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MAS launches information-sharing platform to combat financial crime; six commercial banks participate

Nicole Lim
Nicole Lim • 3 min read
MAS launches information-sharing platform to combat financial crime; six commercial banks participate
The platform, named COSMIC, allows FIs to share customer information if there are “red flag” behaviours. Photo: Bloomberg
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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched COSMIC, a centralised digital platform for the sharing of customer information among financial institutions (FIs) to tackle money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing. 

COSMIC, which stands for Collaborative Sharing of Money Laundering/Terrorism Financing Information and Cases, follows a proposal bill read in parliament last May. The bill proposed amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Act (FSMA) to allow information sharing to combat financial crime.

The platform is co-developed by the MAS and six commercial banks in Singapore; DBS, OCBC, UOB, Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank, all of whom will be the participating FIs during its initial phase. 

According to the MAS, COSMIC participants may share customer information with another participant FI only if the customer’s profile or behaviour displays certain objectively-defined indicators of suspicion, or “red flags”.

Information sharing is currently voluntary and focused on three key financial crime risks in commercial banking, namely the misuse of legal persons; misuse of trade finance for illicit purposes; and proliferation financing, the MAS adds. 

Under the FSMA, participating FIs are required to have in place policies and operational safeguards to protect the confidentiality of information shared. 

See also: MAS imposes $2.5 mil penalty on Swiss-Asia Financial Services for AML and CFT breaches

Loo Siew Yee, assistant managing director (policy, payments & financial crime) of MAS, says: “COSMIC will enable FIs to warn each other of suspicious activities and make more informed risk assessments on a timely basis. It complements the industry’s existing close collaboration with MAS and law enforcement authorities to combat financial crime. This will strengthen Singapore’s capabilities to uphold our reputation as a well-regulated and trusted financial centre.”

“With criminals getting more sophisticated, COSMIC is a game changer by providing banks, regulators, and law enforcement agencies the platform needed to share information in a very controlled and targeted manner and hence weed out bad actors more effectively,” says Lam Chee Kin, DBS’s group head of legal and compliance. 

“At the same time, we are mindful that legitimate customers should not be denied access to financial services and have worked closely with fellow participant banks and MAS on a set of guiding principles to ensure appropriate use of information derived from COSMIC,” he adds, noting that he also sees further opportunities for COSMIC to cover more crime typologies and to include more stakeholders in the financial industry.

See also: Singapore seizures rise to $3 bil in money laundering case

Citibank, one of the six commercial banks participating in COSMIC, explains how the platform collaboration will work — should an individual or entity open a Citi Singapore account, the bank's anti-money laundering detection program can identify if a transaction is fraudulent or has been obtained via illegal means. 

Citi will then share the details of such entities to other banks through COSMIC, to alert other FIs to these concerns and to make an informed risk assessment on these entities. 

"Participating in an initiative like COSMIC creates a strong network for the financial sector to have a deeper and more holistic risk assessment regime that is derived through collaboration. Greater information sharing results in a safer banking environment for our clients, and at the same time enhances Singapore’s position as a global financial centre," says Pua Xiao Wei, Citi Singapore's compliance risk country officer.

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