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World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick And Singapore Minister For Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam Launch A Regional Infrastructure Finance Center Of Excellence

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick and Singapore Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam today joined senior public and private sector leaders from Asia to launch an Infrastructure Finance Center of Excellence (IFCOE) to support regional governments in tapping private capital for infrastructure.

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The launch comes at the World Bank–Singapore Infrastructure Finance Summit 2010, an annual event organized by the World Bank Group (WBG), the Singapore Ministry of Finance and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, in association with the Financial Times. The IFCOE is a specialized unit established under the World Bank-Singapore Urban Hub (Singapore Hub) in recognition of the strong demand for Singapore Hub services in the area of infrastructure finance.

“The IFCOE is a timely initiative by the World Bank and Singapore to help unlock private sector investment in Asian infrastructure. It also reflects the growing partnership between Singapore and the World Bank, and our shared interest in supporting the region’s development. Singapore looks forward to continued partnership with the World Bank in the years ahead, building on the strong foundations that we are laying,” said Singapore Minister for Finance Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

“This initiative offers governments in the region practical, real-time solutions on a range of ways to finance infrastructure and should help to increase the flow of private capital to public infrastructure projects. It combines the best available global knowledge in developed economies, such as Singapore, Australia and others, with the operational and technical expertise of the World Bank Group.” said Zoellick.

The World Bank-Singapore Urban Hub (Singapore Hub)

Launched in June 2009, the Singapore Hub represents the strategic partnership between the WBG and the Government of Singapore on integrated urban development and infrastructure financing solutions. The Singapore Hub is designed to leverage Singapore’s expertise and the WBG’s global development knowledge and operational experience for the benefit of developing countries. The Singapore Hub works with Singapore’s public agencies, research institutes and leading private sector to offer practical solutions to developing countries. The Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) is the lead agency responsible for consolidating the Singapore-based public and private sector expertise and working with the Singapore Hub to develop joint projects to support developing countries. The Singapore Hub and SCE worked together to implement six cooperation projects last year for China, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Vietnam. The first set of projects is now reaching completion, and some are moving on to Phase II of operations.

Since the establishment of the Singapore Hub, the cooperation between Singapore and World Bank has expanded significantly, highlighting Singapore’s expertise on urban development and emergence as a regional and international hub for infrastructure financing in managing public-private partnership (PPP) processes.

The Infrastructure Finance Centre of Excellence (IFCOE)

Building on the success of the Singapore Hub, the WBG and Singapore launched the IFCOE. The capacity of the public sector to manage the PPP and other infrastructure finance structures continues to be a critical bottleneck to flow of private capital in public infrastructure projects. The IFCOE will expand the infrastructure finance advisory work of the Singapore Hub, providing unbiased policy advice to regional governments and channeling global knowledge and expertise from the public and private sectors to developing countries. It aims to address the growing demand for technical and financial capabilities to structure commercially viable infrastructure projects that can attract funding from commercial banks and private sector investors, with the objective of developing a deal pipeline for the downstream investors. The IFCOE will not engage in direct transaction advisory work.

  • The IFCOE functions include:Technical Assistance and Capacity Building – assist regional governments in policy making, promoting the adoption of best practices via hands-on technical advice.
  • Consultancy and Feasibility Studies – provide public and private sector expertise to help the public sector to structure projects (and develop a pipeline of projects).
  • Marketing and Promotion – organize conferences, road shows to market projects jointly with governments to the private sector.
  • Research – use case studies and other tools to compile best practices in infrastructure finance, including project structures, boiler plate contracts and relevant policies.


Memorandum of Understanding between the World Bank, Singapore Cooperation Enterprise and the Governments of Vietnam and Indonesia

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were signed today between the World Bank, Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) and the respective Governments of Indonesia and Vietnam to launch two new joint projects representing WB-Singapore technical cooperation. As the key partner of the Singapore Hub, the SCE will pool together relevant Singapore based expertise from both public and private sector to provide:

  • Technical Assistance and capacity building programmes to assist the People’s Committee of Danang, Vietnam, to develop an urban transportation plan and identification of transport related infrastructure investment opportunities in Danang.
  • Advisory services to assist the Local Government of Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, to develop a PPP bulk water supply system project in the city of Lampung.

Alphonsus Chia, Chief Executive Officer of SCE said: “SCE is pleased to be working with World Bank and the respective Governments of Indonesia and Vietnam on the urban infrastructure projects. We are glad that Singapore’s developmental experience has been recognised by the World Bank to share with its client countries. We hope that through the continued strategic partnerships with World Bank, Singapore is able to contribute in sharing our knowledge in infrastructure financing model as well as our best practices in urban issues with developing countries.”

Memorandum of Understanding on Information and Communications Technology Partnership

Another MOU on Information and Communications Technology was also signed during the event between the World Bank, IDA International, and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore. This will bring together Singapore’s recognised expertise in ICT solutions and the WB’s global knowledge and operational experience to benefit developing countries worldwide.

Under the MOU, the three parties will jointly develop and support a World Bank-Singapore Strategic Technology Accelerator Programme (STAP). STAP is a joint technical assistance partnership to provide the highest quality advice and technical assistance on ICT solutions related to the public sector based on global best practices from Singapore and the rest of the world. The activities lined up under STAP include seminars, workshops, study trips for officials from the selected countries to Singapore to meet and learn from the Singapore government and private companies on the infocomm experience.

For a start, STAP will focus on the following five regions – East Asia Pacific, Central Asia, Africa, Latin America Caribbean and South Asia.

The tripartite MOU was signed by Mr Jose Luis Irigoyen, Director-designate for Information and Communications Technologies, Transport, and Water in the Sustainable Development Network, WB, Mr Yew Sung Pei, Assistant Chief Executive Officer of IE Singapore and Ms Pearleen Chan, Senior Director of the Consulting Group, IDA International.

Mr Yew Sung Pei, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, IE Singapore, “We hope to work closely with the WB and IDA International to help developing countries come up with ICT and e-Government strategies and offer them solutions that can greatly increase their business and investment climate. ICT is integral to Singapore’s public sector transformation. Today, 1,600 services are readily available over the Internet in Singapore, such as the Online Business Licensing Service and TradeNet, the world’s first nationwide electronic trade documentation system. Singapore’s companies can customise and apply such initiatives to suit the needs of the developing countries.”

Ms Pearleen Chan, Senior Director, IDA International said, “This is a significant milestone as it underscores our commitment in sharing Singapore’s ICT journey and experiences with other public agencies around the world. It’s encouraging that organisations such as the World Bank see this as an important initiative as well. Exciting times lie ahead.”

The signing of the MOUs today was witnessed by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore Minister for Finance, Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group and James Adams, Vice-President for East Asia, the World Bank Group.

Jointly Issued by the World Bank Group and the Government of Singapore

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Why insurance needs Tesla’s autopilot too

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By Christian Wiens, CEO of Getsafe

Digitization is the industrial revolution of the 21st century. What does this mean for a data-driven industry like insurance? The answer is simple: Turn everything on its head and reinvent yourself under high pressure- the future of insurance is digital.

“Hello Timo, nice to see you. I’ll be glad to help you.” Carla records claims 24 hours a day, seven days a week and takes less than two minutes to evaluate and process them. Carla works for a digital insurer and is a chatbot by profession. While she is answering Timo, she contacts the bank in the background, which pays Timo back his money – the same day. This is not a dream, but already reality.

In the digital age, intelligent machines are the new workers on the assembly line, and data is the new raw material. This applies to almost all industries and applies in particular to the insurance world as insurance is based on mathematical models and probability calculations – in short: on data. The more data on which the calculations are based, the easier it is to derive and price risk profiles. Data therefore changes the core of the product “insurance” in three essential areas; the offer phase, in the event of a claim and in the long-term customer relationship.

In the offer phase, we will experience long-term personalized product bundles that fit customer needs much better – away from standardized and inflexible policies. If the insurer can better assess the needs of the customer on the basis of his past history or behaviour, he is in a position to put together tailor-made insurance packages.

For example, it would be conceivable to automatically adjust the insurance cover as soon as the customer’s life changes, for example if the customer gets married, buys a car or a property or travels abroad.

Customer experience in the event of a claim will also change dramatically. Fraud is still the biggest problem in the system, with 2 percent of the customer base causing 40 percent of the system’s inefficiency. According to estimates by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), one insurance fraud is detected every minute – amounting to economic losses of £3bn every year. Of the estimated worth of total fraud cases a year, £2bn goes undetected.

But what if insurers are better able to assess customers on the basis of data and know which customers they can trust – and which not? Credible customers could then benefit from immediate payment of the loss incurred, while the few “black sheep” would not even be accepted as customers or would be checked more closely in the event of a claim being reported.

The computer does not act uncontrolled, but within certain parameters defined by humans. This is comparable to processes in the manufacturing industry: Here, too, people define the exact parameters that are to be checked – controls are implemented by machines that are significantly less prone to errors. The situation is similar when it comes to insurance fraud: people make value judgements and specify which indicators can point to a case of fraud. They retain sovereignty over the entire process. The smart algorithm, on the other hand, is only the tool for evaluating and linking the many individual data points. Smart algorithms will reduce  employees’ workload, but will not replace them.

Finally, digitization will also change the long-term relationship between insurer and insured. Tomorrow’s insurance will not only settle claims, it could even prevent them arising. A better database will not only make it possible to calculate the probability and amount of loss more precisely, it will also make it easier to calculate the risk of loss. Digital systems and sensors can also help prevent possible claims. Telematic tariffs in motor vehicle insurance are already moving in this direction by promoting a prudent driving style.

Sensors on washing machines and industrial plants or intelligent smoke detectors are one thing – monitoring people in the health sector is another. Some health insurers reward sport activities, for example, if the customer can prove this with smart fitness watches. It remains to be seen to what extent customers are willing to exchange this personal data for premium refunds. In the long term, the legislator will also be asked to take action to ensure that the solidarity principle is not undermined.

However, the danger of increasing surveillance is countered by a clear increase in customer service, individualised services and flexibility on the customer side: Digital insurers rely on  customer’s self-determination and a positive insurance experience in an industry that sometimes appears to be immobile and non-transparent.

Digitalisation has reached the insurance industry, but has not yet shaken its foundations. That will change: Tomorrow’s insurance will have little in common with today’s structures and processes. The autopilot at Tesla will also come for insurance. Not all companies will be able to master this switch to become digital insurers.

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How ISO 20022 migration is changing the landscape in payments

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By Paul Thomalla, Global Head of Payments at Finastra

The ISO 20022 standard is a catalyst for change in digitalisation and payments. The current edition of the standard was published in May 2013, and it’s been clear since then that the standard represents the future of payments messaging. This is due to the rich information, process automation and interoperability it enables. What started off in the Automated Clearing House world with the Single European Payments Area is increasingly becoming the de-facto standard for instant payments and for high-value payments worldwide. In fact, we estimate that all major payment systems and currencies will have moved over to ISO 20022 by the end of 2023.

Banks, meanwhile, will be able to get closer to their customers and offer better services. As this happens, the nature of the entire payments supply chain will change: there will be no one owner. Instead, consumers, corporates, banks, software vendors, fintechs and other stakeholders will all play a part.

Migration to ISO 20022 is moving at pace with one of two adoption models being taken. In the first approach, a ‘like-for-like’ migration occurs, which means data fields and messages are gradually moved over in compliance with the new ISO 20022 standard. However, the bank and client aren’t reaping the potential of the new standard as no further action has been taken. ‘Going native’ is the second approach. This allows extensive data sharing between banks and corporates unlocking a range of benefits including deeper insights into customers and partners, better accounting and financial data and more efficient payment processing. Data-rich messages can provide corporates with all the information they need to automatically reconcile transactions the moment they happen.

Banks deciding which way to move forward must remember that corporates have been waiting eight years for this new ISO 20022 functionality and if their bank is not able to deliver the promised benefits, they could decide to take their business elsewhere.

Planning the migration process

Deciding which approach to take is the first step in the migration process for banks. The main transition models being deployed to the market are: the ‘like-for-like’ translation model, or; for an ‘ISO-Native’ approach – either the complete overhaul model, or the hybrid model.

The translation model approach translates incoming MX messages to the SWIFT MT format and vice-versa for outgoing messages. This model is less disruptive and has a lower upfront cost. However, it involves high dependence on third parties resulting in less interoperability with fintechs and no new customer insight. The complete overhaul model allows organisations to execute a wholesale architecture transformation. This approach gives access to leverage rich data across the business including new insights on the market and customers. One negative aspect of this approach is the fact it is disruptive and requires a large upfront investment. Finally, the hybrid model works well for global banks where translation is needed across the board. This approach offers flexibility and the ability to localise strategic response, however it adds a level of complexity to users. The leading model is unclear, but banks must remember to align their payments operations with their chosen model.

Paul Thomalla

Paul Thomalla

That’s not to say that the adoption of ISO 20022 will be plain sailing. One challenge is that the standard describes an asynchronous messaging process. For banks which currently rely on return messages to confirm the successful completion of a payment transaction, this will cause significant upheaval, and is a change that underscores the need for everyone in the payments ecosystem to get ISO 20022 migration right. Banks will need to overhaul their business processes and operations to adapt to asynchronous messaging. This will in turn require new systems, such as Confirmation of Payee and Request to Pay.

The new format requires a fundamental change to the payments world, so the decision on which transition model best suits their needs isn’t to be taken lightly. Internal and external considerations will help banks determine next steps to successfully implementing ISO 20022. Internally, banks must ensure they have the right people to deliver this transformation, have processes in place to easily review and adapt back office functions and have the correct technology required for the migration. Our approach at Finastra has been to build a payments hub that is ISO 20022 native from the start – ready for widespread adoption across the industry. Banks must also look at external factors like customer impact, market share, competitors and regulatory constraints.

Benefits across the payments value chain

The adoption of ISO 20022 allows for additional, enriched data to be transferred within the payment instruction. The new format has more granular and better organised data elements as well as a consistent data dictionary across the payments chain to speed processing and improve compliance. This prevents misinterpretation and expensive manual interventions. All of this will facilitate improved processing and allow all agents in the payment to make more informed compliance decisions.

In the short term, including additional party and remittance information will help reconcile transactions. For example, QR codes are being used more widely on invoices, clearly identifying the beneficiary and facilitating automation in the back office. Looking at the medium term, institutions will be able to limit the resources they have to dedicate to exception handling and one-off investigations due to missing information or unstructured input that cannot be easily integrated into automated workflows. And finally, the benefits of ISO 20022 in the long term mean data that is properly structured and adhered to will support better regulatory compliance practices and financial crime monitoring.

The rewards of ISO 20022 make any temporary disruption more than worth it. We’re excited to enter a new era of payments messaging that will drive collaboration, innovation and efficiency through interlinked partner ecosystems.

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Agile thinking in times of uncertainty

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By Caryn Skinner, Co-Director of Sharpstone Skinner

“Several times lately, I have finished my work, closed the laptop and sat staring out of the window of my spare room office worrying that I don’t have the answers. That my team are looking to me for guidance about the future…and I simply don’t know.” Paul Jackson-Cole, Executive Director of Engagement, Parkinson’s UK

A genuine, honest reflection from an impressive and successful leader. He has gravitas, is trusted and a great coach to his senior reports. He is also highly intuitive, with an innate ability to be a pioneering visionary who can then work with others to ground that vision into reality. And yet, he is stuck. He still has his instincts, yet with the world, in flux, he is finding it hard to convince his team to go with him because they need more tangible evidence to ground his ideas.

Gut-feel judgement is part of agile thinking which is a crucial leadership skill. In the financial world you may have finely honed other types of thinking as you need to show evidence, use data and put forward your thoughts in a rational way.

Agile thinking has five main features:

Systems thinking – investigating an issue from a broad perspective to understand the interdependencies

Possibility thinking – to be open-minded and generate a wide range of possibilities, the classic brainstorm

Logical analysis – to reach valid conclusions using clear, rational logic

Evidence-based thinking – identify core issues by analysing evidence from relevant resources

The fifth one is gut-feel judgement – relying on your gut instincts to provide valuable input for decisions.

Richard Branson says, “I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics”, and he’s not done too badly.

Mr Branson may make you shudder though, as it is quite an extreme view. Most of us use all or a few of them combined. Yet in this world of unknowns, your instincts may need to be more finely tuned. It isn’t easy to find evidence and interdependencies if we have never been in this situation before. Rational logic needs something tangible to test it against, the world feels nebulous at the moment. Being open-minded looks like a good option yet can get stifled because the possibilities are almost endless.

Here are some ways to tap into and use your gut-feel judgement:

  1. Know that your instincts are not woolly ideas but based on your years of experience. The thought has come from somewhere, an experience you have had, something you have read a conversation you had with a colleague.
  2. Feed and grow your instincts. The more exposure you have to your market the harder your instincts will work. Keep getting out and about, visit your people, talk to them, learn from them about the front-line challenges and successes.
  3. See your business through the eyes of your customer or client. Why do they like doing business with you, what would they like you to do better and does your business align with their needs.

Make your own observations about what’s next for your business rather than staring at spreadsheets of cold data. I heard about a trader who regularly walks the shops to see what’s selling and what isn’t, it informed her instinct about where the next investments might be.

  1. Keep in touch with the world around you, tune into what’s coming over the horizon. A client of ours was in marketing for a bank, he regularly spoke to his teenage nieces and nephews about how they communicated, how many digital “languages” they spoke and which social platform they used for what. They were his future customers and the conversations fuelled his instincts in discussions with the senior team around the bank going online and changing the way they communicated with customers.
  2. Trust your gut then test it against other types of thinking to ground it and help you sell it in. Others may not get your vision so painting the picture for them with more solid evidence will make your job easier.

It is an exciting area of leadership and one that, perhaps, has been overlooked in a world that can access evidence, stats and data at the swipe of a screen.

Next time you find yourself staring out of your home office window, let your thoughts wander, don’t evaluate them or crush any ideas that come to you, it might be that your gut is trying to tell you something.

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