Unit of MAS

Published: May 2015

The central bank in the Republic of Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is charged, amongst other things, with conducting monetary policy, issuing and managing currency and supervising the financial sector in the country. Treasury Today Asia continues its ‘Know the Institution’ series with a look behind the scenes.

For all the troubles certain elements of the world’s financial sector have created, the watchful body of men and women in each jurisdiction known collectively as the ‘central bank’ are charged with putting financial matters back on an even keel (and hopefully ensuring it doesn’t happen again). The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is just such a body, directing activities and moving the industry forward in one of the region’s most vibrant economic centres.

Established by Act

The Monetary Authority of Singapore Act of 1970 had set in motion the government’s will “to establish a corporation to be known as the Monetary Authority of Singapore, to provide for the exercise of control over and the resolution of financial institutions and their related entities by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and other authorities, and to establish a framework for the issue of securities by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the regulation of primary dealers of such securities, and for matters incidental thereto and connected therewith.” The passing of the Act saw MAS come into being on 1st January 1971, assuming authority to regulate all elements of monetary policy, banking, and finance in Singapore.

Before its establishment, monetary activities generally associated with a central bank were performed by several government departments and agencies. As Singapore’s stature as a commercial centre increased, so too did the complexity of its banking and monetary environment, to the point where the status quo was unsustainable. A more dynamic and coherent policy on monetary matters was essential to take the country forward. From the outset MAS has been about the future of the country, not just the present.

MAS has a number of principal objects and functions as laid out by the Act of 1970 (and subsequent revisions):

  • To act as the central bank of Singapore, conduct monetary policy, issue currency, oversee payment systems and serve as banker to and financial agent of the Government.
  • To conduct integrated supervision of the financial services sector and financial stability surveillance.
  • To maintain price stability conducive to sustainable growth of the economy.
  • To foster a sound and reputable financial centre and to promote financial stability.
  • To ensure prudent and effective management of the official foreign reserves of Singapore.
  • To grow Singapore as an internationally competitive financial centre.

MAS has increased its reach into the financial space since its inception. April 1977 saw regulation of the insurance industry come under its wing. In September 1984, the various regulatory functions that were managed under the Securities Industry Act (1973) were also transferred to MAS. This makes it somewhat unusual in the world of central banks, as it is now also the domestic financial regulatory authority.

Also unlike other central banks, MAS regulates the monetary system not by changing interest rates but via a managed exchange rate model that uses the foreign exchange mechanism and intervention in the Singapore Dollar (SGD) market. Currency issuance is now a function of MAS too. This follows its merger with the Board of Commissioners of Currency on 1st October 2002, positioning MAS as the sole issuer of banknotes and coins in Singapore. The actual design of the notes and coins – their dimensions, artwork and denominations – are determined by the MAS Monetary Policy Committee with final approval required from the Government. Singapore is a prolific issuer of ‘plastic’ notes (made from a flexible polymer). These are said to last up to five times longer than their paper counterparts, with obvious ‘green’ benefits.

Organisational structure

MAS is divided into a number of groups and their departments, each with specific functions and accountabilities. These departments include:

Monetary policy and investment

Economic policy is managed by the Economic Analysis Department, maintaining the macroeconomic model of the Singapore economy. The Economic Surveillance and Forecasting Department undertakes surveillance of the domestic and international economies, providing analysis and forecasts to support monetary policy decisions. Markets and investment are part of the Monetary and Domestic Markets Management Department created to implement Singapore’s monetary policy by managing the exchange rate. The Reserve Management Department takes responsibility for the management of Singapore’s official foreign reserves.

Development and international

The Financial Centre Development Department is tasked with supporting the growth of Singapore as an international financial centre. The Financial Markets Development Department has the goal of promoting financial markets in Singapore (the focus being on developing the capital market, asset management and insurance sectors) and fostering a “sound and innovative” technology, payments and exchange infrastructure. The International Department is charged with shaping the development of MAS’s policies on international monetary and financial issues.

Financial supervision

This is split two ways: Banking Departments I, II and III collectively supervise licensed and regulated banks, merchant banks, finance companies, money changers and remittance agents in Singapore. Its counterpart is the Insurance Department which supervises and regulates insurance companies operating in its jurisdiction.

Capital markets

Capital Markets Intermediaries (CMI) Departments I, II and III take collective responsibility for the admission and supervision of capital markets intermediaries, including securities and futures brokers, fund managers, real estate investment trust managers, corporate finance advisers, financial advisers, insurance brokers, trust companies and credit rating agencies. Meanwhile the Market Conduct Department assumes responsibility for capital markets activities, supervising through the administration of the Securities and Futures Act, the Business Trusts Act and the Singapore Code on Takeovers and Mergers.

Markets policy and infrastructure

The Markets Policy and Infrastructure Department has supervisory responsibility for markets and infrastructures, including central counterparties and trade repositories.

Policy, risk and surveillance

This is divided three ways: The Prudential Policy Department formulates capital and prudential policies for banks, insurance companies and securities firms, aiming to promote a sound and dynamic financial sector in Singapore. The Specialist Risk Department monitors and assesses the risk management processes and controls of individual financial institutions and designated payment systems. Its counterpart, the Macroeconomic Surveillance Department, seeks to identify emerging trends and potential vulnerabilities, closely monitoring and evaluating developments in G-3 and regional economies, as well as the broader international financial markets.

Finance, risk and currency

The Finance Department manages MAS’s financial resources. The Risk Management Department develops policies and strategies to mitigate MAS’s business continuity and enterprise-wide risks, as well as the financial risks of its global investments. The Currency Department, as mentioned above, takes responsibility for the issuance of currency and administration of requirements under Singapore’s Currency Act.

Also part of this office is MAS’s Managing Director’s Office within which is subsumed the Internal Audit Department which is required to conduct financial, operational and information systems audits of all MAS operations. This sub-office also oversees the Legal Department and the Corporate Planning and Communications Department.

Corporate Development

A key part of MAS is its Information Technology Department. This enables strategic use of technology and provides IT services to the organisation. As part of this requirement the department manages two nationwide financial networks: MASNET and the MAS Electronic Payment System (MEPS+).

Before its establishment, monetary activities generally associated with a central bank were performed by several government departments and agencies. As Singapore’s stature as a commercial centre increased, so too did the complexity of its banking and monetary environment, to the point where the status quo was unsustainable.

MASNET is essentially a communications hub, facilitating the submission of MAS returns and data exchanges between banks, FIs, the Singapore Exchange and government agencies.

MEPS+ is the national interbank payment system (real-time gross and government securities settlement). The technology department also oversees the Singapore Clearing House Association and Automated Clearing House and is keen to promote the adoption of e-payments in Singapore.

Also within the Corporate Development group are International Advisory Panel, which advises MAS on Singapore’s financial sector reforms and strategies, and Singapore Note and Coin Advisory Committee, established to advise on the design, introduction and issue of new currency notes and coins.

What MAS offers the community

In carrying out its work, MAS issues various instruments under Acts, Directions (either Directives or Notices), Guidelines, Codes, Practice Notes, Circulars and Policy Statements. Each type of instrument may cover general or specific requirements and is underpinned by a different degree of legal weight, from a matter of statutory requirement to plain advisory.

Acts are passed and issued as statutory law by Parliament but under the expert guidance of MAS. There may also be subsidiary legislation issued under specific Acts, giving more detailed requirements. Directions are aimed at giving specific instructions and could be issued as a Directive, which are general legally binding requirements, or as a Notice, which is a targeted legally binding requirement.

Guidelines typically refer to best practice as should be (but not mandatorily) adopted by specific institutions. Codes meanwhile, refer to preferred conduct around specified activities. Similarly having no force of law are Practice Notes which guide specified institutions around various administrative procedures such as licensing, reporting and compliance. And whereas Policy Statements broadly outline MAS’s core policies, Circulars are just information documents for public information.


MAS publishes an extensive range of research materials including market commentary, advice and academic research papers, many of which can be obtained from

The Financial Stability Review (FSR) analyses local and global economic risks, assessing their possible impact on the financial system and revealing the views of market participants, analysts and the public. Also of note are the MAS Information Papers which highlight key trends, developments and practices in the financial sector. The aim, says MAS is not to be prescriptive but to help disseminate information and enhance understanding of current issues.

MAS is active in regional forums and initiatives in accordance with Singapore’s general advocacy of regional cooperation and integration within Southeast Asia and the wider continent.

Alongside the release of the twice yearly MAS Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) comes the Macroeconomic Review. This is aimed at providing information on the Economic Policy Department’s analysis and assessment of GDP growth and inflation developments in the Singapore economy which helps to explain policy decisions published in the MPS. MAS Staff Papers also analyse current issues but from individual writers’ perspectives. The quarterly MAS Survey of Professional Forecasters is a useful roundup of forecasts of Singapore’s key economic indicators by economists and analysts, based on economic data for the previous quarter provided by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Beyond Singapore

MAS is active in regional forums and initiatives in accordance with Singapore’s general advocacy of regional cooperation and integration within Southeast Asia and the wider continent. MAS says it maintains regular economic and policy dialogue and technical exchanges with fellow central banks and financial regulators, “to promote the deepening of regional capital markets, strengthening of financial markets, and further developing safety nets for cross-border flows.”

As part of this co-operative stance it has an active role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEAN+3, the latter being a forum that promotes cooperation between ASEAN and the Northeast Asian nations of China, Japan, and South Korea. MAS is also an active participant in a number of major regional groupings such as the Executives’ Meeting of East Asia Pacific Central Banks (EMEAP) and ASEAN Central Bank Governors Meetings.

These relationships are productive. In March 2015 MAS and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Securities Commission of Malaysia and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand to establish a Streamlined Review Framework for the ASEAN Common Prospectus. The Framework is an initiative under the ASEAN Capital Market Forum (ACMF) and represents a further step towards regional capital markets integration. It is intended to facilitate cross-border offerings of Equity Securities and Plain Debt Securities in the region, making it easier to raise capital across ASEAN countries. The hope is that the Framework will be implemented by Q3 2015. Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the first three jurisdictions to sign the MOU. Securities regulators in other ASEAN jurisdictions are expected to participate in the Framework at a later date.

Beyond Asia, MAS is also a member of global bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and international standard setting bodies such as the Basel Committee of Banking Supervision (BCBS), the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) and the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).

MAS has developed working relationships not only with its ASEAN and Asia Pacific counterparts but also with the likes of the US Federal Reserve Board, the European Central Bank and a number of key European and Latin American central banks and regulators.

These relationships are beneficial in MAS’s work on Anti-Money Laundering and the countering the financing of terrorism. To this end it is also a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), within which Singapore contributes actively to international AML/CFT standard-setting discussions.

Contact details:

Monetary Authority of Singapore
10 Shenton Way MAS Building
MAS New York Office
17 State Street, 25th Floor
New York
NY 10004
(212) 809 1900
MAS London
Representative Office
1st Floor Old Change House
128 Queen Victoria Street
(44) (0)20 7332 6300
MAS Beijing
Representative Office
Unit 31-09, China World Office 1
1 Jianguomenwai Avenue, Chaoyang District
(86 10) 6505 0650

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