Sit a metre apart and don’t do roadshows: Singapore’s Covid-19 rules for bankers

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Sit a metre apart and don’t do roadshows: Singapore’s Covid-19 rules for bankers

If you’re still wondering about how best to tweak your working routines during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has some new advice for people in the finance sector.

MAS has told financial institutions in Singapore to implement safe distancing measures in “all aspects of their business operations”. While some of the measures (such as the collection of visitor details for contact tracing) are already being implemented by many banks, the MAS intervention is another sign that Singapore is stepping up its efforts to tackle the spread of Covid-19 following a spike in new cases. Last night, for example, the government imposed a ban on short-term visitors entering or transiting through Singapore.

The new MAS advice doesn’t just impact customer-facing staff in retail banking. If you work in investment banking or wealth management, the warning to “cancel or defer all non-critical events” applies to you too. These events include “marketing and promotional roadshows, as well as investment or education seminars”. Regional dealmaking across Southeast Asia has already been stifled by travel bans, and the MAS guidelines now restrict bankers’ ability to meet with local investors, at least face-to-face in groups.

MAS continues to encourage banks to allow employees to work from home where possible. But the financial regulator has some new social-distancing instructions for those still stuck in the office, whether in their normal building or a backup location. Your bank should provide “wider physical spacing of at least one metre between staff at workstations, meeting rooms or other common areas”, according to MAS. This may mean some banks have to tweak their desk arrangements this week to bring them into compliance.

Meanwhile, MAS has also reacted to the problem of “congestion at building entrances and lift lobbies” in the Singapore finance sector. It’s recommending “staggering of start times for work and lunch hours”.

The MAS advice is supported by similar guidance from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), which appears to be far from toothless. MOM said yesterday that it has taken enforcement action – either “stop-work” or “remedial orders” – against 21 workplaces which have failed to comply with government advisories on safe distancing.

These orders largely targetted businesses with large groups of workers, such as factories, construction sites, and shipyards. However, “collaborative workplaces” were also affected, suggesting that fintech firms and banks that employ hotdesking staff need to make extra efforts to ensure these employees are spaced well apart from each other.

MAS also provided advice for bank branches, such as encouraging customers to use electronic platforms, prioritising service to vulnerable people, and limiting the number of people waiting at the premises.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

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