The Network Forum - adapting to the new global landscape

Tue, 22/12/2020

Highlights from the securities services industry’s place-to-be

This year’s Network Forum, Europe’s flagship securities services conference, was held virtually, between November 03 – 05. UniCredit took part in the event which brought together more than 800 stakeholders from across the securities services industry to discuss a range of topics, including Know-Your-Customer protocols and the challenges of the new virtual due diligence format, key takeaways from SRDII, CSDR preparedness, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on securities services across the world, and the mid-to-long term outlook for the industry.

With attendees able to join the conference from the comfort of their homes, participation reached record numbers. Over 800 participants joined the virtual event from across the globe, including broker dealers, worldwide financial institutions, regulators, stock exchanges, central securities depositories (CSDs) and representatives of global custodians. The Network Forum community had the opportunity to participate in interesting and intriguing panel discussions, including a record number of breakout sessions.

Fittingly, the theme of leveraging technology to overcome, and even flourish, amidst the challenges created by COVID-19, underpinned much of the discussion, with panellists and participants alike exploring the conference’s headline question: How can the securities services industry adapt to the new global landscape? The agenda additionally explored key regulatory, technological and strategic updates which could drive the securities services industry forward.

As a proud partner and a founding member of the Network Forum, UniCredit GSS hosted 19 break-out sessions, covering topics ranging from the “Macroeconomic Scenario in CEE” to “Upcoming market developments in Austria and CEE” and “IT Security during COVID-19”. All the sessions were streamed from our own virtual booth, with special participation of senior Group colleagues, Dan Bucsa, CEE Chief Economist; Massimo Messina, Deputy Chief Security Officer; Paolo Vitali, Head of Group Recovery and Resolution team; and Massimo Ortino, Global Head of GTB Financial Institutions Sales.

Julia Romhanyi, UniCredit’s Global Head of Securities Services, took part in one of the event’s key panel discussions: “CEE Regional Developments & Outlook: Pressure Points and Bright Lights for 2021”. While providing useful insights into the ways in which UniCredit GSS had been overcoming challenges posed by the current pandemic in an effort to deliver enhanced service standards to the clients, Julia strongly advocated for efficiencies across the region as a long-term sustainable mechanism.

Julia underlined that UniCredit was well prepared for the transition to remote working as it had already been developing an array of digital initiatives to achieve operational flexibility. Other participants noted that the remote-working paradigm is particularly challenging for securities services, due to the industry’s reliance on physical documents, be it for tax reclaims, or to physically participate in annual general meetings.

The urgency of adapting to the pandemic has given momentum to the overall digitalisation push with great strides made in replacing paper-based processes with digital tools that generate universal efficiency. What gives a particular sense of pride is the participants’ conclusion that this seems to have been achieved while maintaining the same high levels of security, as well as a shared commitment to maintain the achieved progress rate.

A few notable takeaways from the Forum are the concern over the slowdown of preparedness for the Central Securities Depository Regulation (CSDR) caused by the EU delaying the regulation until February 2022; and the pandemic-caused virtualization of the due diligence processes is deemed as doable and improving, although still not being a viable match to the onsite visits from network managers.

Looking ahead, we will need to ensure that the industry’s digitisation journey, triggered by COVID-19, will continue at the same pace once lockdowns and restrictions are lifted, while maintaining the same levels of security and client satisfaction.

We hope to see you all at the next year’s Network Forum (in person)!