Criminality tops list of bankers' worries

Banking professionals here are increasingly concerned about financial and cyber crime as well as the macro-economic situation.

The Banking Banana Skins survey of bankers, regulators and industry observers found the biggest worry here was criminality - which came in second across the globe - followed by technology risk.

Non-profit London-based Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, which is sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), conducted the survey in September and October. It received 672 responses from 52 countries including from 23 respondents based here, and was mostly done online.

Mr Antony Eldridge, financial services leader at PwC Singapore, said: "Year after year, cyber attacks continue to escalate in frequency, severity and breadth of impact. The banking industry is hugely vulnerable through the weakest links in its systems.

"As cyber risks rightly gain increasing prominence in boardrooms, business leaders need to radically rethink cyber security practices, focusing on a concoction of innovative technologies that maximise protection levels."

Singapore ranked concerns over the macro-economic environment third. PwC added that this reflected "concerns sparked by weak growth in China, which has had a knock-on effect on regional economies and softer commodity prices, increasing the vulnerability of banks through their exposure to debt and their need for liquidity".

The macro-economic environment was the No. 1 concern for banks worldwide, "knocking excessive regulation, long a high-ranking risk in this survey, from top spot last year", said PwC.

The survey also ranks Singapore the fifth-most anxious nation. Hong Kong was first and Malaysia second. It ranks overall anxiety levels on a scale from zero to five, with five being the most severe.

Singapore scored 3.25 this year, higher than the global level of 3.13.

Ms Karen Loon, banking and capital markets leader at PwC Singapore, noted banks and regulators have indeed worked on better risk controls. However, she said "banks still have more to do to address the scale of risk and its ever changing nature".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Criminality tops list of bankers' worries'. Print Edition | Subscribe