Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi
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November/December 2012

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Behind the scenes at Sibos

It is always interesting to attend Sibos – the big banking conference – and to hear what the bankers and others are talking about.

Since 1978, the Society for Worldwide Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has been holding this annual conference, better known as SWIFT’s International Banking Operations Seminar (Sibos) at venues around the world. This year, the conference moved back to Asia and was held in Osaka just a couple of weeks after the Annual IMF meeting was held in Tokyo. This was the first time that Sibos had been held in Japan, which has the third largest economy in the world. Sibos was held in Hong Kong in 2009.

Unfortunately this year’s choice of location backfired when the Chinese banks all withdrew because of their ongoing territorial dispute with Japan regarding the islands known as ‘Senkaku’ in Japan and ‘Diaoyu’ in China. This left several very large exhibition spaces empty and a lot of key speaker slots to be filled. Although China therefore became the elephant in the room, it was talked about. The Chinese economy, trade with China and the internationalisation of the renminbi featured in many presentations and discussions on the exhibition floor.

Osaka also proved a place too far away for many of the usual attendees. As such, the enormous amount of exhibition space at the INTEX centre meant that those that did come rattled around. ‘Where are all the people?’ was a question asked more than once. Moreover, the corporate stream was poorly attended with relatively few non-Japanese corporates being seen.

But the programme of events forged ahead regardless. Two of the biggest themes covered were the burden of regulation and the issue of compliance. The banks really are facing a barrage of regulation which is well intended but (as we have written about already) there are going to be unintended and unfortunate consequences which are already filtering through to their customers.

The application of technology may provide solutions to some of these issues and a means of sharing cost where the industry is facing common problems.

Have you got an app for that?

Perhaps the more interesting application of technology though is exactly that – apps. There was lots of talk about apps, cloud computing and mobile technology. Exactly how this would actually work, and whether the regulators would approve, was less clear.

Younger heads see this as the future of banking. Older heads were saying there was, in reality, little new – just old products and services in new clothes. We will see.

What is certain is that we will be thoroughly investigating these developments in 2013.