Saturday, August 01, 2009

Great Eastern Life shows the way

Great Eastern Life has decided to give a full refund to purchasers of its GreatLink Choice policies. The refund is for the full invested sum, less any payments received by the policyholders. The total loss from the buy back is estimated to be $250 million.

Great Link Choice is a structured product that guaranteed against the failure of a certain number of collaterialised debt obligations (CDO). Due to the financial crisis, several CDOs have defaulted and the value of the structured product (GLC) had dropped considerably.

Great Eastern Life probably took this decision to buy back the product, following complaints by policyholders that they were badly or wrongly advised by the insurance advisers.

I congratulate Great Eastern Life and its parent company, OCBC Bank, for taking this bold decision. This will give relief to 18,000 the policyholders, who must have agonised over the loss of their savings during the past year.

On hearing the news yesterday, I wondered whether the loss would be borne by the policyholders in general (out of the surplus used to pay their bonuses) or by the shareholders. From the Straits Times report, it appears that the loss will be borne by the shareholders, including the parent company. This is a fair and correct approach, and I congratulate Great Eastern Life and OCBC for this decision as well.

I hope that Great Eastern Life will enhance its reputation by offering life insurance products (for savings and protection) that give good value to consumers, while making a reasonable profit for its shareholders. This require the products to be kept simple, described transparently and for the commission, marketing and other expenses to be kept at a modest level.

Being the oldest local life insurance company with 100 years of history, Great Easter Life can set a lead in this new direction to serve the people of Singapore.

I hope that this decision by Great Eastern Life will encourage the banks and stock-broking firms in Singapore, who have sold similar products to their customers, including the Lehman Minibonds, DBS High Notes, Morgan Stanley Pinnacle Notes and the Merill Lynch Jubilee Notes, to make a similar buy back offer to their customers who were badly or wrongly advised on these structured products.

Even if the financial institutions do not adopt the buy back arrangement similar to Great Eastern Life, a settlement similar to the one adopted in Hong Kong will be appreciated by the investors of these credit linked notes in Singapore.

I hope that the Monetary Authority of Singapore will encourage these financial institutions to consider such a settlement.

Tan Kin Lian


Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Tan.
You have done a good deed.
Thank you for bringing this piece of good news.

Anonymous said...

"Introducer" claimed by the so call IFA is just a smoke screen to fool people.

Why some FAs resort to this?

Is it professional?

Lion Investor said...

This is a wonderful move by GE and has to be applauded.

With regards to your point about whether the loss should be borne by shareholders or policyholders, note that while GE will have to spend $250 million to make this early redemption, if you think about it, this $250 million is not exactly a loss at all.

Remember that none of the Greatlink Choice has defaulted yet and if it stays the same way, GE would have to refund 100% of the premiums at maturity back to investors anyway.

In giving this early payout, they would be redeeming at less than 100% of the capital as it is net of total payouts received.

Of course, if there is a default subsequently, then GE would have to bear the loss themselves.

A win-win for both parties as the redemption is optional.

Anonymous said...

Great Eastern has certainly won my trust with this move. I will look out for Great Eastern to do my next investment. At least I know this is a company that takes care of customers when situation turns bad. This is a big contrast to the financial institutions that sold the minibonds who left their customers in lurch. Once again, well done to GE for showing the way!

Mr GL Gan

Anonymous said...

I salute GE and its parent OCBC for taking this proactive approach. This can only bring to them more new customers as well as continued support from its present customers. I am wondering what MAS got to say and those banks that sold the toxic products. Must we alway follow the Hong Kong government position or action? As for example, DBS in HK is reimbursing 60% to its customers. If DBS HK thinks that they do no wrong in selling the toxic product, they should not follow and perhaps sue the HK government. But if they reimburse its customers in HK, how about its customers in Singapore? I find it very ridiculous and urge MAS to have a firm statement regarding the sale of such products. I am very disappointed with our authority by sitting on the fence.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Tan. Alot of the credit must go to you and all the others that have worked so tirelessly to make people aware of the circumstances in which investors were persuaded to invest their funds.

Anonymous said...

Way to go! I do not know why it took so long for a FI to make this decision to think out of the box and just do it. It is no doubt the right thing .. and smart thing... to do. It is so simple. Be the first to do this compensation. Do you think this FI lose? No! Everybody hears that this FI is good, is reasonable, so in future, when they want insurance, the first thing they consider is this FI, GREAT EASTERN. More will come and buy insurance from them, because they are reasonable.

Those idiotic FI's who don't compensate, ignore the clients woes, count only dollars and cents, then the customers will all be scared of them and disappear and don't buy from them any more, it is fatal for the FI to behave like such.. in the long term. They are so short sighted!!! Why can't DBS have the foresight and do something like GE does. It is too late now, their reputation is beyond redemption, thanks to some high official up there somewhere with iron fist policy and couldnt think out of the box.

Anonymous said...

Yes. A smart move.
It is a win-win situation.

It was win the hearts of its policy holders.

If we could help even in a small way to other who suffer, why not??

The coy also protect its good name and enhance its image.
It is a smart move welcome by even the other policy holders.

Even if I am a shareholders, I don't mind also.
Why not help others in distress to help yourself??

Tan Kin Lian said...

Hi Lion investor,
I read a report that the current value of the units of the Great Link Choice varies from 12% to 60%. It seems that, on average, the units have dropped 65% in value. So, the loss to Great Eastern Life is $150 million, based on the market value now.

I suspect that the market value may have understated its true value, due to lack of liquidity. Perhaps, the real cost to Great Eastern on this decision is $100 million.

I hope that this move will encourage the banks and stockbroking firm to review their stance towards investors who have NOT been compensated.

Anonymous said...

Great Eastern has certainly set a new benchmark.

Let's see if the rest re-adjusts their corporate benchmark and follow along.

Sigh. Is it really so difficult to "do the right thing"?

Anonymous said...


Your work is not futile.

Anonymous said...

I was very angry at GEL for selling me this product. Now that they have taken the right move, I praise them, and respect them from my heart.

They have turn a "bad" situation into a good one. Well done, GEL. Thank you.

Tan Kin Lian said...

More information about Great Link Choice can be found in this blog:

Tony said...

Lion Investor

So does it mean that if there're no defaults GE would actually profit because investors' investments have been transferred to them and now GE would have gotten back 100% of investors' capital? Thanks

GOHCT said...

I hope that OCBC Securities Pte Ltd will follow what Great Eastern did. After they are under OCBC Bank.

Come on, OCBC Securities Management now is your turn to follow what Great Eastern did for the client. Don't Hide and keep Quiet, waiting for things to turn ugly

Anonymous said...

Hi Kin Lian

In CNA news, it says that the total costs of buying back the GLC is $594m. I think $250m is the estimated drop in value of the bonds that GE hareholders have to bear.

Anonymous said...

With the sharp rebounce of the world mkts, many of the investment values have gone up sharply. All the FI have denfinitely benefitted from it and would be announcing sharply increase in profits or even record profits for the next two to three years.

Many who bgt credit notes do not have the means to recover their losses at all. The FIs should follow GE example to help their customers. Anyway, it's only a fraction of their yearly profits.

Anonymous said...

""Does it mean that if there're no defaults GE would actually profit because investors' investments have been transferred to them and now GE would have gotten back 100% of investors' capital? ""

Even if they profit, they are taking a risk which we do not want to take.

I sincerely priase them for the courage and the high moral standard.

They had done the right thing. They must much better than other FIs. Hope they can follow suit.

HK made a big mistake. Now they take the right steps, and have win the praise the world over.

Please do not self praise yourself. You must win the praise of others.
Thank you. GEL.

Anonymous said...

Just received a letter from DBS that my investment in the "DBS DOUBLE BONUS CAPITAL PROTECTED FUND" is at risk because of a potential credit event. However it also says that I can expect to receive 100% payout upon maturity in April 2011 provided that there is "no further credits events or bond replacements in the Fund". I am very confused and worried now as I have no idea what DBS intend to do to my money. :-(

I was advised into putting my money in this when I tried to renew my fixed deposit and was told that it is a "Capital Protected Fund" and I don't have to worry about anything. Is this correct? Someone help me to understand, please. Your kindness would be very much appreciated. The letter says that I can contact their branch but I don't trust them.

Anonymous said...

Is it really a win-win situation?

At the end of the day, someone must pay for the loss. If the loss is not borne by those who invested, ultimately it is borne by those who did not invest but are customers of GEL.

Anonymous 1 Aug 10.15am said "I was very angry at GEL for selling me this product". What logic is this? It is liks sayig you are very angry at somebody for selling you a TV set. Shouldn't you be bearing some responsibility? You should also be angry with yourself.

A Singaporean said...

Thank you, GreatEastern Life!

Also thank you, Mr. Tan et al.! I don't think they will make such an offer without pressure from people like you.

Anonymous said...

Unlike the 10 FI's fingured by MAS for a host of breaches and their stout denials of wrong doings in clearly indefensible positions, GE and its parent OCBC has been responsible. I will from today slowly shift my business away from such banks as DBS, Maybank, ABNamro, etc to OCBC. You never know somewhere in the future these structured products will make a comeback in another form. Look at the American Investment bankers - before the ink dries, they are back to their old money grabbing ways and creating the the kind of situation that led to the financial crisis. The public rescues them so that they can pay themselves huge bonuses even when they lose money and still have not repaid the loans! OCBC takes responsibility to the tune of $218m and they don't even sell the product directly. Compare that with DBS which CREATED THE STRUCTURED PRODUCT AND SOLD TO UNWARY CLIENTS of only $104m but fights tooth and nail, vehemently denies wrongdoings, compensates the uneducated and elderly only about $7m, REFUSES TO DISCLOSE HOW MUCH IT MAKES FROM THE STRUCTURED PRODUCTS IT CREATED But it is prepared to compensate Hongkongers! Calls itself the National Bank? Shame on you!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tan,

All the salute must go to you.
You've done a great job by educating & getting all the people together to fight for their rights & causes related to L.B Minibond, DBS High Note 5, Pinnacle Notes, etc. All the kudos must go to you for all your unselfish & untiring tremendous great efforts & sacrifices in organising the Hong Lim gatherings, giving talks, follow up to appeal to MAS, PM, etc. showing people how to lodge complains to FIs, FIDreC though you're not a victim yourself. This is really a great wakeup call to MAS, FIs, etc. not to take people for granted & a lesson for all the people to learn & to invest their hard earned money or retirement money wisely with your eyes, ears & minds open.

Chin Seng said...

Dear Mr. Tan,

I do not see DBS HK in the list of 16 banks that have agreed to compensate investors in Hong Kong.

Can someone please clarify. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am an investor of both Great link choice and I DBS HN2. I have complained with DBS for many times but in vain. However, I have never complained with GE although I started to monitor my great link choice investment from the beginning of 2008.
The reason is quite simple. The FA in GE had told me the risk of credit events from the beginning although he never told me what the product actually invovled was CDOs, and the price of Great link Choice once went up to 107% of the premimum. However, for DBS HN2, I went in with obvious mis-understanging of the product, taking it as high quality bond, with some rerefence entities only. Therefore, I never monitor HN2 until it dropped to 18% of the premium.

GE's action will no doubt boost my confidence in it no matter GE finally make money or lose money from the product.

as for DBS, to be frank, even if they return me all my premimum, I have doubt in their sincerity and management after so many runs of interviews and interactions.

Tan Kin Lian said...

Hi Chin Seng,
I have read reports from Hong Kong that mentioned DBS among the banks that made the settlement. You can search my blog for details. There are many reports from Hong Kong in my blog.

Tan Kin Lian said...

Hi poster of 10:30 am

You are right. The amount of $250 milion is the estimate loss by Great Eastern Life (and not $100 million estimated by me).

Beng Huat said...

Dear Mr. Tan

The Chinese believe that TRUST and HONOUR is very important in any business dealings.

To HLF, I say to Mr. Kwek, do the honourable thing like Great Eastern. After all, HLF has already agreed to payout more than $50 million, so why stop here and be remembered as a company that is dishonourable.

Its still not to late. I am sure the founding fathers of HLF would not want to see the business that they founded go down in memory as a DISHONOURABLE company.

Concerned said...

Hi,Chin Seng

The settlement of 60% or 70% refund by the 16 banks brokered by the HK Monetary Authorities and the Securites and Futures Commmission applies to the Minibond Structured Deposits created and originated by the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers. DBS (HK) is not included in the 16 banks because it did not sell Minibonds created by Lehman Brothers to the Hong Kong public.
What DBS(HK) sold to the HK public is Constellation Notes (if I am not mistaken is created and originated by DBS (HK)). There are a few series of such notes. Constellation Notes is similar to High Notes in Singapore that have a credit event linked to Lehman Brothers, being one of the reference entities. There is rumours in the market that the HK authorities will later make a sort of similar arrangement with DBS (HK) after they have settled the Minibond - Lehman Brothers with the 16 banks and the investors.

Anonymous said...

Not every investor is as innocent as he claims he is. Granted, some old folks were totally blur. But they have already been compensated by the banks.

Bottom line.... Greed kills. If not, why those FD and Savings account holders don't face this type of problem? You don't see them shaking their fists and braying loudly.

Want higher returns of course must bear higher risk. There is no free lunch in this world. You cannot claim to be totally duped or else you will be earning the FD and normal savings accounts rate. You must share the blame too instead of totally pushing everything to the banks.

Hope the rash victims learn their lesson well.

Anonymous said...

GE puts the money wherethe mouth is unlike a local company laying claim to socail enterprise.nGE is really the social entrprise and it has great social responisibilty ab\ndnot thr crap .

Anonymous said...

The move by Great Eastern Life is commendable.
However this move has nothing to do with OCBC parent. OCBC Securities has pushed away all responsibilities, so until they do similar thing as Great Eastern, there is nothing to praise about OCBC as a group.

Anonymous said...

From the standard in Hong Kong:

Minibonds hope dashed

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Most investors/victims of Lehman- linked minibonds will be under the illusion that the Securities and Futures Commission's repurchase scheme will help them get back 60-70 percent of their principal.
After contacting the banks concerned, they will be highly disappointed, as I was.

First, DBS, which sold a large number of such bonds, is not among the 16 banks agreeing to the scheme. It is not prepared to repurchase the bonds including Constellation notes series 66, 67 and 69, even at 60 percent value. Nor are banks on the list, including Bank of Communications, which I contacted, to refund any of the proceeds on Constellation notes.

Given what I've found, I'm inclined to agree with pan-democrat legislator Kam Nai-wai's decision to flatly refuse the proposal, which was obviously designed to defuse the responsibilities of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, SFC, financial secretary and banks.

Frankly, I got a full refund of the principal I invested with Sun Hung Kai of below HK$50,000. Both my wife and I (retirees aged over 65 and 70, respectively) bought Constellation notes from DBS and Bank of Communications and filed complaint forms with the pan- democrat last year, but the hope of recovering our hard-earned savings of about HK$300,000 appears dim.

Hong Kong prides itself on the rule of law, but perhaps someone can enlighten us as to where the justice exists here.

Peter Wei

Anonymous said...

Guys, hang in there. What happen will happen in Sgp. Both are being watch by their own citizens as part of performance appraisal. If the pain and insult is too hard to bear, quiet S'porean will take action during election day. Malaysia UMNO did not change or react to the change of expectation of their people, see what happen. Umno consider Anwar a non issue, see what happen. I bet the Govt knows they will have <66.6% support because they treated us, the true blue Singaporean as 2nd Class Citizen i.e. pay HK investors but not S'porean investors or HK investors received >60% compensation while Sgp Investors received bully tactics from FIs and got nothing or has to keep justifying to FIs for more compensation for their own money at mediation. How bloody insulting.....

Lemizeraq said...

This is a piece of great news, even though I am a very small shareholder of OCBC, I support the move by GE to pay out the to their policy holders.

As Peter Wei who wrote to the papers in Hong Kong showed, there are retirees who bought these policies from unscrupulous bank staff or financial institutions thinking that these are safe or near fixed deposit equivalent in terms of risk. So I feel that these retirees should be repaid in full regardless of if they are educated or illiterate or financially savvy.

Like some of the respondents here said, this move by GE makes people feel that OCBC and GE are companies that understand and feel for their consumers instead of being a mere digit. I applaud this move and this puts pressure on the other banks. Especially if people really start to take money and business out from them and put it with OCBC and GE instead :) Instead of demonstrating on the street, what about going to your other bank, taking the money out and putting it with OCBC instead?

I have put a comparison of the responses of the authorities in Hong Kong with Singapore in a blog post, A Tale of Two Cities- Response to Structured Deposit Fiasco by Hong Kong and Singapore.

Thank you for a good post to bring people's attention to this issue.

Anonymous said...

If GE can afford to redempt $594 million, why can't the other FIs?

Why not bite the bullet and solve the problem once & for all, and then move on.

As smart persons, you must cut loss & move on.

Concerned said...

Lesson on the repurchase of GreatLink Choice by Great Eastern Life. If investors want to invest or do business with a company, look out for those companies where there has been a long traditon of honesty, where the business is built-up slowly and the companies look at their clients as partners sharing in the prosperity. Don't go for those companies with an American culture when the companies try to extract every cent at the expense of their clients and the senior management congratulate themselves for a well done job and pay themselves handsome bonuses every year. Unfortunately, a lot of companies have followed the American culture and usually these companies and FLs grow exponentially every year. During the good times, everybody prosper and nobody complain, but it is during those troubling times when the true color of the enterprise is revealed. Avoid doing any business with such companies or FLs

Anonymous said...

I am proud of ocbc and GE. OCBC as always "solid as a rock".

Anonymous said...

FIs/Banks operate differently from GE. Afterall Bank's bread n butter comes mainly from loans or their ALM. How much do you think actually they make thru from investment sales (just consider how small is DBS)? Whereas GE operation is purely base on agent-client relationship. This 250m is jus peas compared to wiping out their reputation. However, having said that. GE really put DBS to shame. FIs Board of director shd reflect upon themselve. Maybe, in future we will see mobile bankers running around like agents.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous poster Aug 1 7:43 pm

You are the one who is "totally blur". The returns from those bad products are firstly not high (5% is just only moderate, you get much more buying shares)and secondly they are wolf in sheep clothing - fake!

Let me teach you.

FD/Savings account, - they are backed by the reputation of the issung bank only and very safe if you think that issuing bank is safe.
Bonds - backed by governemnt very safe if you think that government is safe.
Minibonds - they are fake bonds created to mislead., because, behind them are CDO's and bad loans from the US Subprime market.
Others like HN5, etc. - again many of them are linked to CDO's and bad loans and risky because of the association with bad loans originating from Wall Street. You could search YouTube there are great videos there explaining how the crooks designed the whole system.

How can you put the blame squarely on the investors when there was a clear case of cheating the masses when the high risk instruments were marketed as "minibonds"? There are many cases when the investors are not told of the underlying risks, even professors and academics are conned!

If you go to casino, it is a fair idea of high risk high return no one can complain if a player lost $50,000 in blackjack, the risks are well known and for all to see.

But the minibond saga is totally different. It wasn't a fair game from the start, tht's the problem. The investors were not told about the risk and they thought they were buying something which turned out to be another thing. You need to read more before sending an irresponsible post to the forum, pal.

Anonymous said...

This episode makes me feel that I did the right thing cancelling my DBS credit two months ago. Now I use my OCBC Platinum for nearly all my purchases using credit cards. What GE has done is truly commendable and has strongly reinforced my confidence in them.

Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled by GE. It is trying to save itself and the agents.
The question in everybody's mind is "did the the GE agents mis-selling and misrepresnt the products?
If ther was , MAS must quiclkly adress thsi problem.Mis-selling is very common among the insurance agents. MAS must tighten the rules of selling. MAS must enforce section 27 of ther FAA.

Anonymous said...

GE agents must be investigated for mis-selling and misrepresentation.

Anonymous said...

In HK, if you want to deposit money, buy investment products, take a loan, who will you be looking for? DBS? DBS main businesses are in Sgp and HK. Guess how DBS is going to survive in HK? It is as good as closing shop soon. Why can't they own up, do the right thing? Typical Govt mentality. "I am Top Talent. I am the best. I have black and white you signed. If I pay you, I also must pay S'porean. And most important, Grandmaster says no." Stubborn, not flexible, driving themselves out of business in HK. So do not buy DBS shares, if this issue is not resolve similar to GE done it, bye-bye HK DBS. The trust and confident in DBS HK is ailing and if the top talent don't wake up, the road to recovery is even more expensive. So, my opinion is DBS is going down as they are using Singapore Govt arrogant to run HK DBS in a HK/chinese culture. Trust need to be earn and not demanded.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. Ge is willing to compensate 100% to the investors alrady. Whatever sin it commited is already paid back in this gesture. What more do you people wnat, hang the CEO of GE? Save your energy to hang the DBS ceo and live GE alone. Whatever wrong GE had done in the past should be forgiven since the bottom line is EVERY investor has the chance to recover 100%.

Anonymous said...

Er.... Are you talking about the MAS who spent 7 months working very hard to investigate 10 FIs and ban them from selling a dead Structure Notes.

Are talking about the MAS who said in BT today that it 'welcomes efforts by financial institutions to take appropriate steps to maintain the trust and confidence of their customers based on their own commercial considerations'.

Respect is earn not given. MAS cannot gain respect by putting out a lame statement and tell others that they have nothing to do with this breakthrough.

Sound familar? GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH...

-->Got Nothing to do with Minibond products,
-->Got Nothing to do with Minibond investors,
-->Got Nothing to do with TKL petition,
-->Got Nothing to do with GE decision,

I think Singaporeans have nothing do with MAS....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Goodness! when someone said Mis-selling are common among agents, I need to add that some agents can despicable too. Especially when rival agents of GE has got nothing to do and start to bad-mouth other ppl when they gain popularity. We have eyes to see and nose to smell a rat whether they are doing the right thing or not. Lets just wait to see if Prudential and Manulife take similar actions to GE...

Anonymous said...

Can anyone advise Prudential Yield 15/ Yield 20 investment? It seems to be similar to GELC? Up to date, 14 companies turned default. The protection level went down to merely 10%... Will Prudential follows Great Eastern's move?

Anonymous said...

Prudential should also emulate GE decision and quickly take action to compensate holders of Yield 15/Yield 20 investment.There is only a year left to maturity, but we are loosing sleep with the many credit defaults happening lately.

Lion Investor said...

Hi Tony,

It would depend on whether GE holds on to the underlying CDOs or liquidates them outright.

If they do the latter, they will have to take the loss.

If they hold on to it, then essentially they have bought back the risk of further defaults from the investor. I would say it's a fair deal to the investor since they are not making the redemption mandantory.

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