MAS advises banks on additional measures amid higher coronavirus outbreak alert level

MAS said that financial institutions should anticipate and be prepared to manage any increase in demand for certain financial services.
MAS said that financial institutions should anticipate and be prepared to manage any increase in demand for certain financial services.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's central bank has asked financial institutions here to take additional measures and precautions after the Government raised the alert level on the coronavirus outbreak.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Sunday morning (Feb 9) that financial institutions should anticipate and be prepared to manage any increase in demand for certain financial services - such as cash withdrawal or online financial services.

They should also inform customers promptly of the availability of services and operating hours.

While carrying out their business continuity plans, financial institutions should also "continue to maintain effective internal controls across their operations should split team arrangements be implemented", said the MAS. They should also monitor and support staff morale.

Its latest advisory to financial institutions, its third since last month, comes after Singapore raised its coronavirus alert level from yellow to orange on Friday and reported more cases not linked to previous infections or travel to China.

When contacted by The Straits Times, a DBS spokesman said: “During this time, we understand that more customers may prefer to bank with us digitally, and are closely monitoring the situation to ensure we continue to deliver a seamless banking experience.”

The bank said that with the raising of the response alert level on Friday, it has put in place additional measures at its branches since Saturday to ensure the health and well-being of our staff and customers. Specifically, temperature screening and the completion of a health declaration form are required for all customers seeking to enter branch premises. 

“Apart from that, branch operating hours remain unchanged and it is business as usual,” it said.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC Bank’s head of group brand and communications, told ST the bank is prepared should there be any increase in customer demand for services such as cash withdrawals at its ATMs.

She added: “About 3 in 5 of our customers are now digital customers and about 9 in 10 of financial transactions are done on mobile devices. Our online systems are also well-equipped to handle any surge in online banking usage.”

UOB told ST that staff involved in the bank’s critical functions and services will be working from split sites, from home and on split shifts. “This will ensure all banking services remain operational and secure,” a UOB spokesman said.

UOB customers who are unwell or prefer not to visit the bank at this time can use the bank's mobile, phone and internet banking options. Meanwhile, UOB staff who directly serve the bank’s customers will wear face masks while engaging with the public.

The MAS in its advisory on Sunday also reminded financial institutions to remain vigilant on the cyber security front and beware of cyber threat actors taking advantage of the situation to conduct email scams, phishing and ransomware attacks.