Financial services in Singapore: An overview of the regulatory landscape


Single regulator

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) is the sole regulator in Singapore having regulatory oversight of the financial services industry across various sectors. The MAS is also the central bank of Singapore. The Singaporean financial services industry covers the following sectors:

  • banks;
  • merchant banks;
  • finance companies;
  • insurance;
  • securities, futures and fund management;
  • financial advisers;
  • money brokers;
  • money-changing and remittance businesses;
  • business trusts;
  • trust companies; and
  • payment and settlement systems.

The MAS performs six distinct oversight functions to achieve its objectives, namely:

  • regulation, which involves setting risk-based capital and prudential requirements;
  • authorisation, which involves acting as the “gatekeeper” for institutions that wish to offer financial services in Singapore;
  • supervising the conduct of business by financial institutions, including prudential and anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (“AML/CFT”) measures;
  • financial surveillance;
  • enforcement, which involves taking action against those institutions and individuals who breach prudential, AML/CFT and market conduct requirements; and
  • exercising resolution powers over financial institutions.

This MAS publication provides further information on MAS’s objectives and principles of financial supervision in Singapore.

In addition to the MAS, other Singaporean regulators may also be generally relevant in the conduct of business in Singapore. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) is Singapore’s regulator of business entities (and hence, including entities carrying on financial services businesses) in Singapore. The Singapore Exchange (SGX), which is the only stock exchange in Singapore, also performs regulatory functions with respect to listings, issuer regulation, member supervision and also market surveillance.

Legislation and other non-statutory publications

Different pieces of Singaporean legislation regulate the various financial services sectors highlighted above. These include:

  • the Banking Act (Cap. 19);
  • the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap. 186);
  • the Finance Companies Act (Cap. 108);
  • the Insurance Act (Cap. 142);
  • the Securities and Futures Act (Cap. 289);
  • the Financial Advisers Act (Cap. 110);
  • the Money-Changing and Remittance Business Act (Cap. 187);
  • the Business Trust Act (Cap. 31A);
  • the Trust Companies Act (Cap. 336); and
  • the Payment Systems (Oversight) Act (Cap. 222A).

Subsidiary legislation is promulgated under the respective main Acts to provide specific regulation applicable to that financial services sector. For instance, the Securities and Futures (Licensing and Conduct of Business) Regulations (promulgated under the SFA) provide specific regulations on capital markets services licence related matters such as conduct of business requirements and rules relating to dealing with client moneys and assets. (See our forthcoming report on the Securities and Futures Act (Cap. 189) and the capital markets services licensing regime in Singapore.)

The MAS, being the sole financial services regulator, administers the aforementioned legislation. Guidelines, directions, codes, circulars, FAQs and notifications are published by the MAS under its general powers provided under the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap. 186)). These publications also apply to the financial services industry. Financial institutions are expected to comply and adhere to these publications.

We are very grateful to Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP for their assistance in the publication of this report.

Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP is the largest law firm in Southeast Asia, with regional offices in China, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, as well as associate and affiliate offices in Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Middle East, including regional desks focused on Japan and South Asia. Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP is firmly committed to the provision of high quality legal services. It places strong emphasis on promptness, accessibility and reliability in dealing with clients. At the same time, the firm strives towards a practical yet creative approach in dealing with business and commercial problems.

You can contact Regina Liew, Head, Financial Institutions Group, Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP at [email protected] or Larry Lim, Deputy Head, Financial Institutions Group, Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP at [email protected], for further information or specific advice on the issues covered by this report.