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Managing the risks of remote working in financial institutions

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) jointly issued today a paper on managing new risks that could emerge from extensive remote working arrangements adopted by financial institutions (FIs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

2      The paper “Risk Management and Operational Resilience in a Remote Working Environment” highlights that, in view of the protracted remote working arrangements and the likely adoption of hybrid working [1] arrangements in future, it is important that FIs remain vigilant towards remote working risks and take pre-emptive steps to mitigate them. The Paper seeks to –

• raise awareness of key remote working risks in the financial sector;
• share good practices adopted by FIs to mitigate key remote working risks; and
• encourage all FIs to adopt good practices on managing remote working risks.

3     The Paper looks at possible risks to FIs in the areas of operations, technology and information security, fraud and staff misconduct, and legal and regulatory risks. It also examines the impact on people and culture that may be brought about by remote working. Drawing from the experiences of ABS member banks, the Paper suggests key risk management actions needed to address these areas of concern. The risks and risk mitigation measures set out in the Paper are also applicable to non-bank FIs.

4     MAS encourages FIs to benchmark their remote working controls against the examples in the Paper. FIs should also continually review and enhance their risk management practices to address evolving risks. This Paper is part of the ongoing collaboration between MAS and ABS’ Return to Onsite Operations Taskforce (ROOT), to coordinate responses to the crisis and prepare for a post COVID-19 new normal.

5     Mr Ong Chong Tee, Deputy Managing Director (Financial Supervision), MAS, said, “Financial institutions in Singapore have swiftly adapted to remote working and split-team arrangements in response to COVID-19. The operational resilience of our financial institutions during this period reflects the soundness of their business continuity management plans. It also underscores the importance of regular tests through internal drills and industry-wide exercises jointly organised by the MAS and the financial industry. Investments in the digitalisation of work processes and services over the past five years have also enabled our financial institutions to continue to provide a high level of support to meet the needs of individuals and businesses, during the pandemic. MAS will continue to work closely with ABS and other industry associations to enhance operational resilience and maintain high service standards.”

6     Mr Samuel Tsien, Chairman of ABS, said, “Over the years, banks have invested consistently and significantly in risk management and technology. The investments have enabled the industry to quickly and effectively respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure that banking services are not disrupted during the crisis. Where their roles permitted, banks have made arrangements to facilitate their employees to work from home in a safe and secured environment and allowed the continued provision of services that our customers needed. This outcome is not only due to individual banks’ efforts. It was also a collective one. ABS and ROOT, working together with MAS, coordinated the financial sector’s response to the crisis. The good practices are now captured in this Paper. It will serve as a valuable reference guide to all banks as remote and flexible work arrangements continue to be adopted as the pandemic evolves. The Paper is also a good guide to banks when dealing with other types of crises”.

  1. [1] A hybrid working arrangement is one where staff work in the office for part of the time, and remotely for other times.

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