Active supervision 'vital for banking'

A culture of responsibility and robust regulation is vital for healthy and sustainable banking, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Tuesday.

Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said: "Active and sometimes intrusive supervision of banks, and particularly of global banks, has to be at the foundation for stable banking and finance."

Supervision is a responsibility that the regulator has to perform, he said.

Critically, refocusing on responsible culture within banks is also needed, he added, rather than the overemphasis on the structures and sizes of banks in current policy debates.

"A culture where the board and the management keep asking questions, never get too mesmerised by the optimisation of statistical risks and focus on the risks that can't be quantified, the uncertainties that can't be anticipated well in advance," Mr Tharman said.

He was speaking at an event celebrating Citi Singapore's 110 years in Singapore as well as the bank's 200th anniversary this year, held at the Flower Dome in Gardens By The Bay.

It was hosted by Citigroup chief executive Vikram Pandit, Citi's Asia-Pacific CEO Stephen Bird and Citi's country officer for Singapore, Mr Michael Zink.

Mr Tharman added that he was encouraged that Citi was at the forefront of focusing again on the basics of banking and finance to grow economies and to serve and grow with clients. He also noted that in the last three years, Citi Singapore has increased its number of employees by 30 per cent, to about 10,000 today, creating "good jobs for locals".

"You (Citi) are taking advantage of Asia's continuing growth and emergence and you are a leading player in Asia. In doing so, you are also fortifying Singapore's role as a regional and global financial centre," he said.

At the event, Citigroup also presented a cheque for $100,000 - from funds raised by Citi employees - to Mr Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division. The money will go to ChildAid, an annual charity concert that supports The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and The Business Times Budding Artists Fund.

songyuan@sph.com.sg