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Sydney seeks financial-centre status

Australia: After the gold rush

Ken Farrow doesn't mince his words. "Hong Kong has shot itself in the foot," says the chief of the Australian Financial Markets Association. "It's a two-horse race now between Sydney and Singapore."

The race is to become Asia's financial centre and it is part of Farrow's job to make sure Australia wins. He believes the signs are encouraging. "American Express set up its regional headquarters in Australia," he notes. "When we asked why, we were told that from the point of view of customer service it was the only place in Asia where staff could be found that spoke every Asian dialect." Australia is home to 800,000 Asians and that is reflected at the Sydney Futures Exchange where the 200 employees speak 37 languages.

The government is taking the battle seriously. It created a new post of minister for financial services to lead it. In a recent speech, the minister, Joe Hockey, gave the example of Deutsche Bank's having relocated its regional centre for euro money market and repo risk management to Sydney. With a top-quality regulator based on the UK model, Hockey's message is: "We can provide the world with access to the Asian region without the risks of the region."

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