New industry group to raise standards of culture and conduct among banks

The skyline of Singapore's central business district seen in a photo taken on March 19, 2019. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Amid a global erosion of trust in the banking industry, a new group has been formed to promote better culture and conduct among banks in Singapore.

The Culture and Conduct Steering Group has representatives from 13 banks as well as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), and is chaired by DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon. Group members from the banks have roles in business, risk management, compliance and human resources in their own organisations.

The MAS and ABS said in a joint statement on Wednesday (May 22) that the group's aims are to identify best practices and share them with banks to facilitate their adoption; monitor trends and identify emerging conduct and culture issues within the banking industry; and collaborate with MAS on initiatives to promote strong culture and conduct, such as performing industry self-assessments or updating codes of behaviour.

MAS assistant managing director for banking and industry Ho Hern Shin said good culture and conduct builds customer trust, lays the foundation for sustainable business growth and enhances the financial strength of banks.

ABS director Ong-Ang Ai Boon also said that the new group will help to ensure integrity and ethical behaviour. "It builds on our existing practices to embed these values deeply among our member banks, so that as an industry, we will achieve higher standards of culture and conduct for our customers," she said.

MAS and ABS said the formation of the group is part of MAS' efforts to work with banks to strengthen ethical business practices that safeguard customers' interests, and prudent risk-taking behaviour and robust risk management that support the banks' safety and soundness.

They highlighted a recent report on banking conduct and culture by the Group of Thirty - an independent global body of economic and financial leaders - which said that industry-wide dialogue and sharing of best practices are key to a stronger and healthier banking industry.

DBS' Mr Shee said there is potential to do more in the "nascent area" of culture.

"Banks understand the need to focus on culture as it drives the behaviour of their employees and leads to positive outcomes for customers," he said.

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