Banking (Amendment) Bill 2016
1 Mr Deputy Speaker, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time”.
2 Over the years, MAS has consistently held our banks to stringent capital and liquidity standards. This approach has served us well, as Singapore’s banking system has remained resilient in the face of the global financial crisis of 2008.
3 Following the crisis, MAS has been actively involved in coordinated efforts among international regulators to strengthen capital and liquidity standards for banks, and to create a more robust international banking system. Likewise within Singapore, MAS has been refining the regulatory and supervisory framework to strengthen the resilience of our financial institutions and to enhance the stability of the financial system as a whole. The Banking (Amendment) Bill forms part of this effort.
4 MAS has consulted extensively with the industry and the public on the policy changes and the draft Bill. It has studied the feedback received and incorporated it into the Bill where appropriate.
5 Mr Speaker Sir, I will now go through the three broad areas of amendments in the Bill.
Enhancing Prudential Safeguards
6 First, to strengthen prudential safeguards and enhance depositor protection.
7 Currently, a foreign bank can choose to operate in Singapore as a branch or a locally-incorporated subsidiary. A bank branch will rely on support from its head office, which is subject to capital and other requirements imposed by its home regulator on a group basis. In contrast, a locally-incorporated subsidiary will have its own capital, and be subject to MAS’ capital and other regulatory requirements.
8 The Bill will empower MAS to require a foreign bank branch to incorporate all or part of its banking business, where this is in the interest of the public, the bank’s depositors, or the domestic financial system. This new regulatory power forms part of the suite of policy measures for domestic systemically important banks, or “D-SIBs”, announced by MAS in April last year. In retail banking in particular, a bank with significant retail presence – defined as having more than 3% of resident non-bank deposits, and more than 150,000 deposit accounts with balances below S$250,000 – will be designated a D-SIB and be required to subsidiarise its retail operations. The subsidiary will then be subject to MAS’ own regulatory requirements, based on its risk profile.
9 The Bill will also empower MAS to impose prudential requirements that cap banks’ leverage and ensure that they maintain sufficient liquidity. As I mentioned earlier, MAS has always maintained high standards of prudential regulation and supervision for our banks, in fact somewhat higher than in most other jurisdictions. Over the years, we have developed a system of regulation that allows well-managed risk-taking and innovation, ensuring the stable and sustainable development of the financial services sector. This Bill will update our rules to reflect new international standards, which MAS has been involved in shaping through its participation in various international financial forums.
Strengthening Corporate Governance
10 The second purpose of the Bill is to strengthen the corporate governance of banks.
11 Effective corporate governance plays a critical role in ensuring robust risk management, decision-making and accountability within banks. The Bill will vest MAS with the power to direct a bank to remove key appointment holders, including its chief executive officer and deputy chief executive officer, if they are found to be not fit and proper. The grounds of removal will be aligned with the criteria for approving their appointments. To enhance MAS’ oversight of these appointments, the Bill will require banks to notify MAS as soon as they become aware of any material information which may negatively affect the fitness or propriety of any director or executive officer whose appointment was approved by MAS.
12 The Bill will also repeal the provision that makes bank directors jointly and severally liable for any bank losses arising from credit facilities or exposures to the directors and their related parties. The provision was intended to emphasise the fiduciary duty bank directors owed to their bank. However, based on feedback provided by the banks, this provision discourages candidates from taking up bank directorships. MAS has also assessed that it does not provide effective oversight over banks’ related party transactions (“RPTs”).
13 To address the potential conflicts of interest arising from RPTs, MAS will require a bank to conduct all its RPTs on an arm’s length basis, and to obtain board approval before entering into RPTs that pose material risks to the bank. The Bill will also enhance MAS’ powers to direct a bank to terminate, prohibit and restrict transactions that the bank enters into with its related parties, if these are deemed detrimental to depositors’ interests.
14 The Bill will also enhance corporate governance of banks by reinforcing the complementary role of external auditors in assessing a bank’s risks and internal controls. This will be done through a few key measures, such as the introduction of a safe harbour provision to protect banks’ external auditors from liability where they disclose confidential information to MAS as part of their reporting obligations under the Banking Act. Further, MAS will be empowered to direct a bank to remove its external auditors if they have not discharged their statutory duties satisfactorily.
Ensure Adequate Risk Management Controls
15 Third, to reinforce banks’ risk management controls.
16 The amendments will formalise MAS’ expectation that banks establish risk management systems and controls that are commensurate with their business profiles and operations. MAS will be able to impose penalties on banks that fail to do so.
17 The Bill will also require banks to seek MAS’ approval to establish new places of business where certain non-banking activities, such as money-changing and remittance businesses, are conducted. This will allow MAS to exercise better oversight of banks’ activities at such locations. For example, MAS will be able to require a bank to institute adequate safeguards against money laundering and terrorism financing, before it can commence money-changing and remittance businesses at new locations.
18 Besides these three broad areas, there are also several significant amendments to update the banking regulatory framework.
(i) First, the Bill will introduce a requirement for banks to immediately inform MAS of adverse developments that may materially affect them. In the case of a bank incorporated in Singapore, this extends to any adverse developments that may materially affect related entities of the bank. This will allow MAS to take the necessary supervisory action in a timely manner.
(ii) Second, the Bill will empower MAS to inspect the local and overseas subsidiaries of a bank incorporated in Singapore. It will also allow the parent supervisory authority of a foreign bank or merchant bank to inspect all financial activities of the bank or merchant bank in Singapore, upon MAS’ approval. These changes facilitate the consolidated supervision of internationally active banks and merchant banks.
(iii) Finally, amendments have been made to rationalise the penalty provisions for the contravention of the various requirements in the Act.
19 Mr Speaker Sir, a sound and progressive financial sector will create a strong foundation for sustainable economic growth. These amendments to the Banking Act will help strengthen the banking industry and align our regulatory regime with international best practices.
20 Sir, I beg to move.