The central role stock exchanges play in the modern economy means they have an increasingly significant role as guardians of corporate governance.
That view came from Singapore Exchange chief executive Magnus Bocker, who also noted yesterday that good governance allows more efficient access to capital and results in fewer roadblocks between investors and investments.
Mr Bocker told the Global Corporate Governance Conference at Resorts World Sentosa: "Exchanges play a key role in the economies of their host countries as platforms for trade and capital flows.
"Exchanges also have an increasingly important role as custodians of corporate governance and corporate responsibility."
This role is crucial as "good governance leads to better efficiency of markets, which helps support sustained economic growth and creates opportunities for individuals and enterprises", he noted.
SGX said it is playing its part in raising the bar.
This year, it formed a working committee to conduct a comprehensive review of its listing manual.
It has also introduced several initiatives to raise marketplace standards. For instance, the new poll voting guidelines will spur shareholder engagement by recommending that listed companies make their general meetings accessible to all stakeholders by holding them in Singapore.
It also launched an investors' guide to corporate sustainability reporting to help investors better understand sustainability reports.
Mr Bocker also touched on gender diversity in boards, noting how poor this is in Asia. This year's report from Corporate Women Directors International showed 15 per cent of directors on the boards of the Fortune Global 200 companies were women. Of these 200 firms, 47 still have all-male boards and more than half of these 47 are based in Asia.
He cited a study of Israeli corporate boards last year which showed companies with female directors outdid those with no female directors in financial performance. Such surveys are "broadly consistent with other surveys that show positive correlations between female representation and financial performance", he added. "If the female population commands 70 per cent of global consumer spending, then they would surely provide greater insights into economic behaviour."
SGX plans to develop an investor guide on board diversity by June next year. It is also targeting to have 40 per cent female representation on its management team.
The conference, which ends today, is held in conjunction with the Singapore Corporate Governance Week organised by the Securities Investors Association of Singapore.
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