The winners of the inaugural Central Banking awards


European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi was today unveiled as ‘governor of the year' and the People's Bank of China (PBoC) as ‘central bank of the year' in the inaugural Central Banking awards. Both parties demonstrated committed resolve to achieve their aims despite operating in a difficult environment, according to a series of 10 articles published by Central Banking journal.

"On behalf of the Governing Council, executive board and staff of the ECB, I'm honoured to be named governor of the year by Central Banking," Draghi said. "Thanks to both the ECB's actions and hard work by governments in implementing fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, conditions in financial markets have gradually eased since July 2012. Great leaps have been made in euro area governance and the ECB is playing its part in this. It is still too early to declare victory and the recovery remains fragile, but we can see our very accommodative monetary policy stance finally finding its way through the economy."

Other winners of the central banking categories were the Central Bank of Colombia (reserves manager of the year), Sveriges Riksbank (transparency award) and the Bank of Spain (website of the year). BlackRock (asset manager of the year), Northern Trust (global custodian of the year), VocaLink (payments and clearing technology provider of the year) and OpenLink (risk management technology provider of the year) secured wins in the market practitioner segment. Former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, was unveiled as the winner of the ‘central banking lifetime achievement award'.

"Central Banking Publications has informed debate and provoked action on vital developments in public policy, financial markets and supervision during the past 25 years," said Volcker. "I am delighted to be named the recipient of the inaugural Central Banking lifetime achievement award."

 Mario Draghi

The ECB's Draghi (pictured) fended off tough competition from around the world to be named ‘central bank governor of the year'. The judging panel, comprising members of the Central Banking editorial staff and former central bank governors sitting on the journal's advisory board, cited Draghi's unflappable conviction and outstanding leadership of the ECB as playing a vital role in restoring confidence in the eurozone. The judging panel noted how well the ECB as an institution has been able to act and be understood in the financial markets – despite significant differences of opinion among its various constituents. Much of the credit for this was attributed to Draghi's tireless efforts to drive consensus where possible.

On behalf of the Governing Council, Executive Board and staff of the ECB, I'm honoured to be named governor of the year by Central Banking

The PBoC was awarded the top prize by the ‘Central Banking awards judging panel' in recognition of the critical role the Chinese central bank has played in anchoring China's drive towards a more market-oriented economy during 2013. It has done this despite the lack of sophisticated domestic money markets and the requirement that it must seek approval from the State Council before taking any significant actions. "The PBoC demonstrated strong leadership in its efforts to curb excesses in the financial system, while at the same time pushing ahead with interest rate and capital account reform at a time of major political change," said Christopher Jeffery, chairman of the central banking awards judging panel and editor of Central Banking journal.

Risk and returns

As central bank foreign exchange holdings have ballooned and the risk-return dynamics of sovereign investments have changed dramatically since the onset of the global financial crisis, responsible stewardship of reserves has become one of the most important functions of a central bank. The Central Bank of Colombia's dynamic reserves management strategy and strong performance amid turmoil in the US dollar and emerging market currencies captured the judges' attention. The Colombian central bank drew praise for being prepared to think creatively in terms of diversifying its investment portfolio, while ensuring its portfolio retains the required mix of safety, liquidity and return.

 Stefan Ingves

The Sveriges Riksbank, meanwhile, won the transparency award for being at the forefront of central bank transparency. Central Banking said the Swedish central bank under the governorship of Stefan Ingves (pictured) has continued to push the boundaries of transparency, with its latest communication strategy overhaul published in December 2013 a good example of recent work. "Ingves has consistently made the point that transparency is a necessary accompanier of independence for central banks and the Riksbank excels in its multi-media approach to communications, continually refining and honing its strategy to ensure the right message reaches the right people," said Jeffery.

Websites represent one of the vital tools central banks can use to communicate with their citizens and regulated entities. Since 2009, the Bank of Spain has undertaken 900 projects to improve its website, which the judges said "demonstrated considerable and sustained attention to detail". The Bank of Spain was found to have shown formidable attention to detail in the design of its website, and for producing an end-product that is both extremely detailed and well-designed. "The website manages to capture the nuances of central banking and convey them in simple terms to the general public and wider stakeholders – both in Spanish and in English," Jeffery added.

"I greatly appreciate this award. It will surely promote an even greater proactivity among our teams in striving for clarity and effectiveness," said Bank of Spain governor Luis M Linde. "A user-friendly website - where information is readily accessible both to the general public and to specific target groups - is a key tool in broadening awareness of our role as central bankers and supervisors."

Market practitioner excellence

In the market practitioner segment, BlackRock was noted to have made impressive efforts in the past year to improve its client relationship team and ramp up its intellectual offering to its some 90 sovereign clients, including about 40 central banks. One senior central bank reserve manager said BlackRock was "very good in terms of service" and "totally different" in this regard compared with a few years ago. BlackRock has also had the confidence to challenge long-held assumptions about the way financial markets function, not just in theory, but in practice, at a time of gnawing uncertainty and sweeping change in global financial markets, Central Banking said.

Northern Trust sovereign team members

A clear and committed focus on servicing assets on behalf of sovereign clients – both big and small – combined with a robust technology platform made Northern Trust (pictured) the stand-out custodian in 2013. The US company's undiluted business focus and organic growth has enabled it to develop a highly consistent technology platform as well as durable client relationships. "Northern Trust does a great job in providing core and value-added custodial services," said one fixed income operations manager at an official institution. "Service offerings are first rate. An important point to note is their commitment to collaborating with clients and their external service providers."

Technological flair was also on display elsewhere.

The UK's VocaLink excelled by building the infrastructure for a new accounts switching service in the UK and exporting its pioneering Faster Payments platform overseas, including to Singapore. The company also drew praise for its excellent awareness of changes in the payments landscape, which has allowed VocaLink to position itself well to harness the growing appetite for electronic and mobile payments.

Meanwhile, OpenLink won the inaugural risk management award for the versatility of its infrastructure, which is excelling in the face of a changing technological environment and new central banking demands. Central Banking said OpenLink's platforms are extremely customisable, which allows users to influence the way in which they work and mould them to their organisational needs. The company's support services were also said to be strong, with its ‘land and expand' approach to rolling out technology ensuring clients are supported throughout the implementation process.

Central Banking launched its awards programme to recognise outstanding performance by public officials in central banks and market practitioners around the world, at what is a challenging time for the profession. "We hope that by recording examples of extraordinary public service by central bankers – something that often goes unrecognised – it will help to inspire the current and future generation of public servants to strive towards the highest standards of public duty and achievement," said Jeffery.

The full list of award winners:

Governor of the year: Mario Draghi
Central Bank of the year: The People's Bank of China
Lifetime achievement: Paul Volcker
Reserve manager of the year: Central Bank of Colombia
Transparency award: Sveriges Riksbank
Website of the year: Bank of Spain
Asset manager of the year: BlackRock
Global custodian of the year: Northern Trust
Payments and clearing technology provider of the year: VocaLink
Risk management technology provider of the year: OpenLink


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