To drive the regional integration agenda of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) post-2015, the ASEAN Capital Markets Forum (ACMF) – the high-level grouping of ASEAN capital market regulators – developed the ACMF Vision 2025 of an inter-connected, inclusive and resilient ASEAN capital market.

The ACMF Vision 2025 has three Strategic Objectives:

(i) To enhance and facilitate better pan-ASEAN connectivity to realise the growing potential of its capital markets;

(ii) To promote and sustain the inclusiveness of capital markets within the region; and

(iii) To strengthen and maintain the orderliness and resilience of ASEAN capital markets.

These strategic objectives of the ACMF Vision 2025 were to be delivered in two phases.

The first was implemented through the ACMF Action Plan 2016-2020 (“AP 2016-2020”), which focused on the following six key priorities with specific initiatives driving the work of ACMF:

(i) Improve regional market infrastructure and connectivity;

(ii) Drive more cohesiveness in regulations and practices;

(iii) Promote ASEAN asset classes;

(iv) Foster better mobility for professionals;

(v) Attract greater investor participation;

(vi) Promote greater stakeholder interaction, co-operation and co-ordination.

AP 2016-2020 was the first phase towards achieving the ACMF Vision 2025, and ultimately supporting and realising the ASEAN Community Vision 2025’s vision of an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

It envisioned an AEC that is “a highly integrated and cohesive regional economy; a competitive, innovative and dynamic community which fosters robust productivity growth; with enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation with improvements in regional frameworks; and a more resilient, inclusive, and people-oriented, people-centred community, a global ASEAN”.

In developing AP 2021-2025, ACMF carried out a survey and held a series of seventeen engagement sessions with capital market participants and other stakeholders to gather their views and suggestions.

The survey conducted by ACMF sought to gauge stakeholders’ feedback on the Implementation of AP 2016-2020 and to seek input on the potential focus areas that need to be considered in AP 2021-2025.

It also gathered industry participants’ views on the opportunities and challenges under the present economic environment and over the next five years.

Using the feedback from the survey and engagements, ACMF identified three Strategic Objectives for AP 2021-2025:

(i) Fostering Growth and Recovery with Sustainability;

(ii) Promoting and Sustaining Inclusiveness;

(iii) Strengthening and Maintaining Orderliness and Resilience.

ACMF also identified five Key Priorities to support the Strategic Objectives under AP 2021-2025:

(i) Driving higher levels of transparency and disclosure;

(ii) Continuing with regulatory harmonisation;

(iii) Intensifying capacity building;

(iv) Amplifying communication and awareness building;

(v) Strengthening co-operation and coordination.

At the same time, the importance of sustainability had been identified and incorporated into the Action Plan, resulting in the Strategic Objective of Enhancing and facilitating growth and connectivity being augmented to include sustainability.

Given the current landscape globally and regionally, Fostering Growth with Sustainability is an imperative.

Growth needs to be fuelled with capital and market-based financing which needs to be channelled efficiently with adequate risk and rewards pricing.

However, this time there must be greater attention accorded to sustainable growth to secure the long-term future of ASEAN.

The growing awareness and demand for sustainability by the various stakeholders of businesses will mean that in the long term, businesses that do not adopt sustainability practices will not be able to survive.

Investors too are demanding that their investments are aligned to sustainability, in part because of their moral preferences and in part because they realise the economic risks arising from businesses that ignore sustainability considerations.

The impact of the pandemic on ASEAN will exacerbate inequalities among its citizens.

Concurrently, the differing economic impact on AMS will also create greater divergence in economic and social development.

As such, it is important for ACMF’s efforts to be even more inclusive to bring AMS and ASEAN citizens closer and to prevent fragmentation.

Therefore, Promoting and Sustaining Inclusiveness of ASEAN capital markets remains as a Strategic Objective for AP 2021-2025.

The economic and financial fallout during various stages of the pandemic highlights the importance of maintaining the orderliness and resilience of the capital markets.

The orderliness and resilience of capital markets are necessary to attract fund flows and to lower the cost of capital, while also protecting and giving confidence to investors.

Furthermore, resilient capital markets provide support to the real economy by providing the capital needed to bounce back from an adverse event.

Given the recent experience, Strengthening and Maintaining the Orderliness and Resilience of ASEAN Capital Markets is an important Strategic Objective.

The achievement of the Strategic Objectives will require Connectivity as an enabler.

Connectivity is fundamental to all the Strategic Objectives in different ways.

In Fostering Growth and Recovery with Sustainability, Connectivity can help move the capital needed to drive growth to, around and within the region wherever it is needed.

Connectivity can also help promote Inclusiveness by building capacity, strengthening empowerment and reorienting resources and capital to where they are needed.

Capital markets that are suitably connected can help with Resilience through the benefits of scale, information and/or coordinated actions.

Under the Chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Regulator of Cambodia (SERC), in 2022 the ACMF has begun to roll out the initiatives under AP 2021-2025.

These initiatives include:

1) The launch of the ACMF Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) Digital Repository;

2) The launch of the ASEAN Sustainable and Responsible Fund Standards (SRFS);

3) The launch of the ASEAN Sustainability-Linked Bond (SLB) Standards; and

4) The Publication of the ASEAN SDG Bond Toolkit legal wrappers.

With the foregoing initiatives, the second phase of the journey towards ACMF Vision 2025 has well and truly begun with a running start.