Published September 06, 2012

MAS looking into UOB's property listings on website

Bank needs approval for non-banking or non-financial business, it says

By Siow Li Sen

[SINGAPORE] The United Overseas Bank (UOB) has invited the scrutiny of the Monetary Authority of Singapore over the slew of new property launches that had appeared on its website. These listings, reported by The Business Times on Tuesday, were removed from the website.

MAS said that a bank needs its go-ahead for doing any business other than banking or financial.

"A bank which seeks to enter into an arrangement with another party to carry on any business (other than banking or financial business or those which MAS has expressly permitted) should seek MAS' prior approval before doing so," said an MAS spokesman.

"MAS is looking into the property listings in question. We note that the listings have been removed," he said.

UOB did not comment for the report that appeared on Tuesday and it declined to do so yesterday as well.

Other bankers had told BT that they have not put property launches on their websites though most do send notifications on new launches to selected customers.

One source from a rival bank thought it was a good idea but the suggestion was quickly shot down by the compliance unit.

Banks compete fiercely for the mortgage business and UOB has been among the more innovative in terms of products. It is the only bank to offer a 50-year mortgage.

"It's alright to offer a special home loan deal to a specific project as that's seen as marketing of our banking business but just a listing of property launches - that could be construed as crossing the line," said the source.

Bankers said it has become common for them to invite customers to property launches and if they have a special home loan deal with a particular project, they will also market it accordingly.

"When we have tie-ups with developers, we will share the details of the property launch with our RMs or relationship managers, who will then share it with clients," said one banker.

UOB had featured 11 new property launches plus one overseas project in Bangkok on its website.

The 11 new properties were Cityscape at Farrer Park, NV Residences, Vacanza@East, Eight Riversuites, One Dusun Residences, The Line, Flamingo Valley, The Miltonia Residences, The Palette, Sea Esta and Parc Centro.

UOB did have a disclaimer stating it is not an agent of the developer and all queries should be directed to the developer and it shall not be held responsible for the project.

According to Harmander Mahal, HSBC Singapore head of customer value management, the bank has arrangements with property developers, from time to time, to offer its Premier or affluent customers preferential interest rates for mortgage loans to buy designated residential properties.