Can you please tell me what is your day-to-day role?
At Singapore Exchange (SGX Group), I oversee our members’ compliance with our Rules and requirements. Our members act as intermediaries between the exchange and end-investors and market participants. As such, they must have the necessary expertise, systems and processes to run their operations smoothly, remain in good financial condition, and resilient under stressed events such as during extreme market volatility, operational disruptions or when faced with cyber threats.
Our role as regulator is to help them achieve all of these, thereby contributing to a fair, orderly and transparent market. The work that my team of 15 and I do ranges from developing and enhancing regulations and policies, to inspecting our members’ processes and monitoring their financial and liquidity resources, conducting due diligence when admitting new Members and Product issuers, and working with Members to ensure their controls and risk management are adequate.
Market conditions have been volatile, but what have you found to be the most challenging?
Regulators face two key challenges. The first is predicting market-drivers is difficult, and impossible for Black Swan events. We have seen a number of these recently: COVID-19 and its global impact and disruptions, large market movements and the ION cyber incident. For regulators, the difficulty is in striking a balance when faced with such situations. For example, regulators cannot front-run events otherwise we risk stifling what might be a virtuous development. But we also can’t take too long to act otherwise risks will increase, sometimes exponentially.
The second challenge is that everything can be, and often is, connected. What affects a single company, for example a service-provider like ION Group, can have a wide-ranging impact across different markets, firms and asset classes. However, regulators’ oversight is often defined by jurisdiction, asset-type or even the nature of the market participant e.g., a bank versus a commodity trading firm.
What skillsets are required for today and have they changed over the past couple of years?
As with many other industries, the exchange business is dealing with more data and digitization than before. It will be useful to acquire data analytical skills or be more tech savvy.
Specifically for market regulation, skillsets that continue to remain relevant include understanding markets, products and profiles of market participants, the ability to draw from lessons learnt, continue to anticipate future challenges, and be nimble in our regulatory approach.
What progress do you think women have made in financial services? How have things changed since you started?
Statistically, Singapore’s financial services has shown remarkable advancement in gender diversity in the past 2 decades. I read from a Deloitte publication (issued in 2021) that “From 1998 to 2021, women in C-suite roles increased from 2.0% to 20.8%, women in senior leadership roles increased from 18.2% to 24.5%, and women in next generation roles increased from 27.7% to 44.9%.”
At SGX Group, I’ve seen the same astounding progress. Our senior management committees had no women when I started in 1995. Now, their voices are well-heard. More women support or mentorship groups are also available including one at SGX Group.
What needs to be done to move the needle further?
Women leaders need to support women and lift each other up and pay it forward. Roles should continue to be merit-based and not to meet a gender quota. Finally, women must change their mindset and try to venture beyond the “safe and tested”. Challenge yourself and be ready to take on greater responsibility and bigger roles.