NEWS ANALYSIS

More than words needed to reassure SGX investors

The public relations offensive made clear that the SGX is keenly aware yesterday's market opening delay was the bourse operator's third strike and some investors feel Mr Bocker(above) should be out. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
The public relations offensive made clear that the SGX is keenly aware yesterday's market opening delay was the bourse operator's third strike and some investors feel Mr Bocker(above) should be out. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Fund managers may lose confidence in local stocks with frequent disruptions

Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief executive Magnus Bocker came out swinging at an hour- long press conference yesterday, explaining in painstaking detail what happened in the bourse operator's latest "incident", what it plans to do next, addressing whether he would step down from his job and apologising for good measure.

It was a marked change from the last hastily convened press conference held by the SGX to explain a three-hour market disruption last month. Mr Bocker did not even show up then.

The public relations offensive made clear that the SGX is keenly aware yesterday's market opening delay was the bourse operator's third strike and some investors feel Mr Bocker should be out.

Aside from last month's disruption, the SGX had to suspend derivatives trading for over two hours on April 1 due to a hardware fault.

Yesterday, Mr Bocker put his game face on. While acknowledging an unfortunate run of technical glitches and market disruptions this year, he managed to put a positive spin on things.

The way that the SGX handled yesterday's situation is a signal that it is willing to take a hit to support retail investors and this should thus strengthen long-term confidence and trust in the SGX, he said.

Would Mr Bocker consider resigning, given public furore over the series of market disruptions?

"I'm not giving up," was the stoic reply. "I've been working with exchanges for nearly 30 years and this is not the first time I've gone through this. We will come through."

Is his contract likely to be renewed next year?

"This is something between me and my board... I really appreciate working with the SGX. We have a phenomenal journey for this company, which I think is one of the most interesting exchange companies in the world."

Bold words for a firm in the midst of its most heated public relations crisis in years.

But it will take more than words to calm angry investors, who took to online forums yesterday to vent their frustration, calling for Mr Bocker's resignation - or for his bonus and pay to be slashed at the least - and urging regulators to penalise the SGX.

Listed companies and fund managers, too, are losing confidence in the Singapore market, noted NRA Capital executive chairman Kevin Scully.

"I spoke to the chief financial officer of a listed firm and he said he was not even told about the opening delay ahead of time. It makes you question whether they have a proper disaster recovery system in place," he said.

The SGX issued a public statement about the delay on its website at 4am yesterday morning.

International fund managers who see such frequent disruptions here may be less confident in investing in local stocks too, and might demand cheaper valuations in the face of that risk.

Call it bad luck or mismanagement, but the SGX's woes have far-reaching consequences that affect not only local investors' confidence in the market but also Singapore's reputation as a regional financial hub.

The SGX has promised full reviews and investigations to prevent further disruptions. Regulators have said they will take action "if necessary".

The market is certainly waiting to see what will happen next, beyond the offering of promises and threats.

yasminey@sph.com.sg