1. Mattia, who are you?
I am an Italian investment professional who has been living in Singapore since 2016. I am currently running the business in Asia for Tradeteq, a company I created with other partners. We provide a trading platform that connects banks with the global capital markets.
In the past I worked for a couple of American investment banks and a sovereign wealth fund in Middle East.
I am also a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Singapore where we focus on the relationship between Middle East and South East Asia.
2. Why have you expanded in South East Asia?
Our company is headquartered in London and focuses on trade finance. As we know, trading of goods and commodities has been one of the main activities in SE Asia for centuries, therefore a presence on the ground is important and relevant for us. We also have a team of developers in Vietnam. We have decided to set up our regional operations in Singapore thanks to the infrastructure provided by the city-state.
3 What is your main advice for a company expanding in South East Asia?
Of course it depends on the sector which one operates in, but the market is for sure big and it has the potential to grow.
However, one has to remember that it’s a fragmented market. While there are commonalities among countries in the region, they have different rules, regulations, ways of doing business and cultures. Therefore, a presence on the ground is required to navigate this environment.
4 Could you explain the role of your lawyer(s) in this expansion?
Lawyers are extremely important for us. We are involved in trading and securitization, which means that what we do is providing a technological and legal infrastructure to parties to trade and settle. Hence lawyers have been playing an instrumental role in creating our platform. One of my partners is indeed a lawyer and we have a legal counsel in house. Everything we do, labour issues, fund raising, setting up vehicles and so on involve lawyers.
5 What could be the consequences of Covid-19 on foreign investments in South East Asia?
Real technological innovation will only come from US, Israel and few places in Europe, but South East Asia has a market big enough to adopt and implement these innovations creating new chances for companies operating in the region.
Covid-19 creates dislocations and accelerates existing trends such as digitisation and digitalization. Therefore, new opportunities arise for companies who convert information in a digital format and for the ones who benefit from a more digital world.
Another important factor is the (hybrid) war between US and China. Many foreign companies will probably keep factories in China for the domestic markets, while moving production for exports in other countries, therefore South East Asian countries can capture part of that. US will also manage its foreign relations via a network of countries while existing multi-lateral organizations are losing powers, thus South East Asian countries will also need to navigate the complexity of this new environment. It will not be so easy to balance US and China going forward.