Singapore’s competition watchdog fines 10 adviser firms

Ten Singapore financial advisory firms, including several well-known names in the expatriate community, have been fined between S$5,000 and S$405,114 (US$3,693 and US$300,000) for anti-competitive behaviour.

The matter, which dates back to 2013, is said to be the first case of anti-competition in the city-state’s financial services sector.

In a statement, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) said it was fining the 10 firms  a total of around S$900,000 for “pressurising a competitor to withdraw [an] offer” from Singapore’s life insurance market.

At issue is an offer made on 30 April, 2013, by iFAST Financial, a Singapore-based financial platform and financial products company, to give a 50% commission rebate on life insurance products sold on its direct-to-consumers online platform, Fundsupermart.com. The offer was withdrawn a few days later, on May 3.

In its statement, the CCS said it began to investigate after noting media reports “which suggested that iFAST withdrew the Fundsupermart offer due to unhappiness in the industry”, and after someone forwarded one of these reports directly to the commission.

“CCS’s investigation revealed that on 2 May 2013, a group of financial advisers, namely Avallis, Cornerstone, Financial Alliance, Frontier, JPARA, Promiseland, RAY and WYNNES met at a management committee meeting of the Association of Financial Advisers (Singapore) (AFA),” the CCS statement continues.

“During this meeting, the Fundsupermart offer was discussed and Financial Alliance was appointed as their representative to contact and pressurise iFAST into withdrawing the offer…

” In the afternoon of 3 May 2013, iFAST withdrew the Fundsupermart offer.”

iFAST didn’t re-introduce any more life insurance product offerings via Fundsupermart.com until August 2015, the CCS statement goes on, “more than a year” later, and after CCS  had issued a so-called Proposed Infringement Decision to the 10 firms.

CCS said the 10 advisory companies were served notice on Thursday, and that they have two months to appeal. The penalties were described as being based on each firm’s turnover with aggravating or mitigating factors taken into account.

At the time this report was published, comments from the 10 companies in question weren’t immediately available.

PartyFinancial Penalty
AvallisS$54,788
CornerstoneS$13,781
Financial AllianceS$137,524
FrontierS$5,000
IPPS$239,851
JPARAS$5,000
PIASS$405,114
PromiselandS$31,305
RAYS$11,939
WYNNESS$5,000
TotalS$909,302

Source: Competition Commission of Singapore

 

IFAST was first incorporated in Singapore in 2000, acquired its main rival, the ING I-WRAP platform in 2007, and was listed on the Singapore stock exchange in December, 2014. One of its shareholders is SPH Asia One Ltd, the Internet arm of Singapore Press Holdings, publisher of the Straits Times newspaper and the AsiaOne.com website.

The iFAST Group is also present in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.

According to its website, it provides investment products and services “to financial advisers, financial institutions, insurance companies, pension fund managers, retail and accredited investors, and multi-national companies”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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