SMU School of Accounting celebrates its 20th anniversary with an inaugural conference on the digital transformation of financial markets 2021

Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Accountancy (SOA) marks its 20th anniversary This year. As part of his celebrations, he released a delivered, launched the Pang Yang Hoong scholarship and organized a first Conference on the digital transformation of financial markets 2021 on Friday October 8, 2021, where more than 300 industry practitioners in the accounting and finance sectors, business owners and regulators attended the virtual conference.

The profound impact of digital transformation on the future of finance

The financial world is accelerating at a steady pace, driven by the emergence of new technologies that present both opportunities and challenges for businesses as they navigate the dynamics of an ever-changing business environment.

“The adoption of new technologies has accelerated what would typically take three to five years to implement to a few months,” observed Professor Timothy Clark, SMU Provost, in his opening remarks at the conference. “Covid and other forces are galvanizing the financial world and bringing financial services into a more fully digital age. So how do we navigate the digital transformation of the financial world? What type of regulation is likely to emerge to govern the new competitive landscape? “

Navigating the future of financial services

Mr. Leong Sing Chiong, Deputy Managing Director, Markets and Development Group, Monetary Authority of Singapore, in his opening remarks, stressed the need to step back and look at the big picture, as technology transforms financial services and that initiatives are launched at a rapid pace. He said, “We need to ask ourselves why we do everything we do and be confident that we are doing things that matter. “

As Singapore strives to become a leading global financial center in Asia, it should also not neglect efforts to support Asia’s development and serve Singapore’s economy, especially since Asia is increasingly emerging as the center of gravity of global growth.

“It is not the volume of business that takes place here, but what we are doing as a financial center to catalyze greater integration within the region to spur collective growth,” Leong said. .

He also highlighted the growth of sustainable finance and the resulting need to capture, analyze and govern disclosures and data. Companies are increasingly producing meaningful and substantive data, both qualitative and qualitative, to support measures of sustainability. There are currently international platforms that are examining the best methods of coordinating risk assessments and disclosures in a more consistent way globally. However, he noted that the growing trend towards sustainable investing also carries risks of greenwashing, especially since the current data collection and measurement processes are “very cumbersome, very inefficient and very manual”.

“The more we can standardize the region more in terms of adoption of standards, the more we can lend ourselves to sustainable flows entering the region,” Leong noted.

Regarding the effects of digital transformation on the financial sector, Mr. Leong said that the necessary infrastructure must be built to enable us to expand and harness the benefits of technology and innovation. Additionally, ensuring cross-border connectivity is crucial as small players in sectors like fintech are more likely to have an impact by operating as part of a much larger ecosystem with other fintechs, as well as by working with existing incumbents, with whom they can exploit resources to expand their activities.

He concluded, “It’s not just about how quickly we adopt technology, our size as a financial center, but how we apply technology and innovation to solve global problems, how we harness technology and innovation to also catalyze inclusion. like integration, interoperability – how, as a financial hub, Singapore can stay hyper-connected and relevant to the region and the world through digital transformation. “

Governance, risk and compliance (GRC) aspects of digital transformation

The pandemic has generated a new appreciation for the benefits of digital transformation, including its ability to drive new business models, enable efficiencies, and even redefine what we see as the very notion of work. To understand how organizations manage the governance, risk and compliance (GRC) aspects of their digital transformation programs, Deloitte Southeast Asia and SMU jointly conducted a series of research in the second and third quarters of 2021.

“Over the past 18 months, business leaders have come to realize just how complex digital transformation programs can be,” explained Dr Clarence Goh, Assistant Professor of Accounting (Practice), SMU School of Accountancy, and co-author of the GRC in Digital Transformation research with Ms. Seah Gek Choo, Assurance & Advisory Partner, Center for Corporate Governance and SheXO Program Leader, Deloitte Singapore.

“They had no choice but to think about how to strike the right balance between reaping the benefits of digital transformation on the one hand, and at the same time figuring out how to mitigate the risk of potential losses due to governance. insufficient and other associated risks and compliance issues. “

Research has found that digitally mature organizations, or organizations reporting more advanced progress on their digital transformation journeys, exhibit four markedly different traits when it comes to managing the GRC aspects of their digital transformation programs. . In particular, they are more likely to recognize the importance of a formal and proactive governance body; consider technological maturity as their weakest link in governance; assigning ownership of risk identification and monitoring activities to individual business units; and be more aware of the regulatory compliance complexity of their digital transformation programs.

More information on the report can be found here.

Research insights

Professor Cheng Qiang, Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Accounting, SMU, presented the research topic “The Value of Blockchain Applications” where he explored the economic value of blockchain applications through a study of Asset Backed Securities (ABS) issued in China using blockchain.

“Some people see blockchain as a hype, which I think is probably related to the volatility of Bitcoin’s price over time,” Prof Qiang shared when presenting his research findings. “Due to the controversy surrounding blockchain applications, many organizations have requested an investigation into the value of blockchain applications. “

Professor Cheng found that compared to other ABSs, those issued with blockchain technology experience a 31.4 basis point decrease in the yield spread, which represents substantial savings for issuers.

Blockchain can address investor concerns about the quality of the underlying assets, as it could ensure that the information is reliable and that the issuer cannot alter any information stored on the chain, thereby increasing investor confidence.

Dr Yun Lou, Associate Professor of Accounting, SMU School of Accountancy, attended Research Insight’s second presentation on “Regulating Disinformation and Capital Market Quality”. Professor Lou’s research project assesses the effectiveness of disinformation regulations, particularly in the capital market, using natural language processing tools.

The study aims to broaden regulators’ views on the potential effects of anti-fake news laws by highlighting how these laws affect not only political processes but also capital markets. By focusing on social media and financial market outcomes, in particular, the effect of anti-fake news policies can be measured and meaningfully assessed by researchers.

The Rise of RegTech – Challenges and Opportunities

More than a buzzword, RegTech (regulatory technology) has revolutionized the regulatory landscape by providing technologically advanced solutions to the ever increasing compliance requirements within the financial industry.

The conference ended with a fireside chat to discuss issues related to the implementation and integration of RegTech. Moderated by Prof. Sum Yee Loong, Professor of Accounting (Practical), SMU, the panelists for the session were Mr. Damien Pang, Executive Director (Data and Technology Architecture) and Deputy Director of Financial Technology, Monetary Authority of Singapore ; Evelyn Goh, Director of International Policy and Strategy, Infocomm Media Development Authority; Dr David Hardoon, Senior Data and Artificial Intelligence Advisor, UnionBank Philippines; and Ms. Irene Liu, Financial and Regulatory Consultant, Women in Data APAC Board Enterprise Data Management Board.

Mr Pang started the discussion by emphasizing the need to take advantage of available technologies and make full use of RegTech tools beyond ‘check compliance’, so this is a driving force. of the company. Likewise, Ms. Goh observed that companies have increased their awareness of RegTech, having adopted more digitally-centric business models and collecting more data.

“But a lot of the time, awareness doesn’t translate into adoption,” Ms. Goh noted. Instead, organizations should engage by investing in RegTech resources, such as introducing internal policies and a governance structure, providing adequate training to employees, and continuously monitoring results for s ” ensure that the targeted objectives are achieved.

In addition, companies often face challenges such as the cost of implementing RegTech solutions in existing systems and the need to clean up existing data in order to achieve the adequate quality required for RegTech, Ms. Liu explained. . Another hurdle is the mindset that business leaders have of RegTech as a simple function of cost and their resulting approach to achieving compliance at the lowest possible cost, added Dr Hardoon. However, he explained that RegTech can be a business catalyst: the process of improving data quality also has the ability to improve the level of customer service as much as it could mitigate risk.

Local organizations are currently working with other ASEAN countries, Ms. Liu said, to establish a common framework for data sharing. Such data flows also need to be managed to ensure responsible information sharing, regulate the privacy of digital assets and also tackle the fear of breaking laws while preserving a company’s competitive advantage.

“The region really needs to level up in terms of understanding the flow and sharing of reliable data, standards and interoperability being very important factors. After all, data has no boundaries. It has to sink to have this value, ”concluded Ms. Goh.


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