2016 will be remembered as a year of surprises. The UK referendum on BREXIT sent shockwaves through the markets, and just when we thought the situation had calmed down and the year was drawing to a more stable and predictable close, the election of Donald Trump in the US was also a surprise, and has since injected a significant element of uncertainty to global politics and the economy.
All this has added greater uncertainty and challenges to our industry which has already been coping with significant headwinds brought about by a combination of benign growth, regulatory and cost pressures. ACI has been caught in the crossroads of change, with ACI Global in particular facing challenges to its role and function as the largest industry association in the wholesale financial markets. The resignation of ACI President Marshall Bailley, and the decision of both ACI Italy and ACI Germany to withdraw from ACI Global has sparked a strategic re-assessment of the role of ACI. The investment in the ELAC or E-Learning Attestation & Certification Portal has been a major investment and has shaped the strategy of ACI in the last 2 years. Closely linked to the development of the BIS Global Code of Conduct, ELAC positions ACI at the centre of promoting adherance to the highest standards of ethical conduct in our industry.
In Singapore, ACI Singapore has also been actively promoting ELAC not only with our regulators and the SFEMC, but also with the major market players in Singapore. This will remain a focus of our efforts in the coming year.
Apart from ELAC, the last 12 months has seen significant effort and focus on building an education platform that will be linked to the newly launched IBF Standards Training Scheme (“STS”). We are currently in advanced stages of receiving approval and accreditation as an Approved IBF STS Training Provider. This would allow us to develop and conduct courses leading to IBF Standards Programme recognition. This will involve a revamp of our entire education function where we had previously been providing non-examinable courses under the IBF Financial Training Scheme. Graduates from our STS courses will soon qualify for IBF standards certification.
Apart from this important education initiative, ACI Singapore continues to fulfill our traditional role in bringing important updates through evening seminars to our members and the industry. Last year we conducted a seminar which examined the new Global FX Code. Other seminars included a seminar on the Management of Capital in a Hedge Fund, as well as our traditional year-end seminar looking at Trends & Outlook for the Global Financial Markets. The ACI Singapore Executive Committee sees this not only as an important forum for our members and market practitioners to share insights into important issues facing the markets, but also to provide an important informal networking opportunity for members. These seminars & the networking dinners that follow are all organised for members who attend entirely free of charge. It has also been important in terms of membership recruitment as some of these seminars have attracted over 100 participants. In 2016, the 3 evening seminars attracted 54 new members to ACI Singapore. I am pleased to report that as at today, our membership stands at 369 members, an increase of 10% over the figure at the end of 2015. This is also the highest figure in the last 5 years.
Apart from our Education and Professional Development initiatives, ACI Singapore does much to engage with the rest of the industry. Regular meetings take place with the SFEMC, MAS and IBF, and through the annual ACI Singapore Charity Golf, we are also an important industry mobiliser and facilitator for charity. Last year was our 23rd ACI Singapore Charity Golf event and we raised $602,000 in donations and sponsorships, with $473,000 eventually donated to 6 charities. We now organize what is unquestionably the industry’s most important charity event, and this has also drawn the strong support of our Deputy Prime Minister (“DPM”) Tharman Shanmugaratnam as our Guest of Honour. We are most grateful to our DPM Tharman for this unwavering support and encouragement.
2016 also saw Singapore hosting the ACI Singapore-Malaysia Biennial Friendship Games. This has become an important tradition of ACI and brings together over 150 members of both National associations in a spirit of friendly competition and promotion of ties between industry participants of both countries. I am happy to report that ACI Singapore retained the challenge cup winning 3 of the 5 games contested.
Financially, 2016 was another difficult year for ACI Singapore, although I am pleased to report that we have narrowed the deficit by 35% in 2016 as compared to 2015. We will continue to actively manage our overheads and expenses, but as one of the most active ACI national associations in Asia in terms of the number of events and members activities, we have to rely on other sources of income like education, eg. the plans for the IBF STS programmes, as we have deliberately kept membership fees low in order to encourage more industry participants to join ACI and participate in our activities. 2017 will remain challenging as we have to continue to invest in securing IBF Accreditation and developing training programmes for the industry, while at the same time fulfilling our other important roles.
It is the belief of the ACI Singapore EXCO and myself that ACI Singapore plays an important role as one of the 3 key parties, comprising the Regulators, the Institutions & the industry participants, whose engagement and cooperation are necessary to promote a vibrant industry.
It leaves me to thank all my fellow members of the ACI Singapore Executive Committee, our Advisors and the Staff for their support, commitment and dedication.
I wish all of you a successful 2017.