The city-state watchdog has decided to conduct a mystery shopping exercise focused on financial advisers after reports of “undesirable practices” in the industry, said Ee in her keynote address at the Association of Financial Advisers (Singapore)’s annual conference.
MAS conducted its last mystery shopping six years ago.
“When customer complaints are lodged, it is often difficult to tell which party is right or wrong,” she said.
Mystery shopping will allow MAS to find out what transpires in the conversations between investment representatives and their customers, for example whether the verbal representations made by advisers are misleading or inaccurate.
MAS will be embarking on the exercise soon, Ee said, but did not give an exact date.
Once completed, the regulator will share its findings with those surveyed as well as the public, she added.
Ee noted that other foreign regulators, as well as banks, insurers and industry associations, also conducted their own mystery shopping.
“Financial advice firms should also conduct mystery shopping and on-site visits to ensure that the marketing activities of their representatives comply with the guidelines on standards of conduct for marketing and distribution activities,” Ee said.
Over the last few months the regulator has received several complaints about individuals approaching customers at metro stations and shopping malls in an “aggressive manner”, despite marketing guidelines issued by the MAS last December prohibiting such conduct.
The individuals were reported to approach members of the public on the pretext of conducting surveys and to lead them to investment representatives stationed at retail establishments.
Gifts and vouchers were occasionally offered to customers for completing a survey, but one complainant alleged that he was asked to return the vouchers after indicating he was not interested in buying any financial products.
The regulator also observed that some firms were overly lenient with their agents when they broke the rules.
In one case, it found that an insurance firm’s representatives caught using the prohibited term “savings plan” when describing an insurance policy were not properly disciplined.
“We will not hesitate to take strong enforcement actions where there is evidence of serious wrongdoing or blatant disregard of our rules,” Ee said.