Seminar series to tackle compliance questions in seven cities across Asia

Risk management expert and Pan Asian Risk and Insurance Management Association (PARIMA) board member Steve Tunstall (pictured) has told StrategicRISK that corporate governance has become an issue of overwhelming importance for risk managers in Asia – particularly, in recent times, for those based in Singapore.

“The changes of the Singapore code mean that directors now have to talk about risk management in their annual reports, and that’s driving more interest in the topic,” Tunstall said.

“Some of the biggest risks facing many companies, not just financial institutions, centre around compliance issues these days.

“So it’s about making sure that you keep up with the changing regulations in your area, and that your company is dealing with them in a practical and pragmatic manner.”

Of course, if an organisation is spread across the region or the globe, then it’s “even more of a difficult ask”, Tunstall added.

“Many jurisdictions advance at a faster pace than others, so sometimes you end up with contradictory compliance obligations,” he said.

“Then you have to work out how to deal with those so that you don’t end up on the wrong side of the law and damage your reputation accordingly.”

Tunstall will be taking part in a corporate governance seminar in Singapore on May 6. It will be the first of a number of seminars on this important topic being held across the Asia-Pacific region in May and June.

Aimed at CEOs, CFOs, risk managers, general counsel and company secretaries involved in corporate governance, these events are being run by PARIMA in partnership with AIG, KPMG and Norton Rose Fulbright.

Data protection

Tunstall said that the topic that he was most looking forward to tackling at the Singapore seminar was data protection, as it’s an issue he dealt with regularly when he worked at Cathay Pacific.

“They’ve had data protection laws in Hong Kong for a long time, and obviously this is a huge issue for an airline operating in multiple jurisdictions around the world,” he said.

Data protection is a hot topic in Singapore because of new laws in this area, Tunstall explained.

“There’s some way to go yet before there’s a real understanding about how those laws are going to be applied,” he said.

Tunstall sees data protection as an evolving issue that involves us all. “Everybody as individuals is interested in how the companies look after the information that we’ve shared with them,” he said.

“So there are big issues there in terms of how that’s managed within a company, but at the same time there are increasing pressures by all companies to use that data effectively.”

Tunstall pointed out that many companies were now seriously evaluating what they had in terms of customer data. “How can they manage that data better, how can they upsell to the people in that database?” he said.

“So, while we’ve got increasing regulation on one side, there’s actually huge business opportunities on the other side.

“I guess it’s the role of the risk manager to really make sure that there’s some kind of arbitrage between those two things.”

Effective boards

PARIMA board member and vice-president, enterprise risk management, at Malaysian media company Astro Overseas Limited Patrick Abdullah (pictured) will be taking part in the Kuala Lumpur seminar on May 15. He told SR that excellence in corporate governance practices could only be instilled by establishing an effective board that was independent and had a full appreciation of the business and the risks relating to it.

“Boards in Asia are easily influenced by controlling shareholders, resulting in corporate governance requirements being largely a paper exercise,” Abdullah cautioned.

“In such circumstances, there is a higher possibility of abuse by controlling shareholders to enrich themselves through illegitimate transactions and activities.”

Abdullah added that many investors in Asia were yet to appreciate how corporate governance could assist with long-term sustainability and improve valuations and yields.

“Independent auditors play a crucial part in educating and helping inculcate good corporate governance standards in organisations where they have oversight,” he said.

”It is the quality of corporate governance that is important, not the quantity. Good governance means acting with responsibility, fairness, accountability and with full transparency. It should not just be a paper-filled compliance exercise”.

Seven cities

After Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, more ‘What will you do when the regulator comes knocking?’ seminars will be held in Jakarta (May 20), Makati City (May 26), Ho Chi Minh City (June 5), Shanghai (June 19) and Hong Kong (June 26).

A series of panel discussions will be held in each city with experts in insurance, law and regulatory compliance, all of whom have direct experience in handling regulatory investigations.

Discussion topics will include managing regulatory risk, responding to a regulatory incident and managing investigations for positive outcomes.

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