MAS' Response to COVID-19
Ensuring Safe Management and Operational Resilience of the Financial Sector
The financial industry continued to provide a high level of service to customers throughout the Circuit Breaker period, as well as Phases One and Two of the re-opening. Reflecting Singapore’s role as a leading international financial centre in Asia, financial institutions (FIs) continued to operate their wholesale and international businesses normally. This was possible through FIs’ agile adjustments to work processes, the pervasive deployment of digital solutions, and FIs’ business continuity planning. The biennial industry-wide business continuity exercises, jointly organised by MAS and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), had strengthened the financial sector’s operational resilience. The experience and learning points gathered from the exercises, as well as the regular drills conducted by FIs, have helped FIs to be better prepared to deal with the operational issues arising from COVID-19.
Even as FIs maintained a high level of service provision to customers through the Circuit Breaker period, they had put in place Safe Management measures at workplaces and customer service locations to protect the health and safety of employees and customers. These included work from home arrangements, split operations for critical operations, staggered and flexible work hours to allow FI employees to minimise travel on public transport during peak hours.
At customer service locations, FIs enhanced their precautionary measures. These included applying anti-microbial coating at ATMs, using the SafeEntry visitor management system, leveraging online channels to reduce face-to-face interactions between customers and staff, and demarcating safe physical distances of at least 1 metre apart at the locations.
MAS engaged FIs on their onsite business resumption plans, and conducted monitoring and inspections of FIs’ business premises for adherence to Safe Management measures. MAS also worked with ABS to establish the Return to Onsite Operations Taskforce (ROOT) since May 2020, as a public-private partnership initiative. ROOT sought to bolster the financial industry’s readiness to embrace and implement Safe Management measures and operational resilience through active discussions and co-ordination as well as promulgation of industry best practices.
MAS and the FIs’ various business continuity measures during the COVID-19 pandemic were made possible because of our sustained investments in digitalisation over the past few years. These included initiatives such as:
- Integration of MyInfo and MyInfo Business to streamline banks’ due diligence checks and improve the digital on-boarding experience
- Launch of PayNow in 2017 and PayNow Corporate in 2018, to enable individuals and businesses to seamlessly and securely transfer funds using their mobile numbers, NRIC/FIN, or Unique Entity Numbers
- Launch of SGQR in 2018, which consolidated multiple payment QR codes into a single label and simplified the overall QR payments process