With Shanghai caught up in Expo fever over the last eight weeks, the financial services sector has also been swept up in the excitement with a number of high profile events revolving around Expo, writes Andrew Whitford.
With Expo only eight weeks’ young, the financial services sector has been privileged to have been the focus of a number of key events and welcomed high profile guests in Shanghai during May and June.
These events have enabled the Australian financial services industry to be showcased to our Chinese counterparts and Chinese regulators, providing the opportunity for a closer working relationship between the Australian and Chinese financial services sector. The first event was an Austrade sponsored dinner on May 19 at the Australian Pavilion to host Trade Minister Simon Crean and Greg Medcraft, Commissioner of Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). The event was titled “Australian Financial Regulation. A Success Story”. Senior Chinese financial services regulators and financial services participants along with their Australian counterparts, heard from Minister Crean about the importance of the growing trade relationship between Australia and China. This relationship is expected to continue to grow and completion of the free trade agreement would certainly assist this. Commissioner Medcraft explained how Australian regulators, in particular ASIC, have navigated the Australian financial services sector through the global financial crisis, and why Australia has been so successful in managing the GFC.
The key to this success was the speed at which the Australian government and financial services regulators acted to address the issues facing the sector as a result of the GFC – such as the Government’s guarantee of bank deposits. As a consequence, Australia’s regulatory framework is highly regarded by the Chinese and Mr Medcraft’s message was very timely and well received.
Mr Medcraft was also the guest at a breakfast roundtable for members of the joint AustCham Financial Services Working Group, where members from both Beijing and Shanghai were able to discuss with Greg ASIC’s successes in more detail. This event was followed by another Austrade sponsored dinner at the Australian Pavilion, where Treasurer Wayne Swan was the guest speaker. He welcomed a delegation from both the Australian Bankers Association and Investment and Financial Services Association representing members from the banking and funds management industries. This event was also attended by representatives of Chinese financial services companies representing all sectors of the Chinese financial services market.
The Treasurer shared with the group the importance of the relationship between Australia and China in financial services, highlighting both the success of Chinese financial service companies operating in Australia and Australian financial services companies operating in China. The Treasurer also used the forum as an opportunity to outline the recently announced Resources Super Profits Tax. After this function was a half day seminar at the Australian Pavilion attended by the ABA and IFSA delegates, some of whom presented on the Australian financial services sector to a predominantly Chinese audience. That audience heard first-hand about the Australian economy and was able to gain a deeper understanding of our financial services sector.
As part of the Australian Bankers Association delegation, three senior economists from CBA, ANZ and National Australian Bank, kindly agreed to take part in a panel discussion chaired by Christopher Wright from Austrade at an AustCham luncheon in June. This was an historic event as it was the first time that more than two economists from major Australian banks had been on stage at the same time. Whilst the audience was expecting a divergence of views from the economists, they were instead surprised by the agreement of all three on the direction of the Australian economy and the Australian dollar. The importance of China as a major trading partner was the key theme explaining why the Australian economy had performed so well, why it had avoided recession and will remain important for our continued economic growth.
The final event was the joint Financial Services Working Group meeting held between the Austcham Beijing and Shanghai working groups conducted via video conference. The meeting was well attended and represented all sectors of the Australian financial services operating in China. The purpose of the Joint Working Group is to ensure that the Australian financial services industry in China speaks as one voice, particularly with regards to a position paper which is under preparation by the joint group. This paper will promote Australia’s strong and well regulated financial services sector with our Chinese counterparts. The position paper is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, and we are expecting it to be eagerly received by the Chinese financial services sector and regulatory bodies.
The events held during the last six weeks have highlighted that China has a substantial interest in learning from Australia’s experience, particularly our regulatory framework and its role in explaining why the Australian financial sector was able to perform so well during the last couple of years compared to our global peers. These events have been an effective way to broadcast this good news story and allows effective dialogue between our two countries on matters affecting the financial services sector. ■
*Andrew Whitford is the General Manager and Country Head PR China, Westpac Banking Corporation. Andrew chairs the Financial Services.