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Asian financial centers want in on London's forex trading throne

Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore are cementing their positions as global financial hubs by snagging business away from larger peers, an industry observer said Thursday.

"Asia has been benefiting from a more favorable economic environment [when compared] to Europe and the U.S.," said Ralph Achkar, director of capital markets at Colt, which provides connectivity services to link up currency and derivatives traders.

This comes as the City of London's reputation as a financial center has taken a beating post-Brexit.

Often regarded as the global capital of foreign exchange trading, London's global share of forex trading has slipped considerably in the past three years.

Data from the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) revealed that the global market share of foreign exchange trading conducted in the U.K. declined from 41 percent in 2013 to 37 percent in April this year -- even before the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union.

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Oli Scarff | Getty Images

BIS also reported that even though the U.K. continues to remain the largest foreign exchange trading hub in the world, its dominance has been eroded by Asian financial centers. When combined, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore accounted for 21 percent of intermediation, up from 15 percent three years ago.

Achkar also acknowledged that competition among the Asian cities was stiff. Tokyo is already recognized as an established hub for trading currencies. However, he said that the active adoption of new technologies, including fintech, and favorable regulatory frameworks have made Singapore and Hong Kong serious competitors.

According to BIS data on foreign exchange volumes, Singapore pipped Japan to the title of Asia's largest foreign exchange center for the first time in 2013, placing it only behind the U.K. and the U.S. Hong Kong overtook Japan as the fourth-largest forex center in the world in 2016.

For now, Achkar noted that Brexit has resulted in a period of uncertainty for U.K. capital markets. "The rules are still unclear," Achkar said.

"Whether there will be … required actions by clients would depend on what the results of the negotiations might be and we're at least 24 to 30 months from that happening," he said, "For the moment, it's business as usual in the City.

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