The Asian Financial Forum has kicked off today at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Its two-day agenda includes an array of fireside chats between industry leaders and experts, who together will discuss and discover some of Asia’s most pressing financial topics.
The Forum has arrived at the right place at the right time, as the financial industry breaks the dawn of a new golden age. Financial services, and especially fintech, has developed into a core pillar of Asia’s economy, and during its two-day agenda, panellists are set to break down some of the industry’s more central topics, including innotech, financial inclusion, digital currencies and blockchain, emerging startups, and of course how financial services are increasingly adhering to ESG standards and expectations.
Highlights from day one include:
Panel Discussion on ESG and Sustainability
Expectations from investments aren’t what they were ten years ago, and the way investments behave hold a strong influence over the reputation and long-term success of a business. There appear to be calls from all sides of the table for investments to consider their environmental impact, and the wider impact they have on governance and culture.
This panel was attended by representatives of HSBC, State Street, Sintesa Group, UBS, Federated Hermes International and the Haitong International Securities Group who together discussed how governments, financial institutions and philanthropists alike can work in collaboration with one another to ensure the arrival a sustainable future through the implementation of developing ESG standards.
Outlining the challenges, opportunities and trends facing the industry and its clients when complying with an ESG agenda, Andrew Erickson, Chief Productivity Officer, Head of International Business for the asset services provider State Street said: “The focus on ESG is as at the heart of generating better long term results for global investors. And as a result, we really perceive ESG through a couple of different lenses. One is a corporate lens. As an investment managers, where we make investment decisions. As an asset service, we deliver innovative research directly through to those companies so that they can understand the impact that they have, and really try to broaden the ESG agenda.
“Finally, as an asset servicer, we have to work with our customers on their footprint, what their actual exposure is today, and what impact their plans will have in the future.
“At the very beginning people worried that Covid might take the focus off ESG, but I think that hasn’t happened. I think that there’s been in fact even more doubling down of focus on ESG because of the connection for long term resiliency.”
Policy Dialogue – Policy Responses to Climate Change and Economic Recovery
In light of worldwide economic uncertainty, policymakers have been advocating near-term economic recovery plans with a view of cultivating longer-term sustainability goals. It is in the face of such immense challenges that these policies are seeking to build a more inclusive future for the financial services industry.
This panel was attended by a host of prominent policymakers, including representatives from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Securities and Futures Commission, the Central Bank of the Philippines, De Nederlandsche Bank, IFRS Foundation and the Hong Kong Green Finance Association.
Discussing how international momentum addresses the financial risks stemming from climate change, Klaas Knot, Chair, Financial Stability Board President, De Nederlandsche Bank said: “A lot of work is still in the early stages, and we continue to face some very basic challenges here, for instance, the availability and quality of data. But that should not keep us from setting ambitious goals. And by taking coordinated action as an international community, we can achieve said goals.”
Dialogue for Tomorrow: The Future of Property
With a large proportion of discussion around the Forum centred on how financial services are meeting ESG standards and environmental regulations, this session discusses how Hong Kong’s property and development industry has also been keeping up with changing global attitudes. These aspects were explored by the panel, which included representatives from New World Development, Swire Properties Limited and Sino Group.
Whilst discussing the impact of Covid on the worldwide market and the various mitigations that have come into play, Andrew Young, Associate Director, Sino Group comments: “I think a lot of positivity with the pandemic, not that we like it. But it brings awareness for customers, for staff as to the impact of the environment of the assets that we give.
“We see fear in people, especially in the critical time, especially in regards to touching things, so touchless technologies have suddenly come in very quickly. We see cleaning staff in the cleaning sections are fearful of having direct contact with the environment that may be contaminated. We’ve seen the very rapid adoption of robotic solutions. And that really expedited robotics technology in terms of the management of assets.
“But what I think it brings to the limelight is the impact of the environment on people. And I think the deep side of it is that the pandemic has brought awareness that we as a group of invisible asset owners need to be in close dialogue with customers, and in providing a clean and safe environment to suit the consumer of this age. And I think as the pandemic goes on, as we live on, that will not change. I think that is the change that we see is really positive.”