Industry on cusp of free-trade windfall


By Julie May

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The industry was underprepared for the opportunities set to arise from free trade agreements (FTA) with Japan, China and South Korea, the Financial Services Institute of Australasia (Finsia) said yesterday.

The association pointed to recent research that showed Asian markets were projected to grow at between 2.5 per cent and 7 per cent over the coming decades, with the Asian financial system on track to be bigger than the United States and Europe combined by 2030.

In addition, China’s gross domestic product per capita was set to almost double between now and 2020, it added.

Finsia chief executive Russell Thomas said Australia had more work to do in order to reap the benefits of exporting financial services and talent to Japan, China, South Korea and neighbouring countries.

“The signing of the FTAs isn’t an end point, but the start of what could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a world-class financial services export industry,” Thomas said.

“We really need to focus on how the Australian financial services industry is preparing its people to work offshore and in exporting financial services to meet increasing demand from Australia’s regional neighbours.”

Asia’s financial institutions were expected to be increasingly important in global finance and would be home to many of the world’s largest financial centres, he said, adding as an example that Shanghai was regarded as a potential rival to New York as a financial centre.

Further, rapid urbanisation and consumer-centric growth would continue in China and India, while the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were collectively home to over 600 million “upwardly mobile” people, he said.

“We talk about ‘Asia’ quite broadly when we should be thinking about each of the 17 countries in that area and how best we can take our best people and services to them,” he said.

“Now is the time to build the services that will help members benefit from the rising demand for financial services and products in Asia.”

He said Finsia was a member of a consortium of professional membership organisations in Asia with a focus on how to facilitate the free movement of people in the financial services industry.

It was also working on initiatives for qualifications developed in Australia to be recognised in other markets.

“Immigration, free movement of people, benchmarking our education, our workplace capabilities are all critical,” Thomas said.

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