MAS to reinforce retail investor protection

Added 10th January 2017

Retail investors in Singapore will receive greater protection following changes to the Securities and Futures Act (SFA).

MAS to reinforce retail investor protection

According to Singapore newspaper Straits Times, the bill was passed on Monday following its second reading.

The amendments to the law tighten the classification of accredited investors and strengthen the governance and enforcement powers of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

On behalf of deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmuaratnam, minister for education Ong Ye Kung told parliament: “A primary objective of MAS's regulatory framework for capital markets aims to safeguard the interests of retail investors, who are really the man-in-the-street, putting their savings and nest egg in investment products. 

“We want to ensure these investors have access to adequate information and that intermediaries deal fairly with them. That is why public offers of securities such as shares and bonds, and investment funds must be made with a prospectus registered by MAS. The prospectus must contain all material information relating to the investment.

“[Further], intermediaries, such as brokers, financial advisers, and fund managers must be licensed by MAS, and adhere to rules governing their conduct of business with customers in a fair, transparent manner.”

Accredited investors

Wealthy investors in Singapore, known as accredited investors, are now able to choose how they are treated by banks and other financial institutions. 

Accredited investors are classified as non-retail investors under MAS’s capital markets regulatory framework, as they are thought to be better able to protect their own interests.

Banks are exempt from having to provide as much information about financial products as they would to retail investors.

First announced by the regulator in September 2015, accredited investors are now able to choose to be treated as retail investors.

Accredited investors opting to be treated as retail investors would sacrifice access to a wider range of “niche financial products and services, likely more complex and with higher risk”, for stronger regulatory safeguards, Ong said.

The changes in the bill also alter how individuals qualify as accredited. Under current rules accredited investors have more than SG$2m (£1.1m, $1.4m, €1.3m) of net personal assets.

"The bill tightens the way net personal assets is calculated, such that the net equity of an individual’s primary residence can only contribute up to $1m of the $2m threshold. 

"[It] also introduces another avenue for individuals to qualify as accredited investors if they have more than $1m of financial assets, net of any related liabilities," Ong added. 

“With the amendment, individuals whose wealth is concentrated in their primary residence, with few other liquid assets to invest, will be treated as retail investors and will benefit from the full range of regulatory safeguards under the SFA when transacting in capital markets products.”

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