Client Privacy, Not Secrecy, Is Key To Singapore As Private Bank Centre - Citigroup

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 28 October 2011


As pressure continues to build against international financial centres such as Switzerland, famed for its bank secrecy laws, rival jurisdictions such as Singapore are trying to establish their credentials. However, privacy, not banking secrecy, must be protected, the chairman of Citigroup's private bank has said.

‘‘Clearly, all regulators around the world want to make sure that there are consistent standards when it comes to making sure that the money is legitimate, and they have the standards to make sure that any activity relating to money-laundering and terrorism is totally out,” Deepak Sharma, bank, told Reuters in an interview.

“We want to develop Singapore as an industry based on the leading fundamental drivers, not based on any tweaking of tax treaties and stuff like that,” he said.

‘‘In order to do that, the industry has kept abreast of and clearly understands there are changes happening not just in Singapore, but they are happening in the US, in Switzerland. And the industry, in partnership with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, pro-actively deals with it,” said Sharma.

‘‘I would say there is a differentiation between confidentiality and secrecy. I think confidentiality is the right of every client. And I think that would be protected. So long as you start to look beyond confidentiality, with most regulators today I don’t think you can have any secrecy anywhere, because regulators know exactly which clients come and open accounts with you.’’

His comments come at a time when Singapore has been seen as posing an increasingly competitive threat to Switzerland as a wealth management hub.

The Tax Justice Network, a campaign organisation that claims that certain low-tax and offshore financial jurisdictions are a menace to the global economy, recently ranked Switzerland as the world's most secret financial centre, with Singapore in sixth place. (The US was ranked fifth, with Hong Kong in fourth). The TJN's findings have drawn scorn from a number of jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands and Jersey, that have claimed the TJN's methodology is unclear and that the organisation has a far-left political bias against low taxes and the free movement of capital.




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