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Come out swinging? Or whinging?

What does the term “come out swinging’’ mean? That’s how an ST writer described Magnus Bocker at a press conference yesterday on yet another glitch in SGX.

Now, the term comes from boxing – a boxer who immediately begins a boxing match by aggressively throwing punches. But the next phase kills me. He came out swinging, the article goes, “explaining in painstaking detail what happened in the bourse operator’s latest “incident”, what it plans to do next, addressing whether he would step down from his job and apologising for good measure’’. And there I was thinking that I was going to read a really dramatic defence and maybe some scolding from Mr Bocker!

Language aside, read BT for the best coverage of what happened at SGX especially the cost to brokers, investors and the reputation of our exchange.

A brief run-down: A software glitch occurred overnight which screwed up some numbers and it left brokers with not enough time to “reconcile’’ them before market opened. So the opening was delayed by more than three hours. In the meantime, lots of stuff were happening in Hong Kong and people who could have made money, couldn’t because the exchange wasn’t opened. When it was, it was a bit too late because the Hong Kong market was back to normal. (Please pardon my very, very laymen language.) People are getting upset because this is the second time something like this has happened in less than a month. On Nov 5, there was a three-hour breakdown in the day.

A couple of things I read in the media which I can’t quite understand.

– BT reported Mr Bocker saying that less than a third of market participants were affected, mostly retail investors. Hmm, and that makes it okay? I confess I don’t know.

– ST reported another SGX guy saying that despite the glitch, it traded close to $900m in turnover yesterday, which is 80 per cent of a trading day’s volume done in half a day. Hmm…so what does that mean? That it wasn’t so bad?

– ST also used a phrase from Mr Bocker “bad luck’’, although he quickly said that’s no excuse. What’s luck got to do with it?

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Now, Mr Bocker has appeared in public to apologise unlike the last time when SGX gave a bland statement about the inconvenience caused. Now, he is on record as taking “full responsibility’’ for something that “should not have happened’’. People are calling for his head, which he made clear he intends to have firmly fixed to his body. Hmm…that’s really not for him to say methinks as he still has to report to his bosses, the SGX board.

The regulator was pissed enough to threaten “supervisory action’’ – but there’s nothing in media about what sort of “supervisory action’’ it can take. Shut down the bourse? Move in and take over? Supervisory action doesn’t sound like a penalty or punitive measures although people are asking for compensation for loss of income. After all, in one month, it’s about six hours of no trading in all and some people must have lost money through no fault of their own? Brokerage fees forgone? Thing is, what other bourses abroad do in cases like this? The SGX can’t be the only bourse in the world with technical screw ups which led to losses….Hmmm…right?

Another impact is on Singapore’s reputation. Can’t be good for us if the financial people elsewhere to keep looking at a “we are closed for renovations’’ sign twice in a month.

As usual, an extensive/intensive/thorough/full review will be done. BT reported that the Small and Middle Capitalisation Companies Association calling for an independent review elevated to an inquiry commission. Hmmm. If the glitches were technical in nature, it makes more sense to send in some really, really super-duper IT fellows to go in and trouble-shoot and make sure it doesn’t happen again no? The public “accounting’’ and calls for the pound of flesh to be extracted later can come later methinks.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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