Bankers operating between the Grand Duchy and Hong Kong never cease to be impressed by the similarities between the two when doing business. 'Hong Kong and Luxembourg are extremely business-friendly places and have a reputation for getting things done quickly and efficiently. Financial services are also main pillars in both economies,' said Philippe Metoudi, head of Clearstream for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. 'Luxembourg is also one of the world's safest regulatory environments for the management and custody of collateral.' Owned by the Deutsche Borse Group and headquartered in Luxembourg, Clearstream provides integrated securities services for the global finance community through settlement of transactions, custody of securities and the management of collateral and risk. Core clients include central banks, commercial banks and supranational organisations. The firm provides services to more than 2,500 financial institutions in more than 100 countries. Mr Metoudi, named Custodian Banker of the Year by Hong Kong-based magazine The Asset, said Asia had been the firm's fastest-growing region for several years. 'Customers are very demanding but also appreciate stability and continuity. Asia represents about 25 per cent of Clearstream's business worldwide and continues to grow. When I first joined the firm in 1992, Asia represented about 1 per cent. We are gaining new customers and expanding our business with clients that value the convenience of doing business in a same-day environment,' he said. Despite the global economic slump, Mr Metoudi said Clearstream had been less affected than many other financial business lines. He believes this is due to having predictable and reliable systems. 'The unprecedented financial market turmoil over recent months has highlighted the international centralised securities depository role as a genuine safe haven for assets and a powerful platform for liquidity in Asia,' he said. 'The global financial crisis has opened new windows of opportunity for Clearstream. While there has been a total freeze on money markets caused by a breakdown in trust among participants, there is still liquidity available. Through mechanisms involving secured lending, we have been able to provide clients with access to flexible collateral resources.' For example, Clearstream's global securities financing (GSF) service, which provides securities lending and collateral management, registered 20 per cent growth from the start of the year. 'I believe that GSF principles, securities lending and collateral management have a strong future for our company. After what has happened in the financial environment, there is very little in the way of inter-bank transactions and everything needs to be collateralised. Having the ability to move collateral to an accessible pool of liquidity is critical,' Mr Metoudi said. Clearstream's tailor-made solutions include real-time reporting, multichannel connectivity and automated electronic processing. 'When processing is done using fax with manual intervention, there is a greater risk of error. Given the speed, value and volume of assets traded every day, it is vital that both parties receive their part of the transaction simultaneously and risk-free,' he said. Clearstream's operational strength is underpinned by more than Euro10 trillion (HK$108 trillion) in assets under custody and an AA credit rating by Standard and Poor's, and Fitch. The firm's international bond business, which accounts for 80 to 85 per cent of revenue, continues to register strong growth. In May, Clearstream recorded Euro37 billion in new issues, compared with Euro4.8 billion in November last year. Clearstream enjoyed a record year in 2008. 'Our deposits increased by about US$1 trillion,' Mr Metoudi said. He said Clearstream had invested significantly in Asia and would continue to introduce new products and services designed around client needs. 'A lot of Asian institutions want to deal with Asian or Asia-based institutions instead of waiting for European organisations to open, so what we are doing is building intra-Asian liquidity.' For instance, last year Clearstream introduced same-day Singapore dollar currency deadlines. It expanded the service in March to include the Australian dollar, Hong Kong dollar and Japanese yen Clearstream relies heavily on the talent and experience of its multilingual employees. 'My team receives about 10,000 phone calls each month in a range of Asian languages. What makes the difference is that our clients are able to speak to our employees in their native language,' Mr Metoudi said.