Asia’s Tale of Two Cities: Hong Kong and Singapore as Financial Gateways

by Alexander Camargo,  Medy Agami, February 9, 2012
Industry Trends
Asia-Pacific

Abstract

Celent predicts a paradigm shift around access to Asia. There is likely to be two gateways, providing access to different Asian regions, with Singapore emerging as the preferred gateway to Southeast Asia and Hong Kong becoming the gateway to Mainland China.

In a new report, the third of a series looking at the financial markets in Hong Kong and Singapore, Celent aims to provide a comparative analysis of Asia's two main financial gateways, focusing particularly on derivatives. Asia's Tale of Two Cities: Hong Kong and Singapore as Financial Gateways begins by noting that Western governments have emerged from the financial crisis in a weakened state, with economic prosperity blunted by high unemployment and an emerging debt crisis. The question is no longer when or if we need to enter the Asian markets, but how to best think about the issues of accessibility, entering the market, developing products, and forming strategic partnerships. The fundamental question that needs to be asked now is: “Where do we go from here, Hong Kong or Singapore?”

Although the HKEx and SGX may not be the biggest derivatives players in Asia-Pacific, they tend to be the most accessible for segments located outside the region. Taking advantage of their geographic location, political climate, and internal strengths, these city-states are poised to become hubs for trading of Asia’s regional products while also being easily accessed by US traders via retail trading accounts.

There are several factors that are likely to continue to drive growth in the derivatives market. These include:

  • A relatively muted response to regulating over-the-counter markets as compared with the US and Europe. The type of products that led to the financial crisis in the West are not widely established throughout Asia, and as a result, the regulatory structure governing OTC markets are unlikely to change significantly.
  • Continued desire to manage foreign exchange risk.
  • Continued enhancement of processes of structuring derivatives risk management policies.

“We are seeing changes in relation to access to Asia. Hong Kong is no longer destined to become the sole hub to Southeast Asia,” says Alexander Camargo, Analyst and coauthor of the report. “Inherent strengths in Singapore are making it an extremely attractive financial gateway. Both English and Chinese are frequently spoken in Singapore, making it an ideal cross-roads for East and West. Furthermore, Singapore is viewed by most Asian countries as a neutral party and less politically tied to China than Hong Kong. This is likely to entice Indian investors and even Japanese and Korean investors to Singapore’s shores.”

However, this does not mean that Hong Kong will recede as a major financial center in Asia. Hong Kong residents are often fluent in both English and Chinese; contract laws are strong; and there remain strong historical ties to the West. As a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong has stronger political ties to China. Hong Kong has also been busy integrating its financial markets with mainland China. These factors make it likely that Hong Kong will become a key gateway to mainland China.

This report begins with an overview of each country’s financial infrastructure and regulations, providing an introduction to the countries' various demand market segments, followed by a look at the main exchanges, HKEx and SGX. A summary of HKEx and SGX focuses on derivatives trading, providing a brief description of products offered, market access, alliances, and clearing on the exchanges. The report then looks at each country’s fixed income markets, OTC derivatives, and FX markets. It concludes with a discussion of market supremacy and also the countries' ongoing efforts to improve market structure and access.

Celent is a research and advisory firm dedicated to helping financial institutions formulate comprehensive business and technology strategies. Celent publishes reports identifying trends and best practices in financial services technology and conducts consulting engagements for financial institutions looking to use technology to enhance existing business processes or launch new business strategies. With a team of internationally based analysts, Celent is uniquely positioned to offer strategic advice and market insights on a global basis. Celent is a member of the Oliver Wyman Group, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC].

Media Contacts

North America
Michele Pace
mpace@celent.com
Tel: +1 212 345 1366

Europe (London)
Chris Williams
cwilliams@celent.com
Tel: +44 (0)782 448 3336

Asia (Tokyo)
Yumi Nagaoka
ynagaoka@celent.com
Tel.: +81 3 3500 3023

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

3

Economic Profile

5

 

Hong Kong

5

 

Singapore

7

Regulatory Infrastructure of Financial System

9

 

Hong Kong

9

 

Singapore

12

Market Segments

15

 

Overview

15

 

Asset Managers

18

 

Hedge Funds

21

 

Wealth Managers

22

 

Pension Funds

24

 

Banks

28

 

Insurers

32

 

Exchanges

34

Fixed Income Market

43

 

Hong Kong

44

 

Singapore

45

OTC Derivatives Market

46

 

Non-Deliverable Forwards

46

 

FX Swaps

47

 

Interest Rate Derivatives

48

 

Credit Default Swaps

50

FX Market

52

 

Hong Kong

52

 

Singapore

53

Market Supremacy

54

 

Hong Kong

54

 

Singapore

55

Conclusion

57

Leveraging Celent’s Expertise

59

 

Support for Financial Institutions

59

 

Support for Vendors

59

Related Celent Research

60

Sign in to download reports and access personalized information