Globalization, operational efficiency and regulation were dominant themes at this year’s Sibos conference, sponsored by SWIFT, that drew more than 7,500 delegates—38% from the Americas; 47% from EMEA and 15% from Asia-Pacific—to Toronto last month. And in a week when Italy’s credit rating was downgraded and world markets plunged again, the sputtering global economy was never out of mind.
Companies are hunkering down, anxious again about counterparty risk and uncertain about consumer spending, taxes and especially regulation, since many rules have yet to be written, bankers noted. Americans are concerned about the European debt crisis, while Europeans are just as worried about the high unemployment in the U.S., with each side thinking the other is in worse shape, observed Sue Webb of J.P. Morgan Treasury Services. Meanwhile nothing much gets firmly fixed, and it’s doubtful that the emerging markets with better growth stories can pull the world out of its economic funk, others noted.
The “devil is in the details” was probably the most invoked phrase, with Basel III, SEPA and Target 2 frequently mentioned, as well as the “ huge investments” compliance requires. “We need regulators to be very clear and to be very sophisticated,” asserted Werner Steinmüller of Deutsche Bank’s Global Transaction Banking. And we need financial leaders who instill confidence and take a long-term view, Webb pointed out.
On that theme, Treasury & Risk’s annual 40 Under 40 list spotlights future leaders in finance, while this month’s survey reveals that providing guidance on the company’s financial mission is edging out the ability to accurately assess operational and financial risk as the top skill a financial leader needs. The world needs to get unstuck, not come unglued.