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Singapore is winning out over Hong Kong, ANZ bank CEO says

ANZ Group Holdings chief executive officer Shayne Elliott said that his customers moved

more of their business to Singapore from Hong Kong in the past few years as the smaller Asia-Pacific trading hub narrows the gap to its larger rival.

An increasing number of clients at Elliott’s firm have chosen to invest their regional treasury capabilities in Singapore, he noted. ANZ Group now has about 800 people in Singapore, double its headcount in Hong Kong.

“There has been a migration towards Singapore, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “That’s also true of financial institutions. The data is clear, more financial markets capability, money centre capability, Singapore has been a relative winner over that period of time.”

The two cities’ battle for capital and talent reached new heights in recent years as the pandemic restricted the movement of people, forcing many in the finance industry to reassess where they live and work. While Singapore saw an influx of highly skilled professionals and businesses escaping Hong Kong’s harsh Covid-19 lockdowns, it still has a ways to go to displace its rival as a trading hub and base for banks looking for a gateway to China.

In the Asia-Pacific region, ANZ’s focal point has been on reshaping institutional banking, where it has been focusing on larger corporate customers and operates in 29 markets. Elliott, who took the top job in 2016, wielded the axe to much of his predecessor’s Asian legacy by exiting retail and wealth-management operations in five Asian markets as well as signalling divestments of stakes in banks in Indonesia and cutting exposure in China.

“What’s happening in Hong Kong from our customers is changing,” Elliott explained. “We’d be remiss not to say that Singapore in a relative sense has outgrown Hong Kong, from our perspective. More of our customers have chosen to invest their regional treasury capabilities in Singapore. But, Hong Kong is still a very important centre for us.”


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