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New SIAS chair aims to grow investor activism, education
GROWING investor advocacy and board accountability, and dealing with the ongoing challenge of obtaining funding, will be at the top of the agenda for former Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief Magnus Bocker in his new role as honorary chairman of Singapore's investor advocacy group, the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) or SIAS.
Speaking exclusively to The Business Times soon after his appointment, Mr Bocker shared the key objectives and challenges he intends to tackle during his three-year tenure, even while he stressed that his role would mainly support that of SIAS president and CEO David Gerald.
"I hope to see two things develop in the year to come. The first is to see more retail investors engaging in the market, hopefully through SIAS. The second and maybe the more important is to seek effective accountability and asking the right questions of boards and senior management, primarily through direct contact and not through campaigns via the media," Mr Bocker said.
"We need to accept that shareholder activism is an important pillar in the stock market, and it gives good feedback to achieve better corporate governance. Many boards listen regularly to institutional shareholders and should do the same with minority shareholders."
SIAS, considered the voice of minority shareholders here, hopes to tap Mr Bocker's reputation and experience garnered from decades spent in the financial industry. He served as SGX chief from 2009 to 2015, and as president of American stock exchange, Nasdaq, before that. Prior to his position at Nasdaq, he was involved in the creation of Nordic exchange OMX, and its eventual merger with Nasdaq in 2008.
Mr Bocker, who hails originally from Sweden but now calls Singapore home, is involved with tryb Capital, which provides funding for fintech companies in Asia. He also chairs Blibros Capital Partners, his own investment company, based in Singapore and Sweden, that focuses on companies that are part of the digital transformation.
Despite a seemingly busy schedule, he said, he decided to take on the role as SIAS's honorary chairman (taking over from Lim Hwee Hua) as he had worked closely with the organisation during his years with SGX. "I have always had a passion for investing in stocks. I bought my first stocks when I was 11 years old, and most of the education I got at that time came from Aktiespararna, the Swedish equivalent of SIAS."
He hopes to tackle the challenges - some more longstanding than others - facing SIAS. "For an organisation like SIAS, independent funding will always be a challenge. It has been that way since SIAS started in 1999, and I'm sure it will be so going forward."
SIAS operates on a non-profit basis, with its funding made somewhat easier when it was recognised as a charity and an Institution of Public Character (IPC) recently.
Mr Bocker added: "We (also) need to establish a strong case for retail shareholders to join SIAS, and for listed companies to support what we do. Another very important challenge is of course SIAS's mission to protect minority shareholders and be vigilant to any misconduct that goes on in the market.
"SIAS needs to stand up for the rights of minority shareholders and convince companies to be more accountable to all shareholders; one very good example is how SIAS is always present at all AGMs (annual general meetings) asking relevant and important questions.
"Additionally, we can always be better in investor education, a topic that is very close to my heart."
He emphasises, though, that his role is to support Mr Gerald. "It is not my role to be part of SIAS's day-to-day operations or (to say) how SIAS should be organised.
"I will focus my efforts on supporting David and his team on any issues they might have, give my input on where we can make things better and be generous with the contacts I have both here in Singapore and around the world. It is also the duty of the honorary chairman to see that the president and management committee act in the interest of SIAS and its constitution."