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

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9 February 2012
Medy Agami and Alexander Camargo

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.

Insight details

Content Type
Reports
Report Type
Industry Trends
Location
Asia-Pacific