

So, why is this important to Sibos attendees?

The conference itself began life with a focus on banking activities such as handling payments, securities and cash management. The impact of the AEC on these activities cannot be underestimated.

A key pillar of the AEC are integrated financial and capital markets. Capital account and financial services liberalization have been recognized and enshrined as key to the viable development of the community. In practice this includes the removal of capital controls, and the development of a currency swap facility by end 2015. These will precipitate a growing reliance on financial services with an expansion of foreign currency, cross-border payment transfer, and cash management activities. Such initiatives deliver endless opportunities for well-positioned Financial Services providers, as specialists in these fields.

There are currently 24 local commercial banks holding 82 percent of financial assets in ASEAN. While they are considered relatively small global players, their growth trajectory is in step with their client base: upwards.

The AEC is moving towards the dismantling of non-tariff barriers for entrants to their respective domestic bank markets, with regulatory harmonization and policy coordination. However, for wider regional bank integration, the stringent rules currently in place require a large injection of resources. As a result these rules have limited access for regional players, with foreign entry into domestic markets led by the larger Western institutions. These organisations boast existing infrastructure and a balance sheet that can absorb costs associated with regional expansion. One case in point would be Standard Chartered Bank, who have a presence in all 10 markets.

Local banks are working hard to develop within their existing countries and expand their product range and services. They are pressing forward to keep pace with their ripening market and enhanced sophistication of their client base.

For Sibos attendees, there is a real opportunity to explore the ASEAN opportunity firsthand and develop strategies to participate in this exciting story.

This rising tide has the ability to lift all boats.

Sibos, Singapore,
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