These case studies have been modified so as not to identify any actual cases at FIDReC. They are provided for purposes of learning and are not necessarily indicative of outcomes at FIDReC.
Mdm Wong visited the Bank to place S$20,000 into a fixed deposit. Mdm Wong was retiring in 5 years’ time and she explained in Mandarin to Mr Sim, the bank officer, that this was why she wanted to place her money in a fixed deposit, so that she could fund her retirement. Mdm Wong only completed her primary education and was not fluent in English.
Mdm Wong heard Mr Sim say that the fixed deposit interest rate was low and that she should consider putting her money into a “savings plan” instead. He said that if she could commit to saving at least S$300 per month for 5 years; she will receive a higher interest rate. Attracted by this, Mdm Wong decided to put her money in the plan suggested to her. She signed all the documents Mr Sim asked her to. When Mdm Wong received a call-back from the Bank Manager a few days later, she was in a hurry to take her husband to the doctor after a fall. She could not really understand what the Bank Manager was saying but responded positively to the questions asked of her.
Mdm Wong dutifully paid S$300 per month for a year, but in the second year, after meeting up with an old friend who was also a financial advisor, Mdm Wong discovered that the “savings plan” she thought she had was an insurance policy that had a term of 15 years. She went to the Bank and asked that the policy be cancelled, and a refund given to her. She claimed that Mr Sim did not tell her that she was purchasing an insurance policy or that she would only be able to get her money back after 15 years. If she had known, she would not have agreed to purchase the insurance policy. The Bank suggested that Mdm Wong could surrender the policy but told her that the surrender value would be much less than the premiums paid for the policy. Dissatisfied, Mdm Wong came to FIDReC.
During the mediation, the Bank told Mdm Wong that their investigations showed that Mr Sim had explained and disclosed the features and risks of the policy to Mdm Wong. Mr Sim had also confirmed that he told Mdm Wong about the policy term of 15 years and premium payment term of 5 years. Mdm Wong, with the help of her son who acted as her nominee, pointed out to the Bank that there were errors in the documents that Mr Sim had submitted on her behalf. The information did not match with her circumstances. There were also inconsistencies in Mr Sim’s account. Mdm Wong argued that the policy was not suitable for her as she had made clear that she needed the money for her retirement in 5 years.
The FIDReC case manager helped to facilitate the discussions and encouraged the Bank as well as Mdm Wong to consider a settlement that could help everyone move forward. In the end, with the agreement of the Bank and the cooperation from the insurer, Mdm Wong converted her policy into one with a shorter policy term (from 15 years to 10 years) so that she could access the funds she needed earlier.
Key Learning Points
• When dealing with selected clients, the Monetary Authority of Singapore requires financial institutions to have controls to check that its representatives have followed through the prescribed advisory and sales process before a transaction is submitted to the product manufacturer for processing. This process is meant to protect vulnerable clients, so do take any call-backs seriously and answer questions accurately.
• Do ensure that you read and understand any document before you sign it. You can always ask a trusted person to help explain the document to you before you sign it.
• Mediation is a process that can help both parties effectively resolve a dispute. When a dispute arises, there are naturally a lot of emotions and feelings of unhappiness. Do try to think objectively about your case and keep an open mind. You will then be able to make the best decision for yourself as to how and when to resolve the case.
• After you have signed the documents to purchase an insurance product, do note that there is usually a free-look period of 14 days. You can change your mind within this time but do notify the insurance company quickly.
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