Financial Services Update: Cryptocurrency Policy Emerging in ASEAN

Financial Services Update | September 26, 2017
Authors: Shay Wester, Ian Saccomanno and Natalie McDaniel
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

September 29: Minister of Communication and Information Technology Rudiantara will be visiting San Francisco and the Council, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Amcham Indonesia and WEF will be hosting him for a small dialogue on the digital economy. Contact Kim Yaeger at kyaeger@usasean.org and Mario Masaya at mmasaya@usasean.org for more information.

October 11 - U.S.-Indonesia Women's CEO Summit: The US-Indonesia Women's CEO Summit will bring together C-Suite women from both private sectors for a series of lively, open, and uniquely personal conversations focused on how they did it, how they do it and how they are planning for the future. We look forward to seeing you at this conference. Sponsorship opportunities and individual tickets are still available. Please contact Artha Sirait at asirait@usasean.org for more information.

October 11- Voyage to Indonesia 2018 Washington, D.C. Gala Dinner: The Gala Dinner is a kick-off component of The Voyage to Indonesia (VTI) 2018, a series of events on Indonesia commencing now and leading up to the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings 2018 in Bali October 2018. The Voyage to Indonesia 2018 Gala Dinner will provide you a direct update by three of Indonesia’s most senior and distinguished ministers -- Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, and Central Bank Governor Agus Martowardojo on this high-potential and rapidly growing country. These three ministers will provide their insights on such key issues as Indonesia’s latest economic policies affecting its growth, upgraded investment rating, and new opportunities for its development and investment potential. Please contact Artha Sirait at asirait@usasean.org by September 30 if you are interested in attending. Attendance is subject to the Indonesian government's approval.

October 31- Financial Services Committee Quarterly Call: Please join us for a Financial Services Committee Call to discuss the agenda for the rest of the 2017, begin preparations for the 2018 ASEAN Finance Minsters and Central Bank Governors Meeting, and to review other potential future work.

November 8- ASEAN Capital Market Conference: The inaugural ASEAN Capital Market Conference is scheduled for November 8 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The ACMF plans to use the conference to promote capital market opportunities in ASEAN and discuss the ACMF’s work. More information on the conference will be available soon. Please contact Ian Saccomanno at isaccomanno@usasean.org if you are interested in attending or if you have suggestions for possible Council activities.

THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Cryptocurrency Policy Emerging in ASEAN

Following on their surge of effort beginning in 2016 to develop and regulate digital finance, ASEAN Member States have begun making efforts to regulate cryptocurrencies and bring them into the regular economy. ASEAN’s tempered and forward-looking actions stand in contrast to their neighbor, China, which is making headlines for banning initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrency exchanges, and websites related to bitcoin in an apparent crackdown on capital controls evasion and fraud.

  • Singapore has been a leader of cryptocurrency usage in the region and is often considered a safe-haven for ICOs. The Monetary Authority of Singapore has recently moved to regulate some ICO offerings if the product falls under Singapore’s Securities and Future Act (SFA) by behaving as a stock or any other security (MAS statement available here). Furthermore, digital token issuers will be required to lodge and register a prospectus with MAS prior to the offer of such tokens, and be subject to licensing requirements under the SFA and Financial Advisers Act (Cap. 100). MAS acknowledging ICOs and promising to regulate certain offerings has eased confusion about the legality of cryptocurrency use and exchanges in Singapore.
  • Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) announced on September 19 that the institution intends to develop rules for trading and exchanging cryptocurrencies by the end of 2017. Part of the new rules will be to clarify the application of existing regulations on money laundering and terrorist financing. The Malaysian Securities Commission had earlier issued a statement (available here) warning investors of the risks of ICOs, which they say include their potential role in money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as general lack of clarity on regulation and investor protection.
  • On September 14, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also indicated that some digital assets may be subject to securities law. Bitcoin exchanges have thrived in Thailand since two legal exchanges were opened in 2014.
  • The Philippines instituted a regulatory framework for digital currencies in January 2017 that requires companies seeking to start a cryptocurrency exchange service to apply for a license and follow anti-money laundering and know-your-customer requirements (regulations available here). Few exchanges seem to be applying for the licenses or complying with the regulation so far.
  • In August, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the Minister of Justice to coordinate with other top advisors to draft a framework for cryptocurrency legalization by August 2018. In the meantime, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has stated that cryptocurrencies are currently not considered real money and are not recognized as payment under Vietnamese law. Vietnam is also concerned about speculation around bitcoin mining hardware, which is being imported in large amounts and resold domestically at high costs to would-be miners.
  • There are no specific cryptocurrency regulations in Myanmar, Laos, or Brunei yet. The National Bank of Cambodia decided not to recognize any currencies that are not issued or backed by a government in 2014. In Indonesia, cryptocurrency usage is not considered legal payment.

As cryptocurrency usage continues to expand, anti-money laundering, know-your-customer, fraud protection provisions, and other relevant regulations may have to be updated to incorporate these new payments and investment models. The blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrencies also has potential applications to the traditional financial industry that may ultimately be more important than the cryptocurrencies themselves. Blockchain technology has the potential to make cross-border payments and security settlements happen almost instantly with increased privacy. Singapore is leading work to apply blockchain technology to interbank transfers through Project Ubin and is pursuing more regional cooperation on blockchain technology development through recent fintech cooperation agreements with Malaysia and Thailand. Cambodia has also been working with Japan-based distributed ledger startup Soramitsu to trial interbank payment solutions, with the goal of implementing blockchain at the central bank.

New Implementing Regulations to Prevent Financial System Crises in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (OJK) and Deposit Insurance Agency (LPS) have issued new implementing regulations for the Law on Prevention and Mitigation of Financial System Crises (Law No. 9/2016), which requires Indonesia’s banking and finance industries to comply with increased supervision by financial authorities. The OJK regulations include POJK No. 14/2017 regarding Recovery Plans for Systemically Important Banks, POJK No. 15/2017 regarding Determination of Status of and Follow-up Supervision of Commercial Banks, and POJK No. 16/2017 regarding Bridge Banks. The LPS regulations include PLPS No. 1/2017 regarding Handling of Systemically Important Banks Which Are Experiencing Solvability Problem, PLPS No. 2/2017 regarding Settlement of Banks Other Than Systemically Important Banks Which Are Experiencing Solvability, and PLPS No. 3/2017 regarding Management, Administration, and Registration of Assets and Liabilities in the framework of a Banking Restructuring Program. Important developments include stronger reporting requirements for systemically important banks, tiered supervision, and raised safeguard measures. Systemically Important Banks must prepare and submit a plan for resolving financial problems to the OJK. The supervision of commercial banks includes three tiers with different levels of monitoring based on Minimal Capital Obligation requirement, core capital ratio, non-performing loans ration, and minimum bank rating for soundness.

This legislation provides safeguards for Systemically Important Banks against financial crises and provides Non-Systemically Important Banks with guidance to maintain their good position. These reforms should reduce the risk of bank failures and financial crisis, increasing confidence in the financial sector. However, the new crisis management framework rules out the use of public funding in bank resolution, instead focusing on bail-ins. The Indonesian government believes this will reduce moral hazard, thus reducing the risk of major bank failures. However, if a systemic failure were to occur, these restrictions may severely limit the capacity of the government to respond to the crisis as they do not provide the policy tools or funding that would be necessary. The IMF, in its June Country Report, evaluated systemic risk to be low and the banking system to be generally resilient even to severe shocks. Moving forward, these fundamental improvements to the financial sector should support financial deepening, which will be critical to Indonesia’s continued development.

New Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulation from Bank Indonesia

On September 13, Bank Indonesia (BI) issued a new anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulation, PBI No. 19/10/PBI/2017 (available here in Bahasa Indonesia) concerning the Implementation of Anti Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Prevention for the Provider of Payment System Services Other Than Banks and Organizers of Non-Bank Foreign Exchange Business Activities. These regulations are aimed at curbing money laundering and terror-related financing across the payment system, including money changers, credit card issuers, remittance services, fintech payments startups, and electronic money providers. The rules are in part meant to address changes to the payments industry brought on by the digital economy. Service providers now must have an up-to-date list of alleged militants, radical organizations, and proliferators of weapons of mass destruction to cross check with their customers. They must also assess customer risks depending on the country origin of incoming and outgoing transfers and cannot engage with shell banks, which lack a physical presence in the country where they are incorporated. The Financial Services Authority (OJK) released similar regulations in June (available here in Bahasa Indonesia) that covers banks, insurance companies, and other financial conglomerates and non-bank financial institutions.

These regulations are part of efforts by Indonesia to bring their rules up to international standards and eventually join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In 2010, Indonesia was placed on the FATF list of jurisdictions for weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Indonesia was removed from the blacklist in 2015 due to progress in improving regulations. Since then, increased fears about ISIL activities and pressure from APEC have encouraged Indonesia to further improve its regulations.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

2018 ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting: On August 23, the Financial Services Committee leadership met with Ms. Luz Foo, Executive Director of the International Department of the Monetary Authority of Singapore to begin discussing plans for the 2018 ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting, which will be hosted by Singapore. The meeting reviewed topics MAS and the Council are interested in discussing. MAS suggested that financial inclusion and infrastructure finance could be good areas for collaboration between ASEAN and the Council. The Council is also exploring a February/March 2018 engagement with the ASEAN Working Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems with a discussion likely focused on fintech enablement and regulation. More information about planning and attendance will be distributed in late 2017. Please contact Ian Saccomanno at isaccomanno@usasean.org if you have any questions or suggestions about committee plans.

Survey on APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR): The National Center for APEC (NCAPEC) and the Informational Technology Industry Council (ITI) are conducting a survey to gauge Asia-Pacific businesses' interest in the CBPR system, using companies' responses to inform government officials from APEC economies on private sector views of CBPR, familiarity with the system, and barriers to certification. Submissions will be anonymized and not shared publicly. The survey is open until late September. Please click here to take the survey. For more information, please contact Stephanie Henry at shenry@ncapec.org.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Market Development
International finance conference opens in HCM City
S'pore can help yuan go international, say experts
Finance officials press BoT for rate cut
Asean banks MSME-enhancing financial innovation
Singapore's central bank inks fintech deal with Malaysia

Asset Management
Tax on income from bank savings proposed
Baht pits Bank of Thailand against government on rate cut
Export growth brings currency headaches for Asia-
Malaysia's Securities Commission unveils senior appointments
Thailand emerges as unlikely bond-flow magnet
Thailand's Unlikely Emergence as Bond-Flow Magnet in Charts
Nod for foreigners issuing bonds in baht
Asean Linkage folds after falling short

Banking
Banks given higher credit limits
Fitch: VN’s resolution not quick fix for NPL issues
Vietnam Banking Sector Still Not Corruption Free
​Experts blast Vietnam’s plan to rate banks’ performance for ‘internal use’
Banking sector cautious about monetary policy loosening
Vietnamese banks no longer burn for foreign capital
PM urges lower interest rates, taxes stable
Regulatory roadmap needed for banking sector reform
Poor returns from an underperforming banking sector
Banks capitalise on Cambodia’s high mobile phone usage
Equifax and AXA Singapore become the latest victims of cybercrime
IFC considers $200M senior loan to Vietnam International Bank
Lessons learnt by local banks
Former deputy governor of State Bank prosecuted

E-Payments
Central bank sets ceiling fee via newly issued e-money card regulation
Mobile commerce fails to take off with Vietnamese consumers
Ombudsman opposes plan to charge bank customers e-money top-up fees
Jury still out on cryptocurrency in Vietnam
Banks upgrading card security features
BI criticized for burdening consumers with e-money top-up costs
Five banks to pilot 24/7 tax payment scheme shortly
Alipay teams up with Thai bank to drive QR payments
Cashless dreams feature motorbike bankers, e-wallets in Vietnam
Enterprises ask ministry not to make haste on e-invoice
Siam Commercial spins off AI subsidiary
Banking via chatbot: Citi launches new FB messenger service
Singapore payments provider NETS to roll out mobile wallet by end-2017
Dubai and Malaysia ink fintech cooperation agreement

Insurance
Thailand: Regulator approves first-ever draft marine insurance law
RHB Insurance Bhd targets RM100m premium from health sector
Malaysia: Securities Commission warns of Initial Coin Offering risks
Life insurance gallops ahead in Kingdom
Draft Decree on Agricultural Insurance
Prudential named as “Friend of ASEAN”
Students who join health insurance to get life-long code
Cambodia: Insurance premiums shoot up by 21% in 1H

Market Regulation
Indonesia to Trace and Tax Assets Kept Hidden During Amnesty
Redenomination bill not to be deliberated this year
Draft gaming law to be approved
Finance Ministry proposes cut in some fees, charges
OJK to finish revision of rules on municipal bonds this year
New regulations to prevent financial crises and improve financial stability

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Market Development

International finance conference opens in HCM City VOV 22nd Sep 2017
The two-day 4th International Conference on Finance and Economics which opened on September 21 in Ho Chi Minh City is focusing on innovation and sustainable entrepreneurship. The event, hosted by Ton Duc Thang University, seeks to create a link between scholarly research and the reality of the business world. It is being attended by hundreds of experts, academics and students from Vietnam and other countries and territories like Germany, Italy, Australia, US, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and India.

S'pore can help yuan go international, say experts The Straits Times 16th Sep 2017
It is a long road fraught with challenges for the internationalisation of China's currency, the yuan, and Singapore can play a role in this endeavour, analysts said. Speaking at a forum yesterday, Dr Raymond Yeung, chief economist of Greater China at the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, said the internationalisation of the yuan faces major challenges. Not least of these is that commodities and a lot of other goods are priced and billed in the US dollar.

Gov't plans $1-B global bond sale Business World 13th Sep 2017
THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT plans to raise $1 billion from a global bond sale to help finance next year’s P3.767-trillion national budget, which now awaits legislative approval, documents from the Bureau of the Treasury showed. The global bond sale will form part of the programmed P176.27-billion external borrowing next year, which in turn will account for about a fifth of 2018’s P888.06-billion total borrowing program. Domestic creditors will account for 80% of next year’s borrowings at P711.96 billion.

Finance officials press BoT for rate cut Bangkok Post 12th Sep 2017
The Finance Ministry is calling for the Bank of Thailand to cut the policy rate with the aim of countering hot money and curbing speculative inflows, but the central bank says a rate reduction could put financial stability at risk. Inflows totalling trillions of baht have flooded the Thai bond and equity markets for speculative reasons, not real investment, and this has strengthened the baht, said finance permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse. Amid the below-target inflation rate, inflationary pressure is muted, letting the central bank slash the benchmark rate, he said, adding that the short-term market rate, which is now below the policy rate, also gives space for the reduction. quarter compared with its regional peers.

Asean banks MSME-enhancing financial innovation BusinessMirror 12th Sep 2017
Banks and so-called financial technology firms (fintechs) prepare a two-year test of digital financial solutions that widen the markets of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in countries grouped under the Asean With the support of the Asean Bankers Association (ABA), Association of Banks of Singapore (ABS) and Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP), the International Finance Corp., which is a member of the World Bank Group and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, plan to develop a cloud-based data-sharing technology, along with computer applications, through application- programming interfaces and the digital currency account system known as the blockchain.

Asset Management

Tax on income from bank savings proposed Viet Nam News 21st Sep 2017
The latest proposal to tax an individual’s income from the interest accrued from the savings deposited in banks has become a bone of contention between the parties concerned. At a meeting held last week to discuss tax laws, lawyer Trương Thanh Đức from Basico Law Firm noted that all the savings in banks earn an income of more than VNĐ200 million (US$8,800 ) per year through the interest rate should be taxed.

Baht pits Bank of Thailand against government on rate cut Bangkok Post 19th Sep 2017
A public rift between Thailand’s central bank and government on interest rates shows just how much of a dilemma the baht has become for the economy. The Finance Ministry is pushing the Bank of Thailand to cut interest rates to stimulate growth, in light of the strength of the currency and low inflation. That’s clashing with the bank’s aims of minimising financial instability and curbing household debt levels by keeping rates steady.

Export growth brings currency headaches for Asia- Nikkei Asian Review 19th Sep 2017
Pasir Panjang, a port in southern Singapore, is bustling with activity. Total container throughput in August rose 9.9% on the year to 2.94 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), according to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. This puts the city-state on track for its highest annual container-handling volume since 2014. The robust business at Southeast Asia's logistics hub reflects the region's economic recovery. The combined export volume of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam grew 18.5% on the year in July, data from NLI Research Institute shows.

Malaysia's Securities Commission unveils senior appointments Asian Asset Management 13th Sep 2017
Malaysia's Securities Commission (SC) has named Kamarudin Hashim as executive director of its market and corporate supervision business group, in one of three new senior appointments. Mr. Kamarudin, who was previously executive director of the SC’s intermediary and fund supervision division, will oversee the institution supervision, corporate surveillance, market surveillance and risk analysis departments in his new role, the market regulator says in a statement on September 11.

Thailand emerges as unlikely bond-flow magnet Bangkok Post 12th Sep 2017
Thailand's sovereign bonds don’t yield much more than US Treasuries, they cost less to insure than Spanish notes and its currency is more stable than China’s managed yuan. In a sign of how the flood of money into emerging markets is upending conventional wisdom, military-run Thailand with a credit rating just three levels above junk at Moody’s Investors Service has become a favoured low-yielding destination for bond investors.

Thailand's Unlikely Emergence as Bond-Flow Magnet in Charts Bloomberg.com 11th Sep 2017
Its sovereign bonds don’t yield much more than U.S. Treasuries, they cost less to insure than Spanish notes and its currency is more stable than China’s managed yuan. In a sign of how the flood of money into emerging markets is upending conventional wisdom, military-run Thailand with a credit rating just three levels above junk at Moody’s Investors Service has become a favored low-yielding destination for bond investors.

Nod for foreigners issuing bonds in baht Bangkok Post 9th Sep 2017
The Finance Ministry will let foreign state agencies and companies apply for baht-denominated bond issuance as a special case from Sept 6 to Oct 6, a move expected to help curb the baht's rapid gain. Foreign entities that win Finance Ministry approval must issue the baht bonds with a maturity of up to three years between Nov 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, the Public Debt Management Office (PDMO) said in a release.

Asean Linkage folds after falling short Bangkok Post 8th Sep 2017
Asean Linkage will be terminated next month as the trading system structured by regional bourses has no longer served investor needs following the technology change. The Asean Trading Link was initially implemented between the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) and Bursa Malaysia (BMB) in 2012. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) later joined as the third exchange in the programme. Each exchange has upgraded its matching engine and infrastructure, including the trading link system.

Banking

Banks given higher credit limits Vietnamnews 22nd Sep 2017
The State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) has approved the extension of credit growth limits for many commercial banks to support the country’s economic growth. Vietcombank chairman Nghiêm Xuân Thành said his bank was now able to increase credit limits for the whole of 2017 from 16 to 18 per cent. Vietinbank general director Lê Đức Thọ said his bank’s credit growth quota set for this year was recently adjusted to up to 18 per cent. The extension was also reported for many other joint stock commercial banks.

BIBD strengthens local banks in region Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Sep 2017
BANK Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) retained its strong A- (Stable) rating from leading international credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P). BIBD has maintained its A- rating since it was first assigned in October 2015 by ensuring adequate internal capital discipline. The rating, which is the highest for a Bruneian bank and on par with other notable banks in the region, also recognises BIBD’s dominant market share in Brunei and the government’s support for local financial institutions. At the same time, BIBD was also noted on its competitive position and increased business diversity.

Security interests in commingled goods under scrutiny in Singapore High Court Lexology 21st Sep 2017
Pars Ram Brother (Singapore Company) was engaged in the spice business. The Singapore Company obtained trade financing facilities from various banks to finance its business. As security for the financing, the Singapore Company had pledged the goods financed by each bank under a pledge arrangement. The Singapore Company entered into voluntary liquidation. The liquidator discovered that the Singapore Company had commingled the goods by stacking them together without segregation. This made it impossible to identify incoming goods financed by each bank from existing goods financed by other banks.

Vietcombank named Vietnam’s best bank in 2017 by Alpha SEA VOV 20th Sep 2017
The Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank) has been named the best bank in Vietnam in 2017 by Alpha Southeast Asia (Alpha SEA) magazine. The annual award, the first and only one focusing on Southeast Asia, is presented to outstanding financial institutions in the region. This is the 11th year the Hong Kong-based magazine has conducted the award. In Vietnam, Vietcombank is given credit for its efficient business strategy and management model with a view of offering its customers services that meet international standards.

Fitch: VN’s resolution not quick fix for NPL issues Vietnamnews 20th Sep 2017
Efforts by the Vietnamese authorities to speed up resolution of legacy problem loans could help address the asset-quality issues that weigh heavily on banks’ viability ratings. However, the resolution process is unlikely to improve significantly in the short term due to the considerable implementation challenges, Fitch Ratings says in a statement this week.

Vietnam Banking Sector Still Not Corruption Free AEC News Today 19th Sep 2017
As Vietnam begins reign-in red-tape and divest its extensive, state-owned enterprise (SOE) holdings, increasing attention is being focused on their corporate governance. A string of probes have uncovered an array of corruption and negligent activities, with the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) the latest to have the corruption spotlight land on it.

Singapore's central bank inks fintech deal with Malaysia International Business Times 19th Sep 2017
The Monetary Authority o Singapore (MAS) is boosting its ties with Malaysia in the areas of fintech and financial services with the signing a cooperation agreement (CA) with Securities Commission Malaysia (SC). The deal was signed by MAS Chief FinTech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty and SC Executive Director for Innovation, Digital & Strategy Chin Wei Min.

​Experts blast Vietnam’s plan to rate banks’ performance for ‘internal use’ Tuoi Tre News 18th Sep 2017
The State Bank of Vietnam wants to rate banks' annual performance, but make the ratings known only to the credit institutions concerned, a plan experts said makes no sense. Banks in Vietnam are to be classified into five ratings, A (Excellent), B (Good), C (Average), D (Bad) and E (Weak), the central bank said in a draft circular on conducting credit ratings for credit institutions and foreign banks. The ratings will be determined based on a set of criteria, including capital, assets, administrative management, liquidity, and business results.

Banking sector cautious about monetary policy loosening VietnamNet 15th Sep 2017
Easing the lending interest rate further by 0.5 percent and obtaining a high credit growth rate of 21-22 percent as instructed by the PM will not be an easy task. The State Bank is pursuing a monetary loosening policy with more and more measures being taken to reach that goal. More and more conditions for banks to continuously slash interest rates have been created since early in the third quarter. The liquidity increased after the central bank pumped more dong into circulation through buying more dollars to increase the forex reserves. The overnight interest rate in the interbank market has fallen to a record low this year, while the government bond yield has also decreased, which both shows higher liquidity.

Vietnamese banks no longer burn for foreign capital VietnamNet 14th Sep 2017
After separating from HSBC, Techcombank plans to spare no room for foreign investors, and VP Bank, which has been prospering in the last four years, is no longer eager to seek foreign partners. Under the current law, foreign investors can hold up to a 30 percent stake in one Vietnamese bank. However, Techcombank is collecting shareholders’ opinions about cutting the foreign ownership ratio limit in the bank to zero percent. 

PM urges lower interest rates, taxes stable Vietnamnews 13th Sep 2017
The Government has instructed corresponding administrative authorities to aim for a 0.5 per cent decrease in lending interest rates from now until the end of 2017, while keeping taxes, fees and other charges unchanged, in order to propel the current disbursement rate in public spending and boost businesses’ productivity.

Regulatory roadmap needed for banking sector reform The Myanmar Times 13th Sep 2017
Myanmar needs to establish a regulatory roadmap for the banking sector. This will give the local banks more clarity on the progress and timing of upcoming regulations, allowing them to gear up for further reform and growth. “Carrying out regulatory reform at an unmeasured pace can cause trouble,” said Azeem Azimuddin, CFO of Ayeyarwady Bank, during a panel at the 2017 Myanmar Global Investment Forum in Nay Pyi Taw today.

Poor returns from an underperforming banking sector Phnom Penh Post 12th Sep 2017
A recent report has found that the majority of Cambodia’s nearly 40 commercial banks lack the scale and efficiency required to generate a healthy return on investment for their shareholders, with many not even able to cover their own operating costs. Phnom Penh-based investment firm Mekong Strategic Partners (MSP) said in a performance review last month of Cambodia’s banking sector that despite an impressive run of revenue and profit growth, banks have made little headway in curbing expenses. It noted that while bank revenues have grown by an average of 22 percent a year during the past decade, and revenues by 19 percent a year, expenses have matched this level of growth and sapped the underlying profitability of banks.

Banks capitalise on Cambodia’s high mobile phone usage Phnom Penh Post 12th Sep 2017
Cambodia is changing from a quiet, tranquil country to a lively, tech-savvy nation. Walk down the streets of Phnom Penh and you’ll pass a host of millennial Cambodians gripping smartphones, beavering away on their social media accounts, shading their washed-out screens from the summer sun’s glare.

Equifax and AXA Singapore become the latest victims of cybercrime Business Insider 11th Sep 2017
Much scrutiny has been devoted to the state of legacy banks' data security recently, amid a series of high-profile breaches that endangered customers' personal information. Last week, however, two incidents served as a timely reminder that large incumbents in other financial services sectors aren't exempt from such attacks, and also need to reinforce their data protection measures.

IFC considers $200M senior loan to Vietnam International Bank DealStreetAsia 11th Sep 2017
International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank Group, is likely to invest up to $200 million in Vietnam International Commercial Joint Stock Bank (VIB) in the form of senior loans. The loans will consist of an anchor-level A Loan and a B Loan and/or Parallel Loan to the Hanoi-headquartered bank, IFC said in an investment proposal. The financing was said to be a long-term funding that will help VIB in growing its small and medium enterprises (SMEs), micro businesses and affordable housing loan portfolio. “The successful implementation of the project will promote lending in the economy and underpin the overall growth in the economy, as higher loan volumes will benefit customers, suppliers and new entrants,” IFC said.

Lessons learnt by local banks The Straits Times 10th Sep 2017
In the battle for consumer attention, the banking industry arguably has it tougher than most. With credit cards, loans and deposit accounts that many consumers might not be able to tell apart, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd and make a real impression. Looking at ads in public spaces, the newspapers and online, it is easy to see that banks are some of the biggest ad spenders in Singapore.

Former deputy governor of State Bank prosecuted VOV 9th Sep 2017
Former Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) Dang Thanh Binh has been prosecuted in relation to an economic crime worth US$666 million at the Vietnam Construction Joint Stock Commercial Bank (VNCB). The investigation department under the Ministry of Public Security said Binh will be investigated on the charge of lack of responsibility causing serious consequences relating to the case of Pham Cong Danh, former Chairman of the board of directors of the VNCB.

E-Payments

Finance Ministry to regulate e trading Customs News 25th Sep 2017
The Ministry of Finance has developed a draft circular that provides a general legal framework on the electronic trading activities at the stock market. The draft circular has been sent to the market members to collect their ideas and opinions. It is expected to ensure that the electronic trading activities at the stock market will be transparent, fair, secure and correspond to the Law of Electronic Trading, the Law of Cyber Security and other regulations. Under the draft circular, the electronic trading software programmes that are currently being used by the market members must be inspected and scanned for security loopholes, and they must also be examined once a year.

Central bank sets ceiling fee via newly issued e-money card regulation The Jakarta Post 22nd Sep 2017
Bank Indonesia (BI) has issued on Sept. 20 its regulation on electronic money (e-money) card transactions, the BI Board of Governors Regulation No. 19/10/PADG/2017 on national payment gateways, which, in effect, allows banks to free their customers from paying the recently debated top-up fees.

Mobile commerce fails to take off with Vietnamese consumers VOV 20th Sep 2017
Millions of Vietnamese use smartphones for tasks like listening to music, making a phone call, sending text messages, hailing a taxi or checking in for a flight, says the Ministry of Industry and Trade. But hardly anyone uses their mobiles for buying something at a store, Do Thang Hai, deputy minister of the MOIT told an audience at a recent conference in Hanoi discussing the lack of development of mobile commerce in the country. Mobile payment systems are not likely to replace traditional wallets anytime soon in Vietnam, said Mr Hai.

Ombudsman opposes plan to charge bank customers e-money top-up fees The Jakarta Post 20th Sep 2017
The Indonesian Ombudsman opposes Bank Indonesia’s (BI) plan to charge bank customers e-money top-up fees, arguing that in other countries such services are free. “The top-up fees involve a lot of money. For example, if the fee is Rp 1,000 per transaction and if a customer tops up Rp 20,000 in the transaction, it means the fee is 5 percent of the transaction,” said Ombudsman commissioner Alvin Lie as reported by tribunnews.com on Wednesday.

Jury still out on cryptocurrency in Vietnam VietnamNet 19th Sep 2017
The use of cryptocurrency and blockchains in Viet Nam is currently limited to just one per cent of the total population, though experts anticipate that the number could grow to 30 million users in the next ten years. Nonetheless, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has clearly stated that unlike legal tenders, cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are not considered real money and thus not recognised as payment methods in Vietnamese law. Bitcoin was first introduced to Viet Nam in 2009, and has since experienced double-digit growth each year in terms of users, and an average daily transaction value reaching the thousands of US dollars, according to Bitcoin Vietnam Co ltd., the self proclaimed first bitcoin platform in the country, established in 2014. Subsequently, bitcoin’s blockchain, its own open, distributed ledger that records transactions between two parties using the coin in a verifiable and permanent way, is now also accessible in Viet Nam.

Banks upgrading card security features philstar.com 19th Sep 2017
Security Banking Corp. and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) are upgrading the security features of their debit cards to protect clients against fraud and cyber threats. Jopet Jocson, first vice president and Fraud Management Division head at Security Bank, said the bank strengthened its card security with the ATM card lock/unlock feature similar to an “on/off” switch. The enhanced feature conveniently allows customers to turn off and on their card functionality in just a few clicks. It provides additional protection against unauthorized transactions including withdrawals and other card-related fraud.

BI criticized for burdening consumers with e-money top-up costs The Jakarta Post 18th Sep 2017
The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) has criticized Bank Indonesia for its plan to issue a regulation requiring consumers to shoulder the top-up costs for e-money. The YLKI believes the regulation will hinder the development of a cashless society. YLKI chairman Tulus Abadi said over the weekend that the emergence of non-cash transactions was a good thing and would make transactions more efficient and secure.

Five banks to pilot 24/7 tax payment scheme shortly Vietnamnews 18th Sep 2017
Five commercial banks have been selected to pilot a 24/7 e-tax payment scheme from November this year. Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hương, deputy director of the Estimation and Budget Management Division under the General Department of Customs (GDC)’s Import-Export Duty Department, said the banks include Vietcombank, Vietinbank, BIDV, MB and Techcombank. With the new form of tax payment, enterprises will pay tax directly at the 24/7 Electronic Customs Payment Portal anytime and anywhere with internet access. The customs authority will directly support enterprises to make payment documents from the original data and minimise errors in money transfer procedures.

Alipay teams up with Thai bank to drive QR payments Mobile World Live 18th Sep 2017
Alipay and Kasikornbank – one of Thailand’s largest financial institutions – inked a deal to encourage QR code adoption by allowing Thai merchants to accept payments from Chinese tourists using the system. Thai publication The Nation revealed the arrangement, which is designed to both expand the reach of Alipay in the country, and make Kasikornbank’s QR code system more appealing to retailers by increasing their potential customer bases.

Insiders warn of risks of hotel online booking in Vietnam  Tuoi Tre News 16th Sep 2017
Booking hotels through an online travel agent (OTA) often involves various risks as the accommodations could turn out not as good as advertised, industry insiders have warned. Many tourists and hotel owners have recently complained about the risks of this new model of accommodation booking. In Vietnam, advertisements of hotels through OTA are oftentimes misleading, resulting in various cases whereby customers had to cancel the booking when seeing the hotels firsthand, or file a lawsuit against the hotel’s owner or the OTA.

Retailers see big opportunities from online shoppers VietnamNet 15th Sep 2017
Young consumers with the habit of using smartphones are expected to be a new source of business growth.  Recent reports from market analysis firms all show that consumers are changing their ways of buying goods. Instead of visiting shops, they access online websites. In a report released on September 7, Nielsen said now is the right time for businesses to pay attention to the new source for growth – consumers who are connected with the internet and willing to spend a lot.

Cashless dreams feature motorbike bankers, e-wallets in Vietnam VOA 15th Sep 2017
For Vietnamese who live far from a retail bank branch, VietinBank scrambles scooters so its officers can meet clients where they live, tablet in hand. There’s also the strategy of DongA Bank, which decks out a van with four ATMs and parks it near factories to reach laborers. All across Vietnam, people are heeding the government’s call for “financial inclusion,” the global buzzword for bringing banks to the masses, and all the better if it can be digital. Hanoi has staked out some national targets for the year 2020, including an ambitious reduction in the share of transactions based on cash, down to a whopping 10 percent. That goes hand in hand with other targets, like increasing the number of point-of-sales (POS) devices to 300,000, and getting 70 percent of utility payments done electronically.

Enterprises ask ministry not to make haste on e-invoice The Saigon Times 13th Sep 2017
While admitting huge benefits of electronic invoices, many enterprises find it hard to issue e-invoices from next year as required, while others want to decide which form of invoice is best for them, instead of being forced to use e-invoices. At a seminar held last week to collect comments on a draft decree on invoices held by the HCMC branch of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), many businesses expressed concerns over the new regulation that forces enterprises to use e-invoices from early next year. Meanwhile, Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, vice chairman of the Dong Nai Association of Accountants, said the use of e-invoices from early 2018 to report sales data to tax offices may cause wastefulness. He proposed a longer time to prepare for the e-invoice application and no punishment for the use of paper-based invoices.

Siam Commercial spins off AI subsidiary Bangkok Post 13th Sep 2017
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) wants to gain first mover advantage by adopting artificial intelligence (AI) technology to analyse consumer behaviours to develop financial products and services that better serve demand. SCB Abacus, the bank's data unit that has been spun off into a wholly owned subsidiary, is responsible for using AI to analyse consumer behaviour. With the bank's big database, SCB Abacus plans to leverage AI technology to keep up with customers' requirements.

Banking via chatbot: Citi launches new FB messenger service TODAYonline 12th Sep 2017
Bank customers can look forward to conducting some of their banking transactions through an instant messaging service and social media. Citi Singapore yesterday announced the launch of Citi Bot, the bank’s new natural language chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Singapore is the first market for the launch of the chatbot, which will be introduced progressively in the Asia Pacific region in the next few months, said the bank in a statement.

Singapore payments provider NETS to roll out mobile wallet by end-2017 Channel NewsAsia 12th Sep 2017
NETS on Tuesday (Sep 12) announced its plans to roll out its NETS Pay mobile wallet before the end of the year, and that it will be equipped for use outside Singapore. The local payments provider said during a briefing that its mobile wallet will work like those currently in the market such as Apple Pay or Android Pay - in terms of the authentication process. The difference is that it will be able to accept not just credit or debit cards, but NETS ATM cards too.

Dubai and Malaysia ink fintech cooperation agreement Finextra Research 12th Sep 2017
The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) last week entered into an agreement to cooperate in the development of financial technology (FinTech) innovation. The agreement reflects efforts by both authorities to provide a robust regime that fosters innovation in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Malaysia. The agreement was signed by Mr Ian Johnston, Chief Executive of the DFSA, and Tan Sri Ranjit Ajit Singh, Chairman of the SC. Under the terms, the authorities will share information on developments and innovations in FinTech, and intend to consider participating in joint innovation projects on the application of novel approaches to FinTech in each market. Given the significance of Islamic finance in both Malaysia and Dubai, FinTech developments in that sector will be of particular interest.

Samsung explores new horizons in Vietnam VOV 12th Sep 2017
Along with investing $17 billion in high-tech complexes in Thai Nguyen and Bac Ninh provinces, Samsung plans to encroach on other sectors in Vietnam. Along with the launching of Galaxy Note 8, the newest Samsung smartphone model, on September 13 in Ho Chi Minh City, the Korean giant will also launch Samsung Pay, its mobile payment service, soon. This is not the first time that Samsung mentions launching Samsung Pay. Last year, when the company launched the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge in Vietnam, Kim Kyung-dong, director of Samsung Pay, said that Vietnam was considered a potential market for Samsung Pay and expected to convert the country’s majority of consumers to electronic payments.

Prohibition on Debit- and Credit-Card Double Swiping Hukumonline 11th Sep 2017
The Communication and Information System Security Research Center (CISSRec) has reminded debit- and credit-card owners of the dangers of swiping cards on devices other than Electronic Data Capture (EDC) machines. In order to tackle this issue, Bank Indonesia (BI) has issued Bank Indonesia Regulation No. 18/40/PBI/2016 on the Implementation of Processing for Payment Transactions.

Insurance

Hukumonline English | OJK Regulates Anti-Fraud Policy for Insurance Companies Hukum Online 25th Sep 2017
The Financial Services Authority (“OJK”) has issued Circular No. 46/SEOJK.05/2017 on Fraud Control, Implementation of Anti-Fraud Strategy and Anti-Fraud Strategy Report for Insurance Companies, Sharia Insurance Companies, Re-Insurance Companies, Sharia Re-Insurance Companies, or Sharia Units (“Regulation 46/2017”), as mandated under Article 72 (5) of OJK Regulation No....

Thailand: Regulator approves first-ever draft marine insurance law Asia Insurance Review 20th Sep 2017
Thailand's first marine insurance Bill based on a UK law has received the green light from regulators and will be sent to the Cabinet for consideration. The Office of Insurance Commission said that the proposed law, when passed, would bolster the local insurance industry’s competitiveness, as well as investors’ confidence.

RHB Insurance Bhd targets RM100m premium from health sector NST Online 18th Sep 2017
Insurance Bhd targets to register RM100 million in gross written premium in health insurance this year following the launch of its wellness incentive programme to customers via RHB Insurance Activ Programme. For the half year ended June 2017, RHB Insurance registered a gross written premium of more than RM53 million in health insurance. RHB Insurance managing director and chief executive officer Kong Shu Yin said the company hopes to instil in its customers the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and to encourage them to take greater responsibility over their own health.

Malaysia: Securities Commission warns of Initial Coin Offering risks Asia Insurance Review 13th Sep 2017
Securities Commission Malaysia has issued an advisory warning investors of the risks of initial coin offerings (ICO), given the emergence of digital token-based fundraising activities and investment schemes in the country and elsewhere. In the statement issued last week, the SC, a government entity supervising exchanges, clearing houses and central depositories, warned of the following risks:

Life insurance gallops ahead in Kingdom Phnom Penh Post 13th Sep 2017
Cambodia’s burgeoning insurance industry is accelerating at a healthy pace, and nowhere is this more visible than the life insurance market. Life insurance, which only entered the market five years ago, has experienced substantial growth with more than $1 billion of coverage issued in the first half of 2017, according to a recent report by the Insurance Association of Cambodia (IAC).

Draft Decree on Agricultural Insurance Lexology 11th Sep 2017
The Government of Vietnam recently released a draft decree (Draft Decree) providing regulations on agricultural insurance products (including insurance for plants, animals and aquaculture). Following a multi-year pilot period beginning in 2011, the Government has introduced the Draft Decree to regulate agricultural insurance products and encourage more local nonlife/general insurers to underwrite and sell these products. The Draft Decree has an overarching goal of contributing to social safety and promoting agricultural developments in Vietnam.

Prudential named as “Friend of ASEAN” Insurance Business 11th Sep 2017
Prudential Corporation Asia, the regional business unit of the UK-based financial group, was conferred the “Friend of ASEAN” award by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) in recognition for its contributions to the region. The accolade was given at the ASEAN Business Awards 2017 ceremony held on Wednesday in Manila, Philippines. This is the second time Prudential has received this award. Currently headquartered in Hong Kong, Prudential launched its first Asian operations in Malaysia over 90 years ago, and it now does business in 14 markets across Asia, eight of which are members of ASEAN. It is also working towards strengthening trade relations between the EU and ASEAN, as current chair of the EU-ASEAN Business Council.

Students who join health insurance to get life-long code VOV 9th Sep 2017
Each student who joins the medical insurance programme would be provided with a social insurance code which could be used for all their lives, according to a new regulation for medical insurance, social insurance and unemployment insurance. The insurance code would be used for recording insurance history and processing insurance payment claims, said Tran Dinh Lieu, deputy general director of Vietnam Social Security (VSS).

Cambodia: Insurance premiums shoot up by 21% in 1H Asia Insurance Review 8th Sep 2017
Cambodia's insurance industry has enjoyed strong growth during the first half of this year, with total gross premiums reaching US$68 million, an increase of 21% compared with the same period in 2016, according to the Insurance Association of Cambodia (IAC).

Market Regulation

Tracking Southeast Asia’s terror finance Tracking Southeast Asia’s terror finance 19th Sep 2017
Counterterrorism experts will link up with financial firms in a bid to cut off Islamic State’s (IS) Southeast Asian cash lifeline at a November summit in Kuala Lumpur, amid mounting evidence that the extremist group’s Middle East coffers are starting to run dry. Hosted by financial intelligence agencies from Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia, the Counterterrorism Financing meet – given the name Codeathon – aims to develop private-public initiatives to counter the spread of IS following its stunning seizure of Marawi city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on May 23.

Indonesia to Trace and Tax Assets Kept Hidden During Amnesty Jakarta Globe 19th Sep 2017
Indonesia's government has issued new regulations aimed at tracing and taxing the wealth of taxpayers who were not pardoned in the nine-month tax amnesty that ended in March. Around 972,000 taxpayers joined the amnesty program and declared assets worth a total of Rp 4,881 trillion ($368.07 billion). About 24 percent of that was held offshore, mostly in Singapore, and only a small percentage of it was pledged to be brought back home.

Indonesia tightens rules to curb money laundering, terror funding The Star Online 13th Sep 2017
Indonesia has issued new regulations aimed at curbing money laundering and terror-related financing across a broader range of financial service providers, including money changers, credit card issuers and electronic money providers.

Redenomination bill not to be deliberated this year The Jakarta Post 13th Sep 2017
Bank Indonesia’s (BI) hopes of lawmakers deliberating the redenomination bill this year have been dashed. A House of Representatives plenary session on Wednesday approved six bills to be included in the revised National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) for this year, namely bills on water resources, on copyright of printed and recorded work, on tax consultant, on social work practices, on music and on customary land rights.

Draft gaming law to be approved Khmer Times 12th Sep 2017
Cambodia’s draft gaming law will be submitted to the cabinet for approval within this month to pave the way for the country to attract foreign investment in the booming gaming industry that also brings in large numbers of tourists to the kingdom, said a senior Finance Ministry official. “We got a lot of input for the draft law after many inter-ministerial and stakeholders’ meetings,” Ros Phearun, a deputy director-general of the Finance Ministry’s financial industry department, told Khmer Times on Monday.

Finance Ministry proposes cut in some fees, charges Vietnam Net 11th Sep 2017
The Ministry of Finance has proposed to reduce the level of fees for the issuance of biosafety certificates for the use of genetically modified products as food and animal feed, from VND120 million ($5,330) to VND105 million each case.  In a draft circular amending Circular No 286/2016/TT-BTC, the ministry has proposed to reduce the fee for the issuance of export food certificates, at the request of the importing country, from VND350,000 (US$15.5) per shipment to VND200,000 per shipment. The ministry has also planned to abolish the fee for the granting of quarantine certificates for animals, terrestrial animal products, imported or transited seafood, temporary imported products for re-export or goods transferred through border-gates, as stipulated in Circular No 285/2016/TT-BTC.

OJK to finish revision of rules on municipal bonds this year The Jakarta Post 10th Sep 2017
The Financial Services Authority (OJK) hopes to finish the revision of a regulation on municipal bonds by the end of the year to increase the attractiveness of debt papers issued by regional administrations. The bonds are expected to help finance infrastructure projects in the regions. Some regions, such as Jakarta, West Java and East Kalimantan, had expressed their interest in rolling out such bonds, said the OJK’s deputy director for services company assessment, Muhammad Maulana.

New regulations to prevent financial crises and improve financial stability International Law Office 8th Sep 2017
New regulations require the banking and finance industries to comply with heightened supervision by financial authorities and will be welcomed by foreign investors and customers concerned with Indonesia's financial stability. Key developments include intensifying reporting obligations for systemically important banks, introducing tiered supervision and raising safeguard measures. The government continues its efforts, developed in response to the Asian and global financial crises of 1997 and 2008, to build and maintain a solid financial system. The enactment of Law 9/2016 regarding the prevention and mitigation of financial system crises provided a legal basis for the government to form the Financial System Stability Committee (KSSK). The KSSK comprises the Ministry of Finance, Bank Indonesia, the Financial Services Authority (OJK) and the Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS). KSSK members cooperate in order to maintain financial stability, manage financial crises and supervise systemically important banks.

New regulations to prevent financial crises and improve financial stability | Lexology Lexology 8th Sep 2017
New regulations require the banking and finance industries to comply with heightened supervision by financial authorities and will be welcomed by foreign investors and customers concerned with Indonesia's financial stability. Key developments include intensifying reporting obligations for systemically important banks, introducing tiered supervision and raising safeguard measures.