About Gloria Lim, CEO of Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).
As the Singapore International Arbitration Centre’s (SIAC) Chief Executive Officer, Gloria works closely with the Chairman and the Board in formulating and fulfilling the vision and strategies for SIAC, and is responsible for the overall management and operations of the institution.
Gloria was previously the Director of the Legal Industry Division in Singapore’s Ministry of Law and concurrently held the statutory appointment of Director of Legal Services, heading its Legal Services Regulatory Authority. As Director of the Legal Industry Division, she oversaw the development of Singapore’s legal sector, as well as the development and promotion of the international dispute resolution regime in Singapore. In 2008, Gloria was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) for her contributions as General Manager of the Community Mediation Unit. In 2016, she was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) for her contributions as Director of the Legal Industry Division. In 2023, she was a recipient of the National Awards (Covid-19) – Covid-19 Resilience Medal.
Gloria also headed the Singapore delegation involved in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group II (Dispute Settlement) discussions from 2019-2021. Gloria is experienced in legal policy, alternative dispute resolution and community mediation.
She graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is called to the Singapore Bar. She also holds a Graduate Certificate in International Arbitration from NUS and an LL.M from Harvard University.
FICL: Prior to starting, would you mind giving us an introduction and sharing insights about your position as the CEO of SIAC?
Gloria Lim: As the Singapore International Arbitration Centre’s (SIAC) CEO, I am responsible for the overall management and operations of the institution. I work closely with the Chairman and the Board in formulating and fulfilling the vision and strategies for SIAC.
I have experience in legal policy, alternative dispute resolution and community mediation. Prior to joining SIAC, I was the Director of the Legal Industry Division in Singapore’s Ministry of Law and concurrently held the statutory appointment of Director of Legal Services, heading its Legal Services Regulatory Authority. As Director of the Legal Industry Division, I oversaw the development of Singapore’s legal sector, as well as the development and promotion of the international dispute resolution regime in Singapore. I also headed the Singapore delegation involved in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group II (Dispute Settlement) discussions from 2019-2021.
FICL: During the SIAC Congress 2021, Mr. K Shanmugam SC, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Singapore, forecasted a potentially challenging 30 years ahead for SIAC, citing increasingly intricate disputes, the emergence of new dispute domains, and the development of fresh dispute resolution platforms. How does SIAC intend to address these challenges and what are the primary objectives you aim to accomplish as the CEO of SIAC?
Gloria Lim: Dispute resolution operates against the backdrop of rapidly evolving economies, shifting geopolitics and changing commercial realities. As an international arbitration institution, SIAC is absolutely committed to proactively addressing the challenges that may arise from these shifts and changes, and improving user experience.
As you know, SIAC has issued the draft of the 7th Edition of its Rules for public consultation. Every provision has been carefully crafted with a view to enhancing the user experience and raising the bar on efficiency, expedition and cost-effectiveness. We are actively engaging in consultations with our users and stakeholders to ensure that our framework and services are designed with the users in mind.
SIAC is working towards implementation of a new online case management system, the SIAC Gateway and introduction of specialist arbitrators. I think SIAC is fully ready to embrace the technological advancements and next generation of disputes.
One of my key priorities as the CEO of SIAC is to ensure we formulate our strategies with the rapidly evolving needs of users of international arbitration in mind, and foster a collaborative and empowering work environment at SIAC. I am truly fortunate to have a wonderful team who deliver exceptional value to our users and stakeholders.
FICL: As you assumed the role of CEO of SIAC amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, what major obstacles did you encounter and their resolution?
Gloria Lim: I joined SIAC in November 2021. At that time, there were still many covid-related restrictions in place. One key challenge was therefore to ensure that there were no disruptions in our services and that we continued to remain accessible to our users. The resilience of the SIAC team and the support of our stakeholders were instrumental in overcoming these challenges and ensuring continuity in our services. Despite the many constraints presented by the pandemic, 2021-2022 were busy and fruitful years for SIAC.
We worked hard to mitigate disruptions and continued to administer cases at SIAC electronically, enabling filings and proceedings to progress despite travel and other restrictions. We also continued to reach out to our users, practitioners, the arbitration community, and students globally through the SIAC International Arbitration Webinar Series, SIAC Academy courses, training programmes, and SIAC modules at universities.
When border restrictions lifted, we were among the first to re-commence in-person Conferences and events, including in India. I recall vividly that it was on the sidelines of the SIAC India Conference in Delhi in 2022, that SIAC also entered into an MOU with FICL. It was therefore also a period where we continued to forge meaningful connections and partnerships.
FICL: Since its establishment in 1991, SIAC has consistently progressed and now stands as one of the leading global institutions, particularly as the most sought-after arbitral institution in Asia. In 2021, SIAC marked its peak caseload. What factors do you believe have driven SIAC's remarkable success and its prominence in India?
Gloria Lim: SIAC is among the fastest growing international arbitral institutions, with rich experience of administering and handling India-related arbitrations. This is made possible by the consistent association and engagement of the institution with Indian practitioners, businesses, and thought leaders. SIAC deeply values these relationships, and the guidance and support of senior members of the international arbitration community and the corporate world. There are a number of factors that have driven SIAC’s growth and its prominence with Indian parties:
▪ The SIAC Rules provide a state-of-the-art procedural framework for efficient and enforceable resolution of international disputes of all sizes and complexities involving parties from diverse legal systems and cultures.
▪ SIAC has become known for its transparent and proactive administration of cases. Indian parties value SIAC’s commitment to efficient and effective case administration.
▪ SIAC’s case management services are supervised by the Court of Arbitration which comprises of internationally renowned arbitration practitioners. Ms Lucy Reed is the President of the SIAC Court of Arbitration. Four Indian practitioners are currently members of SIAC’s Court, including Mr Harish Salve KC, Mr Darius Khambata SA, Mr Tejas Karia, and Mr Vijayendra Pratap Singh.
▪ SIAC’s Board of Directors which is responsible for overseeing SIAC’s operations, business strategy and development, is chaired by Mr Davinder Singh, SC and consists of well-respected lawyers and corporate leaders including Mr Cyril Shroff from India.
▪ SIAC has an experienced international panel of over 600 expert arbitrators from over 40 jurisdictions, including those with expertise in Indian law and commerce. The availability of arbitrators familiar with the Indian legal landscape has enhanced the credibility and attractiveness of SIAC for Indian parties. Also, SIAC recognizes the importance of cultural sensitivity in arbitration proceedings. Arbitrators appointed by SIAC have an understanding of cultural nuances, including those relevant to Indian parties.
▪ SIAC’s multinational Secretariat which is responsible for providing case management services, comprises experienced lawyers qualified in civil and common law jurisdictions, including India and is led by Mr Kevin Nash, the Registrar and Mr Vivekananda Neelakantan as the Deputy Registrar.
▪ Arbitrations at SIAC operate on an ad valorem system, in which the costs of the arbitration are generally based on the value of the claim. Thus, the arbitrators’ fees are subject to a maximum cap in accordance with the SIAC Schedule of Fees.
▪ SIAC controls timelines of cases. According to SIAC’s Costs and Duration Study released in October 2016, the mean duration of cases is 13.0 months. In the event that parties would like a ‘fast-track’ arbitration, the SIAC Expedited Procedure requires the final award to be issued within 6 months of the constitution of the Tribunal, unless the Registrar extends the time for making the final award.
▪ SIAC conducts scrutiny of the arbitral award, reducing the risk that there would be enforcement issues. SIAC arbitration awards have been enforced in many jurisdictions including Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam, amongst other New York Convention signatories. In fact, based on a empirical study of the reported judgments, we found that no SIAC award was set aside or refused enforcement by the Indian Courts during the period from 2011 to 2022.
▪ SIAC has benefited from being headquartered in Singapore. Singapore's geographical proximity to India makes it a convenient and accessible arbitration destination for Indian parties. The ease of travel and communication contributes to the practicality of choosing SIAC as a preferred arbitral institution. We also remain highly accessible to our Indian users, with our Representative Offices in India (Mumbai and GIFT City), headed by Ms Shwetha Bidhuri, Director & Head, South Asia and supported by Ms Steffi Mary Punnose, Strategy & Development Manager, South Asia.
FICL: You have been actively involved in shaping the mediation environment in Singapore since the early 2000s. How do you perceive the evolution of the mediation landscape since then?
Gloria Lim: My initial exposure to mediation in the early 2000s was when I was tasked to develop the Community Mediation Centres in Singapore. At that time, we were still laying the foundations for mediation. The Singapore Mediation Centre was set up in 1997 to handle commercial disputes, and the Community Mediation Centre was set up in 1998 to handle community disputes. The Courts were also working on promoting use of mediation for certain types of disputes. The focus was largely on domestic disputes. As mediation was fairly new to members of the public, we had to do a lot of public education, to explain the mediation process and persuade them about mediation’s benefits. It took some time for mediation to become more prevalent, but I think it is fair to say that mediation has become an important mode through which many of our domestic community, social and commercial disputes are resolved today.
The impetus for developing Singapore’s international mediation framework came about a decade later, having learnt from our experience in growing international arbitration. In 2013, our Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Minister for Law, K Shanmugam convened an international expert working group to look into developing Singapore into a centre for international commercial mediation. The working group’s recommendations resulted in various important developments such as the enactment of a Mediation Act to strengthen enforceability of mediated settlement agreements, as well as the establishment of the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC), and the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI). The idea of hybrid processes such as Arb-Med-Arb were also birthed from this set of recommendations.
In November 2014, SIAC and the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) launched the Arbitration-Mediation-Arbitration Protocol. Arb-Med-Arb is a two-tiered mechanism whereby a dispute is referred to arbitration before mediation. If the parties are able to settle their dispute through mediation, the mediated settlement may be recorded as a consent award thereby allowing international enforceability under the New York Convention.
The mediation landscape in Singapore today is vibrant. We have an active mediator community in Singapore, and there continues to be growing interest in mediation. The coming into force of the Singapore Convention on Mediation in 2020 has given mediation a boost by strengthening the international enforceability of mediated settlements. Commercial parties are now more willing to give mediation a try for their cross-border disputes, and we can see that from the Singapore International Mediation Centre’s growing caseload.
We also see that mediation is developing in other jurisdictions, and many are enacting legislation to provide support for the process. I believe we will continue to see development in this space.
FICL: What are your insights regarding the recently passed Indian Mediation Act of 2023?
Gloria Lim: The passage of the Indian Mediation Act of 2023 is a significant development, reflecting India's commitment to providing a comprehensive framework supporting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and giving users a range of useful dispute resolution options. Mediation supports a collaborative approach to dispute resolution, and will be useful for example for disputes where parties have an ongoing relationship which they wish to preserve, or want the flexibility to explore solutions that may not be covered by the contractual terms.
FICL: Are there any specific routines or activities you would suggest young lawyers consistently undertake to enhance their expertise in the arbitration field?
Gloria Lim: Developing expertise in the field of arbitration is a dynamic journey that involves a combination of learning, practical experience, and forming deep networks. For young lawyers aspiring to enhance their proficiency in arbitration, I would suggest that they develop a lifelong interest in learning and regularly read legal publications, journals, and updates on international arbitration to stay informed about recent developments, landmark cases, and emerging trends.
Participating in arbitration conferences, seminars, and workshops is also important for younger practitioners to learn from experts, gain insights into best practices, and interact with other practitioners.
There are a number of arbitration courses that are particularly useful for younger practitioners in gaining a comprehensive understanding of arbitration principles, procedures, and best practices.
I think that by incorporating these routines and activities into their professional development, young lawyers can build a strong foundation and expertise in the field of arbitration.