Baltic Briefing sat down with the new Baltic Head of Asia last week to discuss her vision for the future.
There is a fresh face at the Baltic Exchange’s Singapore office. Lu Su Ling is the Baltic Exchange’s new head of Asia, stepping into the shoes of Chris Jones and supported by three new hires. With a growing base of members from the Asian region and more chartering activity handled by Singapore-based owners, brokers and traders, the need for a stronger Baltic presence in the region is obvious.
New team members
Andy Symonds joins as a senior freight market reporter having previously worked for Berge Bulk, Trafigura and most recently Jaldhi; Nadia Mirza, a former Howe Robinson and Clarksons shipbroker, will lead container business development, and Mark Ma, a former tanker chartering specialist who has previously worked at Stolt Nielsen, Oxide Chemicals and Howe Robinson, has come onboard as the Asia-Pacific sales manager. Su Ling’s role will be to manage and support the Baltic’s growth across the region, with a particular focus on member engagement and growth as well as new services such as escrow, Asian-centric routes and training.
“The Baltic’s Singapore office is there to complement London and to capitalise on Singapore’s strategic position as both a maritime and commodities trading hub,” she says.
Since the Baltic joined the SGX family in November 2016, there has been a marked growth in the number of Asian members. Of the Baltic’s over 650 corporate members, about 20% count Asia as their country of origin. Three quarters of these joined the Baltic in the last 10 years, and around 40 have joined in the past two years alone. However, according to Su Ling, whilst the Baltic Exchange has a strong profile in Singapore, there is still much work to be done across the rest of the region.
“I’m so excited to be taking on this role at such an important moment in the Baltic Exchange’s long history,” says Su Ling.
Malaysian born, Su Ling was educated at the University of Melbourne in Australia where she completed a Bachelors degree in commerce. She has worked at SGX for most of her career in business development and strategy roles. A chartered accountant by training, her last role was as Chief Operating Officer of the Energy Market Company (EMC), the Singapore-based wholesale electricity marketplace. Like the Baltic Exchange, EMC is a wholly owned SGX subsidiary and Su Ling’s role was to facilitate its integration with SGX, negotiate a revenue framework with the regulator and support its efforts to expand into the provision of consultancy work for other markets in Asia and the Middle East. EMC is on course to double its profits over the next five years following these efforts.
Whilst the unregulated global shipping markets are completely different to the highly regulated Singapore electricity market, the added value that SGX is bringing to both sectors is similar.
“I do not have a shipping background, but I can bring my business development and strategy experience to bear in working with Baltic’s experienced team of shipping professionals. I strongly believe that together, we can build on the fantastic Baltic brand, services and heritage,” says Su Ling. “Being a member of the Baltic Exchange is about understanding the ethos of “our word our bond” and putting ethics and integrity at the centre of any commercial transaction. I think that we can leverage on this to deliver a wider range of services than ever before.”
She adds: “Baltic Exchange membership is about so much more than just data.”
Before taking on the role, she says that she was very aware of the Baltic Exchange. “It’s an organisation which absolutely punches above its weight and has a big presence in the shipping world and beyond. It’s the custodian of an extremely valuable set of data used not only in the shipping industry but in the wider business community. It’s my job to help Baltic take this further.”
She says that one of her first tasks will be to get out and about and meet Baltic Exchange members. She wants to engage more closely with shipping industry players across the region and plans to speak about the role of the Baltic Exchange at the Asian Shipowners Association meeting in Bangkok this May. The upcoming Singapore Maritime Week (6-14 April) will also be an opportunity to meet the market.
According to Su Ling there needs to be a focus on rolling out new products and services. The first of these, an escrow service for sale & purchase transactions, has good potential. The service allows the significant deposit funds required ahead of a vessel transaction to be held in a neutral, third party account with the AA-rated OCBC Bank in Singapore. Based on a new Baltic Escrow Form, the service is subject to SGX‘s detailed Know Your Client (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) compliance procedures.
In addition, Baltic plans to roll out new training programmes, with an initial run of two risk-management courses for shipping professionals due to be offered during Singapore Maritime Week. Over time, the aim is to offer courses covering a broader range of commercial maritime subjects.
Also high on the agenda is the commercialisation of the Freightos-Baltic partnership. Launched in 2018, the two organisations are working closely on the FBX Index, which is currently a weekly container market assessment covering the movement of boxes on 12 main trade lanes. The Baltic Exchange is providing its index production and regulatory know-how to support a credible benchmark for container ship operators, forwarders and shippers to build index-linked contracts.
Clearly Su Ling ’s experience of turning big visions into reality will be vital in helping expand the Baltic Exchange’s presence across the Asia region.
Su Ling career history
BALTIC EXCHANGE, Singapore 2019 – present
Head of Baltic Exchange Asia
Driving business development activities in Asia including membership engagement and growth, and promoting Baltic index data and escrow services.
ENERGY MARKET COMPANY, Singapore 2016 – 2018
Chief Operating Officer
SINGAPORE EXCHANGE LIMITED, Singapore 2001 – 2016
Head of Post Trade Services, Equities, and Fixed Income, 2014-2016
Head of Corporate and Market Strategy, 2001-2014
Prior additional experience in capital markets policy at the Securities Commission Malaysia, corporate finance at Arab-Malaysian Corporation, and corporate restructuring and audit at Arthur Andersen.