HNIG Press Release 31st Oct 2008
1. On Thursday 30th October 2008, in response to a petition by the High Notes Investor Group (HNIG), DBS met up with approximately 400 investors of their DBS High Notes 5 (HN5) product in two separate sessions. Session 1 started at 2.00pm and Session 2 was at 5.00pm.
2. Both sessions were originally scheduled to last one hour, but eventually ran for more than two and a half hours each time.
3. Many attendees urged DBS to treat all investorsas a group rather than go through a case-by-case process on the subject of compensation.
4. To buttress the above argument, the HNIG revealed at the forum that they had requested an industry insider who has experience structuring such products to go through the HN5 pricing statement. After a six-hour preliminary analysis of both the document as well as the real-life experiences of investors, it would seem that in HN5, there appears to be SYSTEMIC Failure on three fronts:
a) Failure in the PRODUCT
i) Product was arranged, issued and sold by DBS
ii) Product was leveraged on Credit Default Swaps
iii) Product was secured on CDOs
b) Failure in the SALES PROCESS
i) Product was sold through a large sales force who were inadequately trained, and
ii) Relationship managers who were and are still not familiar with HN5 and customer’s suitability
c) Failure in CUSTOMER TARGETING
i) HN5 was sold to inappropriate customers
ii) HN5 was targeted at customers with little or no knowledge of financial concepts like CDS, CDOs, and Leverage
Because of the failures in the product itself, we are asking DBS to undertake compensation in a blanket or collective manner, and not on a case-by-case basis.
5. DBS was also questioned on the issue of RISK MANAGEMENT – there appears to have been serious lapses in this area that has resulted in a detrimental impact on the customers of HN5.
6. In response to questioning, Mr Rajan Raju, Head of Consumer Banking admitted that the HN5 is “NOT a low risk product”. Further, in response to a pointed question on the actual risks inherent in HN5, Ms Frances Chan, Senior Vice-President revealed that, on a scale of 1 to 10, the HN5 product was a “8 to 9”. We feel that a risk factor as high as this is in no way commensurate with the relatively low returns from HN5 and a locked-in period of 5.5 years. This bolsters our argument of the presence of a Systemic Failure in HN5.
7. One attendee questioned the rationale for GIC to pump billions of dollars of government reserves into UBS and Citigroup to bail out foreigners while a government-linked bank like DBS is being parsimonious in compensating its customers in a cut-and-dried case of mis-selling and misrepresentation.
8. Many attendees highlighted their long-standing relationships with POSB/DBS, some stretching over a period of more than 30 years. They expressed a deeply felt sense of betrayal by DBS which they said violated their trust in the bank. Many also spoke of their past willingness to buy products from DBS because they saw it as “the national bank” they could have complete trust in.
9. There were detailed questioning on DBS’s ability and competence in giving timely advice on the status of HN5. Attendees referred specifically to a letter dated 31 March 2008 which had actually advised DBS customers to hold HN5 to maturity.
10. At least one attendee made the point that the overall mishandling by DBS of its affected customers will result in an eventual pulling-out of funds from DBS to its competitor banks, with a concomitant negative impact on its share price. The latter had already fallen drastically in recent weeks, a phenomenon which most analysts attributed partly to the fallout from its High Notes 5 debacle.
11. The immediate post-forum reaction of most attendees is that the Thursday sessions have not moved the complaint nor the compensation processes forward in any significant manner. In comments to HNIG, many people expressed the doubt that if DBS had sold HN5 in an irresponsible manner to make money, how seriously could they be taken when they are now in a damage control mode. The basis for such comments arises from bruising encounters customers have had with DBS’s Investor Care personnel in interview sessions where sometimes three to four staffers question a lone customer.
Others felt that DBS in referring Relationship Managers to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is missing an important point - in the words of one DBS customer, “If the RM doesn’t know what he is doing, if he is set impossible targets, and if he is rewarded based on commissions, whose fault is it? DBS must teach RMs first”.
12. HNIG is a group of DBS High Notes (HN) investors that has been formed to communicate with DBS and undertake relevant collective actions where and when necessary.
13. HNIG currently has about 300 investors in our contact list and these consist of investors of various HNs. More joined during the dialogue sessions yesterday. HNIG handed out leaflets to request HN investors to turn up at 4.30pm on Saturday 1 November 2008 at Hong Lim Park (Clarke Quay MRT station).
14. For any clarifications, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Our blog can be found at http://dbshns.blogspot.com.
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