Singapore Bullion Market Association

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By Gordon Cheung, Deputy Chief Executive, SBMA

Published on June 5, 2019

SBMA is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It is a nice coincidence that the advent of SBMA and its “rejuvenation” 19 years later are both associated with GST on investment precious metals, which was introduced in 1994 and lifted in 2012.

I feel particularly honored to have joined the association in its prime a year ago, shortly after I had retired from the interbank market. I also feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with an amazing team and a community of super-supportive members, all sharing the same vision – to build Singapore into a bullion hub and make SBMA an esteemed name in the Asia Pacific region.

When we saw a big jump in new members joining the association, particularly in the 4th quarter of 2018 and nearly all sponsorships and speaking slots for the upcoming 3rd Asia Pacific Precious Metals Conference (APPMC) taken up by early March, we knew our efforts had paid off. It indicates SBMA’s name is highly regarded and that the landmark event is widely recognised by the bullion community across Asia. APPMC has become an important date in the bullion community’s calendar, and an occasion for members of the precious metals sector to reconnect and collaborate.

Looking back past the 25 years, I remember vividly the Hong Kong financial market in its heyday with some 13 bullion houses comprising the then five legendary London bullion merchant banks, three Swiss banks, two U.S. trading firms and other Asian counterparties. The city was the world’s third-largest precious metals trading centre, while Singapore was a much smaller market.

In the early 90s, JP Morgan and Rothschild were the first two bullion market makers that moved their desks from Hong Kong to Singapore. I joined JP from Hong Kong in 1992, two years before the bank’s regional head, Tim Gardiner, co-founded SBMA. The ensuing decade saw the global gold market undergoing a prolonged downturn, during which about two-thirds of the interbank bullion houses closed their operations in Asia due to market inactivity.

The hustle and bustle of the precious metals market returned in 2005, enlivened by a growing number of banks and trading firms moving their Asian commodities operations to Singapore. A drastic change in the financial landscape in terms of modes of operations and interaction happened almost at the same time with the advent of electronic trading technology, which began to provide users direct access to the liquidity pool with significantly less reliance on human intermediaries.

In 2010, some countries including Singapore, which foresaw the digital revolution, began to draw up long-term policies to embrace the era of big data and automation. Singapore published the Digital Government Blueprint in 2018 to address its vision.

Fintech has already been disrupting the financial world. Likewise, the precious metals sector in Singapore is also undergoing a slow yet noticeable transformation from manual operation towards full digitisation. Our new members from the tokenised gold space, which joined last year, has in a way enlightened our existing members to the changes taking place in this industry.

SBMA will continue to look ahead of the curve and endeavour to keep the precious metals industry in Asia updated of any major changes in the technology space, initiatives, regulations and codes of practice.


Deputy Chief Executive, SBMA