As part of a move to build its presence in Asia, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the largest futures exchange in the United States, has appointed C.F. Wong as managing director in Asia.

Wong has over 25 years of experience in international futures markets, including roles as chief executive officer and managing director of ABN AMRO Asia futures, NatWest futures Asia and HSBC futures Asia. He will report to Rick Redding, managing director, CME Products & Services.

CME currently operates offices in Tokyo and Sydney, as well as a telecommunications hub in Singapore that serves the Pan-Asian marketplace. According to insiders at the CME, these operations will become part of a larger, more comprehensive effort to grow the company's outreach to customers in this region.

"Asia represents enormous long-term growth opportunities for CME as we successfully execute our global strategy, and C.F. and his team will build even more momentum for international business development," says CME CEO Craig Donohue.

He added that according to the Bank for International Settlements, financial markets in China, India and the Asia-Pacific Region are growing at an extremely rapid rate. For example, between 1998 and 2004, exchange-traded derivatives grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 69% in Asia, compared to a 29% rate in North America.

"We continue to broaden distribution of our products and services to Asia, particularly through CME Globex, which is the most widely distributed derivatives electronic trading platform in the industry," says Redding. "We are excited to have C.F. become part of this team, as his experience, leadership and track record of innovation will help us to leverage even more opportunities to grow our business in the Asian marketplace."

In addition to working for ABN AMRO, NatWest and HSBC, Wong, 50, previously also was a managing director for Octagon Advisors, serving as an advisor to banks in Singapore and China. He worked as executive vice president for United Overseas Bank (UOB) group's high net-worth banking arm and as managing director of UOB bullion and futures. He began his career at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, earned a bachelor's degree in commerce from the city's Nanyang University and has served as a director for the Singapore International Monetary Exchange.

Wong will manage a team that includes Johannes Zhou, director, Asian business development; Yoshio Kuno, director, CME Asia; and Nicholas T. M. Bolton, director, CME Asia-Pacific. Zhou joined CME earlier this year. He has over 27 years of financial services experience, and was formerly an advisor on futures and risk management to the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Kuno, joined CME in 1998 and has worked to develop CME's customer base in Asia. He also has over 27 years of financial services experience including serving as senior vice president & general manager Asia for BA Futures Inc., a futures commission merchant, and holding a variety of roles for Bank of America's Tokyo branch.

Bolton joined CME in 2005 after serving as a consultant since 2002. He has over 30 years of financial services experience and formerly directed the Chicago Board of Trade's Asia-Pacific operations and served in futures and options marketing roles for a variety of European financial services companies in the United Kingdom, including ING Baring futures & options, Chase Manhattan futures, and ED&F Man.

CME is clearly building up its Asia presence. For example, in late November, CME renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the Korea Exchange. CME also signed new MoEs with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the Dalian Commodity Exchange and the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange, all in China.

In October, CME announced plans to launch a new futures contract based on the S&P Asia 50 Index, the only Pan-Asian equity index that tracks the 50 largest stocks traded in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. This contract is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2006 exclusively on the CME Globex electronic trading platform.

But its connections with Asia does have some history. In September, it marked the 15th anniversary of its CME Nikkei 225 futures contract, which was the first contract based on a non-US based stock index to trade on a US-derivatives exchange. Since its launch on September 25, 1990, over 9.1 million CME Nikkei 225 futures contracts, representing a notional value of $580 billion, have traded at CME.