Singapore 'third-best financial centre'

It edges past HK in latest global rankings, with London retaining top spot over New York

Industry professionals say Singapore's advantages as a financial centre include its infrastructure and English- speaking skills.
Industry professionals say Singapore's advantages as a financial centre include its infrastructure and English- speaking skills. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singapore has pipped Hong Kong to become the world's third-best financial centre, according to a global index out this week.

The index placed Singapore behind leader London and New York and two points ahead of Hong Kong, while Tokyo was fifth.

The index ranked 86 financial centres based on a poll of 2,520 industry professionals.

Singapore overtook Hong Kong after coming in just behind it in September, the last time the index results were published. Singapore's lead, however, is fairly insignificant.

Aberdeen Asset Management (Asia) managing director Hugh Young said English-speaking skills are marginally better here than in Hong Kong.

"Infrastructure here is generally marginally better (too)," he added. For instance, the financial district in Singapore is slightly easier to get around.

Aberdeen has about 220 employees here and 40 in Hong Kong.

Mr Young noted that one of Singapore's advantages is that government policy is tailored to meet the needs of the finance sector and other businesses.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, tends to have more of a "can-do entrepreneurial sprit", and this probably results in more companies being started by entrepreneurs. It was plausible that this means that more companies list, which could help the stock market a little, he said.

Ms Judy Hsu, chief executive of Standard Chartered Singapore, sees the two centres as complementary rather than competing.

"For example, while Hong Kong serves as a gateway to Greater China, Singapore acts as a strategic hub for Asean," she said.

The index rankings, which are compiled by the London-based think-tank Z/Yen Group, also reflect performance in areas like business environment, financial-sector development and infrastructure.

London retained the top spot, staying just ahead of New York, but the report noted that the two centres "are complementary rather than purely competitive". It also said that a number of respondents had commented that the uncertainty over the possible exit of Britain from the European Union is affecting London's competitiveness.

Mr Michael Chin, managing director and head of asset management at UBS Asset Management (Singapore), said that both London and New York benefited from good regulatory institutions and human capital, and advanced infrastructure in areas like IT.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline Singapore 'third-best financial centre'. Subscribe