Core research areas:
• Geographies of money and finance
• International financial centres and global city networks
• Market formation and variegated capitalism
• Political economy and regulation of financial services
• Asian financial centres
My research interests include theories and geographies of money and finance, global cities, markets, neoliberalism, and political economy, focusing on issues of networks, regulation, knowledge, and economic development in the Asia region. My work also draws upon interdisciplinary ideas from economic sociology, international political economy, cultural studies and social studies of finance.
Fintech and financial ecologies in Singapore and Hong Kong
(November 2018 to October 2021)
FinTech encompasses a new wave of companies developing new products and platforms to change the way businesses and consumers to make payments, lend, borrow and invest. These developments are disrupting traditional value chains and production networks. Given the potential of FinTech to redraw existing maps of global financial flows and innovative activities, there are urgent questions regarding locational decisions of FinTech entities, how they intersect with knowledge networks in financial centres and innovative clusters, and the types of capital and regulatory structures that would support FinTech development. This research project will analyse the emergence and development of FinTech as an ecosystem of related firms, actors and institutions operating at the intersections of finance and technology innovations, in order to understand the changing roles of international financial centres. With rich opportunities offered by the rapidly growing economies of Southeast Asia and the prominence of FinTech giants in China, Singapore and Hong Kong are embedded in different types of FinTech landscapes and ecosystems. This study will generate valuable data for evaluating the opportunities and challenges faced by Singapore and Hong Kong in their ambitions to become the leading FinTech hub in Asia amidst existing regional competition.
Global financial networks of investment banks
(October 2014 to September 2019)
This study is part of a wider research project funded by the Global Production Networks Centre at NUS (GPN@NUS). It examines the global financial networks (GFN) of investment banks in two specific sectors — mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and initial public offerings (IPO) — to investigate how networks of underwriters, legal counsel, auditing and other due diligence has developed and changed over time. Over the past 20 decades, large transnational corporations (TNCs) have shifted more of their borrowing needs from bank-based financing to capital markets, creating greater demand for advisory, brokerage and trading services from investment banks and other advanced business services (ABS). Finance has become an increasingly important driver of global production structures and strategies, in terms of financial narratives, logics and instruments that shape the depth and extent of firms’ global activities. The study investigates the geographical and cross-industry variations in the networks of underwriters, bookrunners and auxiliary firms in terms of bulge bracket (often American) investment banks and more specifically their operational networks in Asia. Such GFNs could reveal insights into the relative roles and importance of investment banks and ABS firms in Asian GPNs, the significance of established corporate relationships in other financial centres on investment banking activities in Asia, and the impact of corporate clients on M&A and IPO processes and activities. These have important implications for understanding the global or regional funding environment of firms and how the scope and realisation of their investment strategies are delineated by GFN actors such as investment banks and other ABS firms. The analysis is based on data sets of M&A and IPO deals from industry sources such as Capital IQ and Dealogic and qualitative interviews with key actors in selected Asian financial centres. Findings from the project will contribute to understanding the financial dimensions of the complex multi-actor networks underpinning the production of goods and services in the global economy.
Financial subject formation and the financialisation of everyday life
(November 2011 to October 2014)
This research project examines how financial intermediaries (relationship managers, financial planners etc.) and consumers (retail investors) in Singapore produce, transfer and consume specific types of financial knowledge and practices. Through the process of investment, both financial intermediaries and retail investors are active participants in the production of, and are also themselves being moulded into, specific types of financial subjects in line with the on-going neoliberalisation of financial markets. The research examines how this process of financial subjectification takes place, and the ways in which moulding ‘responsible’ and ‘knowledgeable’ investors is mobilised in terms of industry development and consumer education. This is set against the context of financial deregulation in Singapore’s retail banking industry over the past 20 years with significant growth in the wealth management sector. Much of this growth has been driven by increasing affluence of the local population and wealth in the region (e.g. Indonesia, China, India), along with changing patterns of savings and consumption that are partly institutionally driven. Building on the literature on financialisation, I use the empirical findings to build theoretical arguments on financial ecologies and state-led financialisation. The growth of private banking in Singapore and increased importance of high net worth individuals (HNWI) in the Asia region are also related research issues that I may pursue in tandem. These, I argue, have important theoretical implications for understanding the socialities and spatialities of market knowledge and practices.
My previous research examined responses to Asian financial crisis from the electronics industry and the Singapore state, and the fund management industry in Singapore and London pertaining to Asian emerging markets. My PhD research focused on the circulation and development of market ideas and structures across spatial scales and regulatory regimes, in the context of Shanghai. I used field observations and interviews with local and foreign financial institutions, and Chinese government and regulatory officials in Shanghai, to critically engage with the concept of ‘markets’ and ‘from-plan-to-market’ economy to expose its multiple identities and conceptualisations, and the contested nature of the ‘marketisation’ process.
My postdoctoral research examined the circulation and development of market ideas and structures across spatial scales and regulatory regimes by conducting a relational study on the financial centre of Hong Kong, focusing on its market systems, regulatory environment, expertise and the networks of regulatory cooperation and business linkages with other centers such as Shanghai and Beijing. The study traced flows of capital, people and knowledge as they touch down in particular localities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, to examine how financial institutions and actors utilise differentiated markets in strategies of regulatory arbitrage and longer term business growth.