Reply to Parliamentary Question on convertible bonds
QUESTION NO 3678
NOTICE PAPER 2144 OF 2020
FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
Date: For Parliament Sitting on 5 June 2020
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Assoc Prof Walter Theseira, NMP
To ask the Prime Minister whether MAS will review if convertible bonds should be issued, marketed, sold or traded to retail investors in light of the complexity and risks associated with these hybrid securities.
Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:
1 In regulating the sale of investment products, MAS’ objective is to empower investors to make informed investment decisions which are compatible with their investment objectives, risk appetite, and financial situation. Our approach has worked well so far, and is a common approach adopted by many advanced jurisdictions.
2 Hence, for complex investment products which the average retail investor may not understand, MAS requires financial institutions (FIs) to implement various safeguards, including:
First, assessing a customer’s investment knowledge and experience before selling the product to the customer;
Second, explaining to the customer the general features and risks associated with investing in such products; or;
Third, advising the customer on the suitability of the product.
3 Convertible bonds are currently classified as non-complex as the product is well-established in the market, and the terms and features can be understood by most retail investors. It is sold as a bond, and stays as a bond, unless the investor or the issuer decides to convert it to equity.
4 However, in recent years, issuers have introduced non-conventional convertible bonds with features that retail investors may not be familiar with. For example, certain bonds may not have a fixed maturity date or may be converted to equity upon the occurrence of certain trigger events which are beyond the investor’s control. MAS is therefore reviewing the classification of these products and other hybrid securities. MAS expects to issue a public consultation paper by the end of the year.