A knowledge of its territory and the ability to gather and deliver critical market information quickly and accurately to its clients has made the sub-custodian an invaluable player in the global custody market. 'Demand for information is very strong,' Richard Groves, HSBC's manager sales and relationship division, Asia Pacific Sercurity Services, said. 'Our global custody clients are wanting us, as their agents, to keep them in touch with market information. They want to know what is happening in the region.' Global custodians were increasingly looking at sub-custodians as providers of market knowledge and information because of their expansive presence in certain global markets. While a global custodian was likely to be appointed by pension or mutual fund managers when cross- border investment was involved, the majority of global custodians did not have a local presence in many world markets. In these cases, they looked to appoint a sub-custodian. Mr Groves said the use of the sub-custodian as an information conduit had been enhanced by the economic meltdown in many Asian economies. 'When you look at the upheavals in the region over the past 12 months, especially in places like South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, you can see why our clients want and need information immediately,' he said. 'Information these days is very much the key to the relationship between global custody banks and sub-custodians.' This hunger for information meant clients of global custodians were judging these banks on their ability to process and deliver it quickly. Global custodians, in turn, were looking for a more information-focused role from sub-custodians. 'We are no longer judged on our ability to move paper through the factory because that factory no longer exists. We are judged by our ability to provide information in an accurate and timely manner,' Mr Groves said. 'That is increasingly important because that is the way the global customers differentiate the service of the global custodian. 'So, the global custodian is dependent on us for how their customers perceive them.' To enhance its growing information-based role, HSBC Security Services was about to launch an Internet site for its customers. This would allow client preference and immediate access to critical market information. 'If a particular client wants something on a particular market, then he can get it. It is a more flexible way to gather information as the client will have the choice of what information to access,' Mr Groves said. 'With the Web page, they will be able to pick out the information they want and when they want it,' he said. HSBC Security Services, which covers 22 markets in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East, is the region's largest sub-custodian. Last year it was top rated in 11 of those markets by the influential Global Custodian magazine. 'HSBC has a natural advantage in the countries we operate in because we have been there a long time,' Mr Groves said. 'During the 1980s, when Asia became more attractive to foreign investors and as governments in the region opened up their markets to accommodate this investment, we established security service operations on the back of existing, well- established banking networks.'