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CGIF AND SURBANA JURONG TEAM UP ON GREENFIELD PROJECT BONDS

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CGIF AND SURBANA JURONG TEAM UP ON GREENFIELD PROJECT BONDS

Innovative partnership to boost infrastructure funding in Southeast Asia

The Credit Guarantee & Investment Facility (CGIF) and Surbana Jurong Private Limited (SJ) today announced a collaboration to boost the use of local currency-denominated project bonds to finance greenfield infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia.

CGIF is a multilateral facility established by ASEAN+3 countries and the Asian Development Bank to develop and strengthen local currency and regional bond markets in ASEAN.

Under this collaboration, SJ will provide technical assessments to validate the time, cost and quality aspects of identified greenfield infrastructure projects aiming to issue project bonds with the support of CGIF’s Construction Period Guarantee (CPG). CGIF will offer irrevocable and unconditional guarantees to projects in ASEAN with robust construction programmes, as screened by SJ. These guarantees can stretch up to US$140 million equivalent per single greenfield infrastructure project to facilitate the issuance of long term local currency bonds.

The CPG, launched in July last year, is designed to frame risks associated with the construction period to acceptable levels for conservative long term investors to consider greenfield project bonds. (See Appendix I for more info on CPG.)

This collaboration marks the first partnership between CGIF and a urban, industrial and infrastructure consulting firm. CGIF has undertaken 13 corporate bond guarantee transactions since her establishment in May 2012, and is actively looking to embark on her first infrastructure project bond guarantee with SJ.

“For many conservative long term investors, construction risk has been the key impediment keeping them from supporting the build-up of infrastructure assets despite their natural appetite for long term bonds.  This collaboration marks an innovative attempt to bring to the market high quality greenfield project bonds where construction risks have been adequately appraised and mitigated as guided by the engineering prowess of a firm like Surbana Jurong and backed by CGIF’s guarantees,” said Mr Kiyoshi Nishimura, Chief Executive Officer of CGIF.

He further added: “Many ASEAN countries are witnessing rapid accumulation of domestic savings in the non-bank sectors such as pension funds and insurance companies as their economies grow and their income levels rise.  However these savings are not well tapped to finance critically needed infrastructure assets.   Catalyzing these institutional investors’ support for infrastructure projects perfectly fits the aspirations of CGIF’s Contributors which includes the Singapore Government to find new methods to narrow the widening infrastructure gap in the region”.

“For a country to develop and grow, infrastructure development is key. However, perceived risks in such projects in Developing Asia deter investors, and infrastructure development is, in turn, often severely hampered. Surbana Jurong is delighted to partner the CGIF to develop a robust construction risk assessment and mitigation framework that will provide assurance to new investors in greenfield infrastructure project bonds. This partnership aims to boost infrastructure investment in ASEAN,” said Mr Wong Heang Fine, Group Chief Executive Officer of SJ.

He added: “As one of the largest Asia-based urban, industrial and infrastructure consultancy service providers, SJ is always keen to further value-add to our global clients with a complete value-chain of services. This complementary partnership with CGIF allows us to now offer a new dimension of financing solutions for our infrastructure project pipeline. We believe we are the only player in our industry to offer such a solution.”

Stimulating local currency bonds

According to the Asian Development Bank’s latest forecasts, Developing Asia will need to invest US$26 trillion from 2016 to 2030, or US$1.7 trillion per year, in order to maintain the region’s growth momentum, eradicate poverty, and respond to climate change. New approaches will be required to stimulate private sector finance in infrastructure investments and to prevent the region from falling further behind.

One such approach is to facilitate the channelling of domestic long term savings to finance infrastructure directly via project bonds, particularly at the greenfield stage. Mobilising long term savings to meet long term funding needs in matching currencies is the most efficient model of financing infrastructure. However, only a few countries have successfully pursued this capability. A critical impediment towards mobilising long term savings is the low risk appetite of pension and insurance fund managers and their aversion to construction risks.

How the CGIF-SJ collaboration helps to boost funding

The collaboration between CGIF and SJ aims to deliver the assurance needed by institutional investors to make investments in greenfield project bonds. It marries CGIF’s financial strength as a guarantor, in particular via its new Construction Period Guarantee or CPG[1], with the engineering and technical prowess of SJ to examine and validate construction-related risks on projects.  When construction risks are expertly assessed, properly managed and mitigated, CGIF’s irrevocable and unconditional guarantee for project completion can attract long term investors to invest in greenfield project bonds.

Initially, long term investors will rely on expert assessments like those from SJ and CGIF’s CPG risk assessment framework to frame construction risks to acceptable levels. However, over time, it is envisaged that this will ultimately aid infrastructure investors to gain the necessary experience to evaluate future greenfield project bonds, and to help narrow the region’s substantial infrastructure gap. 

About CGIF

CGIF was established by the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) together with China, Japan and Korea (ASEAN+3), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2010 to develop ASEAN local currency bond markets.  It exists as a trust fund of ADB and operates independently out of ADB’s headquarters in Manila.

CGIF is tasked to deploy credit guarantees to corporate, project and securitization bonds to boost issuer and investor participation in ASEAN’s current local currency bond markets such as Indonesia Rupiah (IDR), Malaysian Ringgit (MYR), Philippine Peso (PHP), Singapore Dollar (SGD), Thai Baht (THB) and Vietnamese Dong (VND). Instigating the inaugural bond issuances in Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar is also part of its development mandate.

With “AA” global scale from S&P and “AAA” local scale ratings in many of the local currency markets in ASEAN, CGIF’s guarantee has successfully mobilized over USD 1 billion equivalent from local bond investors to new issuers as well as new types of bonds since commencing its operations in May 2012.

Background of CGIF

Before the Asian Financial Crisis in the late nineties, many investments in the region were financed by short-term foreign currency borrowing from commercial banks.  This caused a “double mismatch” problem; a mismatch in currency and a mismatch in tenor in financing investments.  This double mismatch problem was considered one of the causes of the crisis.

ASEAN+3, together with ADB, started a regional cooperation initiative known as the Asian Bond Market Initiative (ABMI) to address the double mismatch issue. ASEAN+3 has been working together under the ABMI to develop local currency bond markets in the region which companies in the region can tap. CGIF is one of the key elements of this multilateral initiative.

Need for Bond Market Development

Bonds allow investors to directly lend money to finance corporations and infrastructure assets; by-passing intermediation of funds by the banking sector.  For infrastructure projects, long-term fixed rate project bonds in matching local currencies are the best method of financing projects including those at the green-field stage.  Therefore, building institutional capacity amongst long-term investors to evaluate well developed projects is a key step towards thriving bond markets to finance infrastructure in the region.

Use of CGIF’s Guarantees

Companies and project companies can seek CGIF’s irrevocable and unconditional guarantee for the full tenure of the bonds to reach conservative long-term investors who are less familiar with their business activities and risks.  For projects under construction with robust operational phase cash flows, CGIF can provide a guarantee just for the construction period with its Construction Period Guarantee (CPG)[2] to allow bond investors to earn higher returns by taking the operational phase risks without the punitive construction risks associated with green-field bonds.  CGIF’s CPG will require the construction program to be well developed and analysed guided by expert opinions from technical consultants as inputs to ensure construction risks are well-framed within acceptable levels.

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Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four?

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Will covid-19 end the dominance of the big four? 1

By Campbell Shaw, Head of Bank Partnerships, Cardlytics

Across the country, we are readjusting to refreshed restrictions on our daily lives, as we continue to navigate the seemingly unnavigable waters of the coronavirus pandemic.

For all of us, the pandemic has made life anything but ‘normal’, and with social distancing here to stay, it will remain so for a long time yet. These paradigm shifts have impacted every aspect of life, including how we bank.

Focus is already turning to the role the big banks are playing through the pandemic, with experts fearing the economic downturn will only cement the position of the ‘big four’ traditional players.

But has the pandemic shaken the dominance of the big banks? Or has it simply confirmed their position?

Turning to tech

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has caused the big players to be challenged like never before on tech.

Classically slower to adapt to developments in the market, increased demand for online services and contactless payment systems have turbocharged the big banks’ need to act like a challenger.

And they have, agilely adapting to this new normal by updating systems and services to ensure customers’ safety and financial security come first.

Scale is staying power

In these new times, the power and influence of the big players has also been proven.

The big four have provided the lion’s share of the government-backed loans designed to help small and medium-sized businesses through the pandemic. It has also been the big four offering the majority of payment holidays for customers on their mortgages, debt and credit cards.

However, it’s important to note that their power to retain customers goes much deeper than their market share.

Our switching study, which looked at the reasons behind customer switching, found that even before the pandemic, despite nearly half (48%) of UK adults admitting they know they aren’t getting the best deal with their current bank, half have never switched their current account.

That’s often because of the value they can provide to their customers, through personalized service, offers and rewards that keeps customers engaged and invested in them. As brands increasingly look to

Focus on finances

As the world becomes a more financially insecure place, due to COVID-19, there’s been a marked shift towards more attention on finances, which has affected not only the business functions of banks but has impacted banking relationships with customers at their core.

From deals to savings, customers now more than ever are re-evaluating how they bank, and how they manage their money.

The impact on the big four is more pressure than ever to keep up with the best interest rates and deals. That can be difficult for a big, and often slower moving, organisation and could be a stumbling block for them in the months to come.

However, on the plus side, the big four can lean into their sophisticated loyalty schemes, using offers and deals from partner brands to demonstrate value to customers and build up their loyalty.

Engaging with purpose

The pandemic has seen many banks acting with a renewed sense of purpose. Banking has had to be more adaptable than ever before – fitting the needs of those who may be feeling financial stress or dealing with unprecedented challenges.

And showing a little heart can go a long way when it comes to increasing customer loyalty and boosting a bank’s reputation.

Over the last months, traditional banks have been quick to adapt their products and services, in response to the demands and challenges their customers have been face.

No doubt, continuing to build more meaningful, supportive and engaging customer relationships, whether it is online or on the newly reopened high-street, will be critical to banks’ dominance as we look to the future.

Bring on the challengers

However, with their meteoric rise ahead of lockdown, we must keep an eye on the challengers, who still have the potential to knock traditional players off their pedestal.

We found that more than three million people in the UK opened a current account with a new bank last year. Our research found that traditional banks made up well over half (69%) of the accounts UK adults switched from, while newer digital challenger banks such as Monzo, Starling Bank and Revolut made up 25% of current accounts switched to. And these fast moving, fast growing challengers may see further growth if traditional banks are stifled by the declining high-street.

What’s more, the high street could yet prove to be the Achilles heel of the bigger players, as shifting budgets and increasing overheads in the context of a more online banking experience could see more big players struggle with their physical presence, making way for the digital challengers to thrive.

So, while the dominant players may have the lead, they should still keep an eye on the challengers as we look ahead to the next, uncertain, six months.

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To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital

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To take the nation’s financial pulse, we must go digital 2

By Pete Bulley, Director of Product, Aire

The last six months have brought the precarious financial situation of many millions across the world into sharper focus than ever before. But while the figures may be unprecedented, the underlying problem is not a new one – and it requires serious attention as well as  action from lenders to solve it.

Research commissioned by Aire in February found that eight out of ten adults in the UK would be unable to cover essential monthly spending should their income drop by 20%. Since then, Covid-19 has increased the number without employment by 730,000 people between July and March, and saw 9.6 million furloughed as part of the job retention scheme.

The figures change daily but here are a few of the most significant: one in six mortgage holders had opted to take a payment holiday by June. Lenders had granted almost a million credit card payment deferrals, provided 686,500 payment holidays on personal loans, and offered 27 million interest-free overdrafts.

The pressure is growing for lenders and with no clear return to normal in sight, we are unfortunately likely to see levels of financial distress increase exponentially as we head into winter. Recent changes to the job retention scheme are signalling the start of the withdrawal of government support.

The challenge for lenders

Lenders have been embracing digital channels for years. However, we see it usually prioritised at acquisition, with customer management neglected in favour of getting new customers through the door. Once inside, even the most established of lenders are likely to fall back on manual processes when it comes to managing existing customers.

It’s different for fintechs. Unburdened by legacy systems, they’ve been able to begin with digital to offer a new generation of consumers better, more intuitive service. Most often this is digitised, mobile and seamless, and it’s spreading across sectors. While established banks and service providers are catching up — offering mobile payments and on-the-go access to accounts — this part of their service is still lagging. Nowhere is this felt harder than in customer management.

Time for a digital solution in customer management

With digital moving higher up the agenda for lenders as a result of the pandemic, many still haven’t got their customer support properly in place to meet demand. Manual outreach is still relied upon which is both heavy on resource and on time.

Lenders are also grappling with regulation. While many recognise the moral responsibility they have for their customers, they are still blind to the new tools available to help them act effectively and at scale.

In 2015, the FCA released its Fair Treatment of Customers regulations requiring that ‘consumers are provided with clear information and are kept appropriately informed before, during and after the point of sale’.

But when the individual financial situation of customers is changing daily, never has this sentiment been more important (or more difficult) for lenders to adhere to. The problem is simple: the traditional credit scoring methods relied upon by lenders are no longer dynamic enough to spot sudden financial change.

The answer lies in better, and more scalable, personalised support. But to do this, lenders need rich, real-time insight so that lenders can act effectively, as the regulator demands. It needs to be done at scale and it needs to be done with the consumer experience in mind, with convenience and trust high on the agenda.

Placing the consumer at the heart of the response

To better understand a customer, inviting them into a branch or arranging a phone call may seem the most obvious solution. However, health concerns mean few people want to see their providers face-to-face, and fewer staff are in branches, not to mention the cost and time outlay by lenders this would require.

Call centres are not the answer either. Lack of trained capacity, cost and the perceived intrusiveness of calls are all barriers. We know from our own consumer research at Aire that customers are less likely to engage directly with their lenders on the phone when they feel payment demands will be made of them.

If lenders want reliable, actionable insight that serves both their needs (and their customers) they need to look to digital.

Asking the person who knows best – the borrower

So if the opportunity lies in gathering information directly from the consumer – the solution rests with first-party data. The reasons we pioneer this approach at Aire are clear: firstly, it provides a truly holistic view of each customer to the lender, a richer picture that covers areas that traditional credit scoring often misses, including employment status and savings levels. Secondly, it offers consumers the opportunity to engage directly in the process, finally shifting the balance in credit scoring into the hands of the individual.

With the right product behind it, this can be achieved seamlessly and at scale by lenders. Pulse from Aire provides a link delivered by SMS or email to customers, encouraging them to engage with Aire’s Interactive Virtual Interview (IVI). The information gathered from the consumer is then validated by Aire to provide the genuinely holistic view of a consumer that lenders require, delivering insights that include risk of financial difficulty, validated disposable income and a measure of engagement.

No lengthy or intrusive phone calls. No manual outreach or large call centre requirements. And best of all, lenders can get started in just days and they save up to £60 a customer.

Too good to be true?

This still leaves questions. How can you trust data provided directly from consumers? What about AI bias – are the results fair? And can lenders and customers alike trust it?

To look at first-party misbehaviour or ‘gaming’, sophisticated machine-learning algorithms are used to validate responses for accuracy. Essentially, they measure responses against existing contextual data and check its plausibility.

Aire also looks at how the IVI process is completed. By looking at how people complete the interview, not just what they say, we can spot with a high degree of accuracy if people are trying to game the system.

AI bias – the system creating unfair outcomes – is tackled through governance and culture. In working towards our vision of a world where finance is truly free from bias or prejudice, we invest heavily in constructing the best model governance systems we can at Aire to ensure our models are analysed systematically before being put into use.

This process has undergone rigorous improvements to ensure our outputs are compliant by regulatory standards and also align with our own company principles on data and ethics.

That leaves the issue of encouraging consumers to be confident when speaking to financial institutions online. Part of the solution is developing a better customer experience. If the purpose of this digital engagement is to gather more information on a particular borrower, the route the borrower takes should be personal and reactive to the information they submit. The outcome and potential gain should be clear.

The right technology at the right time?

What is clear is that in Covid-19, and the resulting financial shockwaves, lenders face an unprecedented challenge in customer management. In innovative new data in the form of first-party data, harnessed ethically, they may just have an unprecedented solution.

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The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management

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The Future of Software Supply Chain Security: A focus on open source management 3

By Emile Monette, Director of Value Chain Security at Synopsys

Software Supply Chain Security: change is needed

Attacks on the Software Supply Chain (SSC) have increased exponentially, fueled at least in part by the widespread adoption of open source software, as well as organisations’ insufficient knowledge of their software content and resultant limited ability to conduct robust risk management. As a result, the SSC remains an inviting target for would-be attackers. It has become clear that changes in how we collectively secure our supply chains are required to raise the cost, and lower the impact, of attacks on the SSC.

A report by Atlantic Council found that “115 instances, going back a decade, of publicly reported attacks on the SSC or disclosure of high-impact vulnerabilities likely to be exploited” in cyber-attacks were implemented by affecting aspects of the SSC. The report highlights a number of alarming trends in the security of the SSC, including a rise in the hijacking of software updates, attacks by state actors, and open source compromises.

This article explores the use of open source software – a primary foundation of almost all modern software – due to its growing prominence, and more importantly, its associated security risks. Poorly managed open source software exposes the user to a number of security risks as it provides affordable vectors to potential attackers allowing them to launch attacks on a variety of entities—including governments, multinational corporations, and even the small to medium-sized companies that comprise the global technology supply chain, individual consumers, and every other user of technology.

The risks of open source software for supply chain security

The 2020 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis (OSSRA) report states that “If your organisation builds or simply uses software, you can assume that software will contain open source. Whether you are a member of an IT, development, operations, or security team, if you don’t have policies in place for identifying and patching known issues with the open source components you’re using, you’re not doing your job.”

Open source code now creates the basic infrastructure of most commercial software which supports enterprise systems and networks, thus providing the foundation of almost every software application used across all industries worldwide. Therefore, the need to identify, track and manage open source code components and libraries has risen tremendously.

License identification, patching vulnerabilities and introducing policies addressing outdated open source packages are now all crucial for responsible open source use. However, the use of open source software itself is not the issue. Because many software engineers ‘reuse’ code components when they are creating software (this is in fact a widely acknowledged best practice for software engineering), the risk of those components becoming out of date has grown. It is the use of unpatched and otherwise poorly managed open source software that is really what is putting organizations at risk.

Emile Monette

Emile Monette

The 2020 OSSRA report also reveals a variety of worrying statistics regarding SSC security. For example, according to the report, it takes organisations an unacceptably long time to mitigate known vulnerabilities, with 2020 being the first year that the  Heartbleed vulnerability was not found in any commercial software analyzed for the OSSRA report. This is six years after the first public disclosure of Heartbleed – plenty of time for even the least sophisticated attackers to take advantage of the known and publicly reported vulnerability.

The report also found that 91% of the investigated codebases contained components that were over four years out of date or had no developments made in the last two years, putting these components at a higher risk of vulnerabilities. Additionally, vulnerabilities found in the audited codebases had an average age of almost 4 ½ years, with 19% of vulnerabilities being over 10 years old, and the oldest vulnerability being a whopping 22 years old. Therefore, it is clear that open source users are not adequately defending themselves against open source enabled cyberattacks. This is especially concerning as 99% of the codebases analyzed in the OSSRA report contained open source software, with 75% of these containing at least one vulnerability, and 49% containing high-risk vulnerabilities.

Mitigating open source security risks

In order to mitigate security risks when using open source components, one must know what software you’re using, and which exploits impact its vulnerabilities. One way to do this is to obtain a comprehensive bill of materials from your suppliers (also known as a “build list” or a “software bill of materials” or “SBOM”). Ideally, the SBOM should contain all the open source components, as well as the versions used, the download locations for all projects and dependencies, the libraries which the code calls to, and the libraries that those dependencies link to.

Creating and communicating policies

Modern applications contain an abundance of open source components with possible security, code quality and licensing issues. Over time, even the best of these open source components will age (and newly discovered vulnerabilities will be identified in the codebase), which will result in them at best losing intended functionality, and at worst exposing the user to cyber exploitation.

Organizations should ensure their policies address updating, licensing, vulnerability management and other risks that the use of open source can create. Clear policies outlining introduction and documentation of new open source components can improve the control of what enters the codebase and that it complies with the policies.

Prioritizing open source security efforts

Organisations should prioritise open source vulnerability mitigation efforts in relation to CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) scores and CWE (Common Weakness Enumeration) information, along with information about the availability of exploits, paying careful attention to the full life cycle of the open source component, instead of only focusing on what happens on “day zero.” Patch priorities should also be in-line with the business importance of the asset patched, the risk of exploitation and the criticality of the asset. Similarly, organizations must consider using sources outside of the CVSS and CWE information, many of which provide early notification of vulnerabilities, and in particular, choosing one that delivers technical details, upgrade and patch guidance, as well as security insights. Lastly, it is important for organisations to monitor for new threats for the entire time their applications remain in service.

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