Take extra step to help laymen with investment decisions

In responding to Dr Jeremy Teo Chin Ghee (Timely to encourage retail bond market, April 5), Temasek International argued against tighter regulations and said that the current regulations require comprehensive disclosure of risks (Bond issues should be easy to understand for retail investors, April 8).

But it also acknowledged that the question was about whether people read the disclosures and whether they are accessible and understandable to a lay reader.

Temasek International suggested that debt issuers and their advisers consider its approach of providing a gatefold that provides relevant financial and business information in a retail-friendly and easy-to-understand manner as a supplement to offering documents.

That may be a step in the right direction. But why not go even further and make it a regulatory requirement for all debt issues that are open to retail investors to be rated by a major rating agency such as Moody's or Standard & Poor's?

After all, no matter how retail-friendly the information disclosures are made, can we realistically expect the man in the street who is not trained in financial and business analysis to digest all the information provided and come to a good assessment of the credit risks involved?

Retail investors should be given that extra bit of help in making an informed investment decision.

If the debt issue is then rated below investment grade and a retail investor still decides to purchase the bonds, at least we can say that he went in with his eyes open.

Alfred Chan Hock Yuen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2019, with the headline 'Take extra step to help laymen with investment decisions'. Print Edition | Subscribe