Saturday, July 04, 2009

Mis-representation on Credit Linked Notes

A senior lawyer told me that the law is to be seen in this context:
The law works on the basis of freedom of contract and caveat emptor, so, in these cases, unless there has been misrepresentation or unless it can be shown that the banks have taken on a special duty of care because of a fiduciary relationship (which most bank documents expressly exclude) the buyer is supposed to know what he is buying and the risks thereof."

Clearly, the relationship manager did mis-represent the product that they sold to the investors, who were generally risk averse. The question is, "did the RM understand the product?" Most likely, they did not. If this were the case, surely, they must have mis-represented the product?

The strategy for the investor is to provide clear proof that there was mis-representation. This can be in a sworn statement. Better still, it should be supported by an impartial witness or written documentation.

Can you solve these 4 shapes?

DownloAD this PDF. Cut the 4 pieces. Solve the 4 shapes. You can cut the shapes from cardboard to be more durable.

Checks and balances

Who decide how much White House staffers are paid? Read this article.

ATE (After The Event) Insurance

The ATE insurance covers the litigation cost and is now available through an insurance broker operating in Singapore.

I have written a paper to brief the insurance broker about the legal position on the credit-linked note and ask them to see if insurance is available for the investors to take legal action against the distributors.

Credit cards availabe in Singapore as at 15 May 2009

Here is a table showing the credit cards available in Singapore as at 15 May 2009.

Fixed deposit interest rate as at 15 May 2009

Here is a table showing the fixed deposit interest rate offered by banks in Singapore as at 15 may 2009. It is now being updated to show the latest available rates. Hope you find it useful.

Is this negligence?

Take this hypothetical example:

1. You are a senior manager of a bank with several branches
2. An investment bank approaches you to sell their innovative products and offers your bank an attractive commission of 3% to sell the product.
3. As the product looks attractive, you are confident of selling $50 million in your branches in one week. This will give a commission of $1,500,000. After deducting the incentive to your relationship managers (say 1%), you can make $1,000,000 for your bank.
4. You agree to distribute the product and sends your relationship managers for training by the product issuer. This is a short talk covering only the positive features of the product, i.e. "how to sell". It does not cover the prospectus and the negative features (as they do not help in the sales).
5. The product issuer advises you to get a disclaimer signed by the retail customers to waive liability for any loss on investing in the product.

The product turns out to be quite different from what you understood it to be. You realised to your horror, that it includes components such as credit default swaps and collaterialised debt obligations (that your bank or its relationship managers did not realise earlier).

As financial advisers, with responsibilties under the Financial Advisers Act), were your relationship managers negligent in not understanding the product that was sold to the retail customers? Does your bank share in this negligence?

What do you do?
a) Hide under the disclaimer clause?
b) Admit your mistake and offer to share the loss with the investors?

Local Transport Service

We should provide a local transport service to serve a town, such as Ang Mo Kio, Bedok or Tampines. It will create jobs and provide a useful service to other people who are already employed. More details here.

Create jobs to help recovery of Global Economy

Many people look forward to the early recovery of the global economy. There was hope that the stimulus packages in USA, China and other countries would be able to spur this recovery. The bad employment report in USA for June was a big disappointment. It caused a big drop in the stockmarkets.

Several economists said that the situation will continue to be bad for a long time. If more people lose their jobs, they will cut their spending. This will cause more jobs to be lost. It is a downward spiral. I share this view.

For the global economy to recover, it is necessary that many jobs be created and that people are sure that they can find a job, even if it is at a minimum wage, as long as they are willing to work. They also need a way to defer the repayment of their debt until they find a better paying job. My suggestion is set out in this article.

I hope that the governments in some countries will adopt this idea, and other governments will follow, if the idea proves to be workable.

Tan Kin Lian

SCAM: A bounced cheque

My friend sent me this story about a possible scam. Be careful.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Request for another Petition to MAS

Dear Mr. Tan
I suggest that we gather another petition to collect signatures for those who had not been offered compensation or low compensation to our MAS Chairman, Mr Goh, as he announced a fictitious figures of 2/3 being compensated. Judging from many I spoken to, I doubt this figuures are true.

According to the MAS statement, 2/3rd were offered compensation. But in many cases, the compensation was rather low (say 10%), and were not accepted by the investor.

I do not know if the investors are still keen to sign a Petition, as previous petitions have been ignored by MAS

Show of support?

I gave my intelligence quiz (vol 1 and vol 2) and shape quiz to a non-Singaporean friend. He decided to buy 200 sets of each item to be given to the staff of his company. He wanted to show his support, in return for some help that I gave to him many years ago.

I appreciate his generosity. This type of attitude appears to be somewhat missing among Singaporeans. Most of us are too busy thinking of ourselves, and do not act to show support for others.

Someone posted a comment that my blog should not be promoting my products, as it should focus on giving advice on "insurance and investments". I do not know if this comment comes from a Singaporean, but I have a strong feeling that it does.

There are a few appreciative Singaporeans, but perhaps too few. They sent "thank you" cards or e-mail to me. One sent me a nice book. Another sent me a box of chocolates from Hawaii.

The easiest way to show your appreciation is to buy my books to give to your friends or to help in promoting my books. You can order them here.

The Standard:New deal to settle minibond buyback

3 Juyl 2009

Sixteen banks which sold Lehman Brothers minibonds will pay most investors 60 percent of the principal as settlement - and no more.

Investors aged 65 and above will receive about 70 percent of their investment. In a formal proposal made to the Securities and Futures Commission yesterday, the banks said they will cap the total payable sum at 60 percent and will not repay the difference if collaterals are sold at a higher price in the future.

The move, which came a day after the July 1 protest, was a follow-up to the "touch base" meeting that representatives of the banks had with the SFC on Monday, in which no specific settlement plan was tabled.

It also came ahead of SFC chief Martin Wheatley's scheduled third meeting with a Legco panel today.

Explaining the cap, a source told The Standard that the banks will now lose as much as HK$1.5 billion rather than the HK$800 million as reported earlier by local media.

Some Lehman minibonds have lost all their value and a few are worth at most 20 percent of their original value.

Reports that the receiver of Lehman Brothers assets in Singapore will soon sign a deal offering the local liquidator an extra 20 percent to 30 percent of the collateral values of minibonds does not bode well for local investors, a banking source said.

"Investors may only get back less than 40 percent of their invested sum [rather] than the 53 percent Ernst & Young originally offered," the source said.

Possible litigation in the United States may also affect what Hong Kong investors retrieve.

The liquidator of Lehman assets has claimed that it has the right to own the collateral of all Lehman-related products globally.

This may compel distributor banks to go to court in the United States, where Lehman Brothers was based, and reduce any settlement with local investors.

Another source noted that the local investors' group - Allied Victims of Lehman Products - is avoiding the fact that few lenders have settled cases with a payback ratio higher than 60 percent to 70 percent and those payments were not retrospective.

The banking industry could lose up to HK$4.2 billion if the Lehman products' valuation drops to 26 percent of the original price, and up to HK$7.5 billion if they are worth nothing.

Lehman-related products worth HK$12 billion were sold in Hong Kong by 19 banks, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Eleven of the banks were found to be involved in misconduct in the sale of those products, the SFC told lawmakers last week.

An SFC spokesman declined to comment on the banks' proposal.

But at last Friday's meeting at the Legislative Council, Wheatley said the SFC welcomed all proposals as long as they deterred misselling practices.

Meanwhile, the SFC said brokerage firms Sun Hung Kai Investment and KGI Asia have both completed their voluntary repurchase of Lehman Brothers minibonds, according to agreements they had with the regulator.

SHKI and KGI separately undertook to repurchase all outstanding Lehman Brothers minibonds subscribed, at a price equal to the principal amount, from eligible clients following the SFC's investigation into their sale of Lehman Brothers minibonds.

These agreements helped 329 clients recover their initial investments in full.

Last month, BOC Hong Kong (2388) - the largest vendor of Lehman minibonds - offered a similar payback ratio of 60 percent to 70 percent to investors plus a top-up for future collateral sales.

Was there an attempt to cheat?

Let us discuss this hypothetical case.

1. An investment bank was able to buy several credit default swaps (CDS) and collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) from the market to produce a return of 50% over 5 years.

2. It introduced an "innovative product" that pays an interest rate of 5% a year over 5 years, totalling 25%. It set aside 10% to pay a top legal firm to draft the prospectus and pay distributors to sell the products to its retail customers. The investment bank was able to keep a profit margin of 15% to sell the product. It planned to sell $100 million of the product, yielding a profit of $15 million to the investment bank.

3. The prospectus was drafted to be legally correct, but totally incomprehensible, even to the knowledgable people. The prospetus was "registered" with the regulatory authority, giving the impression that the product has been approved by the regulator.

4. The "genuis" who created this product wrote in the prospectus that the issuer had the right to choose the underlying assets after the launch of the product. This allowed the investment bank to select riskier assets (so long as they fit the credit rating) that produced a higher profit margin for the invsetment bank.

Does this hypothetical product sound familiar to you? Was the investment bank cheating the public?

Are these actions considered as "cheating"?
a) writing a prospectus that does not fairly describe the product or the underlying assets to the retail customer?
b) failing to disclose the expenses and profit margin, which are relevant for an analysis of the product?
c) giving a misleading description of the product in the advertisements?
d) knowing that the distributors (who are ignorant) are giving incorrect verbal statements of the product?

We do not know the real yield of the underlying assets and the profit margain made by the product issuer. If the profit margin is excessive, then the intent to cheat is more credible. If the profit margin is fair, the intent is harder to prove.

Only the regulatory authority, with the power to investigate and get evidence, can find out. "Lesser mortals", like the misguided investors and me, do not have this power. So sad.

Tan Kin Lian

Gathering at Speaker's Corner in August (3)

25 people have replied to the survey mentioned in this blog. Each person indicated that they will ask a small number of people to attend. Only 1 person is willing to speak.

I need more speakers. If you wish to share your story (with particulars removed to protect your confidentiality), I can get someone to speak on your behalf.

If you like the gathering to be organised, please give your reply here. You can also indicate if you wish to share your story for someone to speak on your behalf.

Best use for electric car

What is the best use of an electric car? Here are my views. I believe that it will occur within the next 5 years.

Invest in Singapore Government Securities

Hi Mr Tan,
What is your view on the SGS (Singapore Government Securities)? Is it worth buying the bond for retail investors like me?

The interest rate paid on SGS is quite low, less than 1% per year, but it is safe.

If you can get a higher interest rate from bank deposits (which is guaranteed by the Government), it is better to put on bank deposit. The foreign banks offer higher interest rate and are still guaranteed by the Singapore Government.

If you wish to have a higher return, it is better to invest in a ETF (exchange traded fund). The return may be volatile in the short term, but it should give an attractive return over 10 years or longer.

What is cheating?

Read this article.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Politics of Fear

Singaporeans are a fearful people. What can be done to overcome the fear? Read this article.
Give your views here.

Australia: List the names of underlying securities

Dear Mr. Tan,
The monetary authorities of Singapore and Hong Kong were foolish to approve the toxic products to be sold by financial institution and security firms to retail investor. They both wanted to compete to be financial centre, so they approve these products blindly.

When Australia approved these products to be sold, they insisted that the investment bank list out the names of the underlying securities. If people don't recognized these companies, they will not buy.


Best fixed deposit rates

A reader asked me to post the best fixed deposit rates available in Singapore. As I do not have the time to be doing this research, I have to engage someone to do this research and to pay this person for the time spent.

I hope that FISCA can do this work at a later date. FISCA will also have to pay people to do the work.

I enourage Singaporeans to join FISCA and pay $36 a year as membership fee for FISCA to meet its expenses. Please support FISCA, so that it can take care of your interest. FISCA will be calling for membership in August, when its website is ready.

SCMP:Minibond victims try to storm bank in protest

2 July 2009

Thousands of investors who lost money on Lehman Brothers minibonds held a noisy and sometimes emotional rally yesterday, calling on the chief executive to step down, and saying the fiasco had yet to be resolved.

Waving black banners with the slogans "Lehman [saga] unresolved" and "[Chief Executive Donald] Tsang Yam-kuen step down", the group marched from Victoria Park to the Bank of China tower in Central.

However, protesters became emotional outside the bank, and several tried to storm it. "Give me back the money, Bank of China!" shouted protester Peter Lee as he tried to break through the police line and pull away metal barriers. The 47-year-old had bought more than HK$1 million of minibonds from the bank, the biggest seller of Lehman Brothers-linked investment products in Hong Kong.

"A 100 per cent buy-back!" shouted another protester.

Trying to calm protesters, Peter Chan Kwong-yue, chairman of the Alliance of Lehman Brothers Victims, organiser of the rally, called on them to gather at the building again on National Day, October 1, if the bank had failed to settle the dispute.

Organisers said 25,000 took part in the march, but police said about 4,000 left Victoria Park for Central.

About 48,000 Hongkongers lost most of the HK$20 billion they invested in credit-linked derivatives, such as minibonds, issued or guaranteed by Lehman Brothers, when the American investment bank collapsed in September. Minibonds are not corporate bonds, but consist of high-risk credit-linked derivatives. They are marketed as a proxy investment in well-known companies.

The protesters said they took to the streets because Mr Tsang and the regulators failed to force financial institutions to offer a 100 per cent buy-back of the minibonds. "I'm here today because the bank has cheated me of all my money. I want my money back," Yu Shing, 79, said. Mr Yu insisted on joining the march even though he had difficulty walking after a stroke in November.

Sandra Chow, 45, said she wanted to show her support for other victims although she had already settled her case with the bank.

A government spokesman said that the administration recognised the difficult circumstances faced by minibond investors, and expressed the hope "that the institutions involved will expedite the proper handling of the matter".

He said banks and trustees had been urged to safeguard the interests of holders.

MRT train lines to come under a single operator

There are advantages for all the MRT train lines to come under a single operator. However, there is a snag. How can this be overcomed? Read my suggestion here.

Cheating and negligence

What is cheating? What is negligence? Why are these points relevant to the investors of the credit linked notes? What can be done to address these weaknesses? I am writing on these matters over the next four days. Tell your friends to visit this blog.

Vista Plan (from Zurich)

Only 3 policyholders replied to my survey on the Vista plan. I have given the contact details to these respondents to contact each other, and decide on their action.

Administration of Justice (2)

On the issue of the credit linked notes, someone made a comment in my blog that, under the law, if you agree to a disclaimer to absolve the distributor from liability, you do not have any case - even if the distributor is negligent or fraudalent. He quoted with a purported knowledge of the law, as applied in Singapore.

I disagree with his comment. I believe that fraudalent acts, including the intent to cheat, cannot be covered by such disclaimers. I also believe that negligent acts, cannot be covered by such disclaimer, if they cover matters that the distributor, as a financial adviser, ought to know.

For example, if I see a doctor, I expect that the doctor ought to know that certain drugs are dangerous and unsuitable to be prescribed to a patient. The doctor cannot get away by asking the patient to agree a general disclaimer to absolve the doctor from liability.

The challenge to the consumer, in the case of the credit linked notes, is in finding the money to take a legal case against the distributor who gave wrong advice. The consumer does not have the means to challenge a financial institution, who has access to the top lawyers in town.

In many countries, the consumers can depend on the following avenues to uphold justice:
a) The regulator - who has the duty to enforce the law
b) The consumer association - who takes up the matter to protect the interest of consumers.
c) The politicians - who speak and act for the ordinary people to win their votes
d) Lawyers - who takes the risk under a contingency fee system

Take a look at what happens to similar cases in America or Hong Kong. Action has been taken by some of these parties.

Unfortunately, these channels are not available to consumers in Singapore. It is a sad state of affairs here.

Tan Kin Lian

Gathering in Speakers Corner

So far, only 14 people replied to the survey mentioned in this blog. Each person indicated that they will ask a small number of people to attend. None are willing to speak. If you like the gatehring to be organised, please give your reply here.

Compensation should not solely be based on vulnerability

Dear Mr Tan:

1 I fully agree with you that compensation for loss in relation to the defaulted high risk structured product to retail investors should not be solely based on consideration on "vulnerability", standard of education, age or other factors at the expense of the principle of fairness and justice.

2 In their 3-steps guide for investors, MAS clearly state that FIs should take responsibility for cases where (a) there are sufficient indications that the product was mis-sold, or (b) it was clearly inappropriate given the investor's profile and circumstances. It is clear that investor's profile and circumstances (i.e. vulnerability, standard of education, age or other factors) should be taken into consideration only for cases where there is no clear evidence of mis-selling. This is to help the vulnerable and needy group of customers and should be given the priority.

3 The approach adopted by the FIs on consideration merely based on investor's profile and circumstances is against and not abiding by the MAS's guiding principles. Instead, we can see how smart the FIs are in turning these guiding principles into their favor. These principles were actually meant for fairness and justice to be given to all retail investors but utilized by the FIs to reject complaints from probably all the non-vulnerable group of customers, and this non-vulnerable group of investors have the major portion of the total investment

4 The existing Financial Adviser Act (FAA), though incomplete, are rather stringent for the sale of financial products to customers. Section 27 of the FAA requires FIs to pay damage or loss for inappropriate sale of high risk financial product to vulnerable customers. Under Section 25 of the FAA, it is an offence for not disclosing the complete product material information to customer during the process of sale and the contravener is liable to a fine and imprisonment. We all know that the true nature and risks of the product were not or fully disclosed to retail investors. As such, ones can see that mis-selling of financial product mainly occurred as a result of breach of laws by the FIs. The mis-selling of financial products here is not much different from that in Hong Kong but the Hong Kong SFC has taken the pro-active approach in the administration of fairness and justice to be given to their citizens and this has been seen by majority of the Hong Kong people and our Singaporeans as well.

5 It is timely that you have called upon MAS, who is the regulator, to exercise their authority to maintain the principle of fairness and justice in the spirit of law. MAS has the responsibility to ensure that laws are adhered to by the FIs. MAS play a decisive role on this matter.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

SCMP:Policy chief expects march to reflect increasing civil discontent

1 July 2009

The government's top adviser expects the turnout for today's march to surpass last year's 47,000 because of the economic downturn and growing discontent with the administration's handling of controversial issues.

Lau Siu-kai, head of the Central Policy Unit, yesterday said that regardless of the turnout, the government should strive to improve its governance and restore people's confidence in the economic outlook.

Professor Lau said it was not sensible to use the turnout for a single march as the only yardstick to gauge changes in the political climate. He said economic indicators such as the jobless rate and the number of personal bankruptcy petitions should also be taken into account.

Professor Lau, who predicted shortly before the July 1 march in 2003 that only 30,000 would join the protest, declined to give an exact estimate for today's rally. Half a million turned out for the 2003 march.

He said he expected the number of people at today's march to be higher than last year.

He said the Central Policy Unit had conducted surveys recently on whether people intended to take part in the rally, but declined to reveal the outcome.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which organises the annual prodemocracy march, estimated that 47,000 people protested last year. But the police estimated last year's turnout at 15,500. A government source said earlier that the turnout for this year's march was expected to reach 100,000 or more.

Professor Lau admitted that Hong Kong's economy was facing hard times and many people were worried about the prospects for the economy.

"The government's handling of several issues in the past year has aroused dissatisfaction among many people," he said.

The top adviser cited the controversy over the appointment of deputy ministers and political assistants, the public outcry over the government's approval of an application by former housing chief Leung Chin-man to work with property developer New World China Land, and the administration's perceived failure to monitor the sale of minibonds issued by Lehman Brothers. Minibonds are not corporate bonds, but consist of high-risk credit-linked derivatives.

Professor Lau noted that young people were increasingly dissatisfied as the jobless rate for this sector of the community was higher than for other age groups.

"Many young people feel their expectations can't be realised, as social mobility in recent years is lower than for previous generations," he said, "A considerable number of young people have developed an anti-establishment mentality."

Professor Lau said economic development ranked much higher than democratic progress among the concerns of Hong Kong people.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said Professor Lau's assessment of public discontent was sensible. Mr Choy predicted a turnout of around 100,000 for today's march.

Buying a property - facilities

What facilities attract the buyer of a property? View this report.

Administration of Justice (1)

Singapore has built a strong reputation for observing the rule of law and having a fair and efficient administration of justice. It has won high international recognition for a transparency, consistency and justice in handling of commercial affairs.

Under the rule of law, all parties can look towards the law to be applied in a consistent and fair manner, as it is written, and that the law can be interpreted in the right spirit, to serve justice and fairness to all parties.

In the saga involving the Lehman Minibonds and other credit linked notes, the letter of the law are clearly spelled in the Securities and Futures Act and the Financial Advisers Act. These law requires the financial institutions to make proper disclosure about the financial product and imposes a duty on financial advisers to give appropriate advice to consumers.

I could not find any part of these law that define that people should be treated differently according to their "vulnerability", standard of education or age or other factors.

I do not quarrel with the generous decision of the financial institutions to give full compensation to the "vulnerable" investors. I also accept that it is within their prerogative to take the commercial approach to reject the complaints from the "non-vulnerable" investors.

However, I believe that the aggrieved investors, being ordinary people, have the right to expect justice to be administered according to the rule of law, especially from the following parties:

a) The regulator, who has the duty to investigate and prosecute any party that is found to have breached the law

b) The judges, who have the duty to decide in accordance to the letter and spirit of the law. This duty also falls on the Financial Industry Dispute Resolution Center (FIDReC).

I hope that FIDReC will adjudicate according to the law, and not principles of “vulnerability” as this is not stated in the law.

I believe that the investors and the distributors have to share the blame equally for the disastrous mistake. It would be most unfair, if FIDReC were to rule that the investors are fully responsible and that the distributors are not culpable (as they have failed in their duty to give proper advice to the investors).

Although the distributors have asked the investors to sign a disclaimer, this does not absolve the distributors from their legal duty under the Financial Advisers Act. I hope that FIDREC will take a similar view, in the interest of justice.

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brain Workout in The New Paper (weekend)

Dear Mr. Tan
I like the Brain Workout that appear in The New Paper every weekend. But, I am not able to find the book in the major bookstores. Where can I buy them?

You can buy them from this website. You pay the same price as in the bookstore. There is no additional charge for postage delivery in Singapore. Enjoy the puzzles.

You can try the online version of the puzzles here, for free.

The Standard:Banks, SFC meet to thrash out Lehman deal

30 June 2009

Representatives of 16 Lehman Brothers products distributor banks yesterday met with the Securities and Futures Commission in a bid to thrash out a settlement, sources said.

But no agreement was reached as yesterday's meeting was only of a "touch base" nature.

Bank of China (Hong Kong) (2388), the largest distributor of Lehman minibonds, was among the group to present the banks' proposal for settlement, according to sources.

Lenders were supporting BOCHK's proposal to offer an average of 60 percent of the principal invested as settlement and about 70 percent to those aged 65 or above.

Banks are also willing to repay the difference if collateral were sold at a higher price in the future, sources said.

However, some lenders also expressed their concern that the sum to be repaid was much higher when compared with penalties according to rules.

According to an SFC ordinance, if a bank is penalized for failing to reach a settlement, the total penalty would only be three times the commission earned.

As the total industry commission for distributing Lehman Brothers products was about HK$300 million, banks would only need to pay about HK$900 million and this is much less than that BOCHK's proposal, they said.

A spokesman for the SFC declined to comment, while one banker source said he hopes there may be breakthrough soon, saying: "Hopefully common ground can be reached in coming days."

Other sources said there might be a chance the banking group and the SFC could reach a compromise as Martin Wheatley, the SFC's chief executive, said last Tuesday the Sun Hung Kai Investment method "was not the only model" for resolution.

As the Lehman-related products sold were worth about HK$12 billion, a settlement at 60 percent would mean distributor lenders as a whole would pay out about HK$5 billion.

Rally in Hong Lim Park

Dear Mr. Tan,
Can you please organise another rally in Hong Lim Park (Speaker's Corner), so that the investors who were rejected by the FI or FIDREC can express their feelings? Many investors will like to attend. It has been too long since the last rally.

If there is sufficent investors who are willing to attend, I will organise the gathering on a Saturday or Sunday in August at 5 p.m.. I also like some of the investors to speak and express their feelings. If you are interested to attend or speak, please complete this survey.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Excessive credit card charges

A year ago, I received a letter from my credit card company, informing me that the charge for a late payment is $X and for insufficient funds is $Y. I remember that the amounts are quite high, i.e. more than$40. They are excessive.

I called the credit card company and cancelled the credit card. I feel strongly that any charge should be fair and not excessive. The credit card company cannot make profit by over-charging customers. Already, they are making profit from the credit card fees and the transaction fee for each payment.

I hope that the regulator and the consumer association should take up this matter. I feel that business practices in Singapore is becoming very bad, and that consumers are being taken for a ride.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Call for Free Money Advice Scheme

Read this BBC report.

NTUC Income AGM, May 2009

At the AGM of NTUC Income held in May 2009, I raised a few questions on the cut in bonus and increase in premium rates on motor insurance. The answers provided by the management are shown in the attached document.

Tweak ATMs to do away with cheques

This letter was printed in Straits Times Forum Page. Do you agree with the suggestion? Give your views here.

Forum Page
Straits Times

MANY people are familiar with the use of automated teller machines (ATMs) to withdraw cash or transfer funds to another account.

The transfer funds facility can be used to pay a third party, in place of writing a cheque. If this is widely promoted and used, it will reduce the number of cheques that have to be mailed and cleared through the banking system, and improve efficiency of companies.

There is a drawback in the existing transfer funds facility that needs to be addressed. DBS and POSB ATMs do not allow the transferor to enter a reference number to notify the payee about the party making the transfer. I am not sure if other banks' ATMs have a similar restriction.

I suggest that the ATM system be modified to allow a reference number to be entered in making a fund transfer. This number can be entirely numeric, as the ATM does not have the facility to enter letters.

If this facility is provided, many companies will actively encourage their customers to pay by bank transfer via the ATM, instead of writing a cheque. It will benefit all parties involved in the transaction and reduce the cost of making a payment.

I also suggest that the banks provide a facility for the account owner to ask for fund transfer transactions to be downloaded daily for processing. This will suit companies that do not wish to give full access to their employees to view other transactions in the bank account.

I hope the Association of Banks in Singapore or the Monetary Authority of Singapore will take up this suggestion.

Tan Kin Lian

Comments in my blog

I like those posting comments in my blog to sign off with their real name or a pen name. This makes it easier for toher readers to refer to their posting by name. Do not post anonymous comments.

Insurance company has a duty to render a clear statement on ILP

Hi Mr Tan,
I'm writing regarding a recent blog post "Full refund of premium under ILP". I was surprised and envious when I read this.

For the past 6 months, I have been pursuing X for two ILPs I bought a few years ago. I wanted to track my investments and insurance, but was not given the full disclosure of fees involved.

The total contribution I make every month goes to 1) policy charges, 2) mortality charges, 3) insurance, and 4) investment funds. The fees and charges were not disclosed to me explicitly. I learned about these fees only very recently when I started to track my investments. I realised that the numbers cannot balance month to month. Then I read the policy booklets in detailed, and learned of all the extra charges.

X was also not able to give me the number of fund units that I buy every month, after the deductions of the charges. Hence I am unable to track the performance of my investment. I tried to contact them several times. But every time I'm told this is
not possible.

The company sends a yearly statement on the "Average" no. of units I have, and I'm told that is the only best info they can provide me. Unfortunately, it is not clear how many units are deducted for charges, and how many are added. I've spent many nights on Excel spreadsheets, running the statements, the info they provide, and the amount deducted from my bank. I tried to balance the numbers to the current units I hold, to no avail.

I get a lot of pressure from X and my financial advisor. They told me I'm being unreasonable when I ask for the funds' units every month, and that no insurance or fund companies can give me this information. I cannot imagine being stuck with these two policies for the next 36 years, not knowing where my money is going every month.

I am considering bringing my case to MAS and FIDREC. Is my request for more transparent information an unreasonable one?

I support your idea to bring up this matter with MAS and FIDREC.

The insurance company owes a duty to the policyholder to provide details of the charges and a clear statement of how the money is being invested. No policyholder, regardless of how well educated, will know what is happening, unless a clear statement is rendered each month. It is not possible to know at the end of the year from a consolidated statement.

Many insurance companies fail to provide a clear statement, and in the process the policyholder is unaware about the high charges that are being deducted. This is an unacceptable practice, from the consumer's point of view. This shabby practice cannot be condoned.

All the best in lodging your complaint.

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