MAS, banks association issue paper on mitigating remote working risks

MAS said financial institutions are advised to benchmark their remote working controls against the examples in the paper. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Extensive remote working arrangements open up financial institutions to multiple risks - some of them related to daily operations and information security and technology, and others to fraud and staff misconduct.

On Tuesday (March 2), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) jointly issued a paper on managing risks arising from remote working arrangements adopted by financial institutions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The paper, titled "Risk Management and Operational Resilience in a Remote Working Environment", shows financial institutions how to pre-empt such risks, given extended remote working due to the coronavirus outbreak and the likely adoption of hybrid working arrangements in the future.

MAS said financial institutions are advised to benchmark their remote working controls against the examples in the paper.

The paper draws from the experiences of ABS member banks, and suggests key risk management actions needed to address areas of concern.

For example, in the area of business continuity management, financial institutions should enhance business continuity strategies and procedures to consider the large-scale distribution of their staff across many locations.

This includes implementing response strategies for recovery team members to resume work quickly.

To prevent cyber-security risks, institutions can implement controls to ensure that staff remote working infrastructure, including personal devices, is secured.

And to guard against fraud, they can implement guidelines to identify situations where in-person meetings, site visits and verification against original documents are required.

MAS and ABS said the risks and risk mitigation measures set out in the paper are also applicable to non-bank financial institutions.

Mr Ong Chong Tee, deputy managing director (financial supervision) at MAS, said financial institutions in Singapore were able to swiftly adapt to remote working and split-team arrangements in response to Covid-19.

"The operational resilience of our financial institutions during this period reflects the soundness of their business continuity management plans. It also underscores the importance of regular tests through internal drills and industry-wide exercises jointly organised by the MAS and the financial industry," he added.

"Investments in the digitalisation of work processes and services over the past five years have also enabled our financial institutions to continue to provide a high level of support to meet the needs of individuals and businesses during the pandemic."

ABS chairman Samuel Tsien said the paper will serve as "a valuable reference guide to all banks as remote and flexible work arrangements continue to be adopted as the pandemic evolves".

"The paper is also a good guide to banks when dealing with other types of crises," he added.

Chan Kok Seong, UOB group chief risk officer, said that risk management is embedded in the bank's organisational culture and employees are held to high standards of professional and personal ethics.

"This strong risk culture is consistent, whether we are working in the office, within a branch or remotely," said Mr Chan.

As more processes have been digitalised, UOB has also ensured associated risks are managed. For example, when it comes to remote customer onboarding via video calls, steps are taken to ensure the customer's identity can be verified, as part of account opening processes.

The bank is also using digital signatures to validate and to verify documents as they provide a layer of security and authentication to minimise the risk of fraud or forgery and protect customers.

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