Tan Kin Lian, former CEO insurer of NTUC Income addressing the crowd at Speakers' Corner. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
WHILE financial institutions (FIs) ought to focus on the vulnerable group of retiree investors who sank money into Lehman-linked products, they should also look at less clear-cut cases, said Mr Goh Chok Tong yesterday.
The Senior Minister said these cases might involve heavily invested professionals or people who have invested only a part and not their entire savings.
'For other, less clear-cut cases, the financial institutions may also want to think of ways to retain their customers' trust and confidence,' he said at a grassroots event.
'Such gestures will go a long way to maintaining customer loyalty, and pay off in the long term.'
He noted how some 10,000 Singaporeans had invested over $500million in structured products linked to the collapsed US investment bank Lehman Brothers.
He said that at the time, investors of these products would not have thought the bank would collapse. 'But this is no consolation. Those who have invested in these products stand to lose a large part of their investment.'
To help them, he said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had been actively and quietly working with the FIs which sold these products to ensure that any complaints by investors are given a fair and independent hearing.
'MAS is a very professional, rational institution,' said Mr Goh, who is MAS chairman.
He reiterated what the authority said last Friday: that FIs ought to pay particular attention to those from the vulnerable group of investors, such as retirees with poor knowledge of investments in financial products, and who were investing significant sums in them for the first time.
If the investors had been mis-sold the product or where the product was clearly inappropriate to their circumstances, 'MAS expects the FIs to take full responsibility and reach a fair settlement with them. This has to be assessed on a case-by-case basis'. If an investor is still not satisfied, he can take the matter to the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre.
But he also said everyone must see the losses in perspective. 'The global financial crisis came without warning, like a tsunami,' he said. 'Banks have collapsed. Stock prices have plunged. Millions of people in the world, not just in Singapore, have lost money. So we must be realistic in our expectation of recovering all our losses.'
At a second gathering of investors at Speakers' Corner yesterday, Mrs Ling Ah Moi, who is in her 70s, said in Teochew that she welcomed the Government's latest move to help 'older people'.
But her husband, retired shop owner Ling Jun Zhi, 78, felt it was important for the Government to be more proactive in its help, as it was difficult for retirees to know who to turn to.
The couple sank $100,000 into Minibonds in July when they visited a Hong Leong Finance branch. They were featured in The Straits Times when they showed up at a meeting between DBS High Notes5 investors and the bank last week.
Visibly less upset than last week, Mrs Ling added: 'It's good that the Government can help.'