I would put UOB as the safest Singapore bank for one simple reason. It is managed by the real owner. You can’t imagine the real owner selling away its family jewel. It is possible only if a prodigal son appears on the scene. Not likely at the moment.
The risk of UOB going the way of Barings or UBS is much lesser. There is ownership. In the case of banks managed by professional managers, you would not know when they will strike a deal or did a Nick Leeson and the bank will be gone.
In today’s world, where integrity and trustworthiness can be bought by money, it is always the price to pay. The old virtues of righteousness, honesty, loyalty and yes, integrity and trustworthiness, are good to have ideals. Not meant to be taken seriously by those who are too smart. When they are too smart, the only interest is their own pockets.
In every commercial deal someone will be taking a cut. The bigger the deal the more attractive will be the cut. The Chairman or directors would also be in the game for the cut. When the new ethos is every man for himself, all institutions and organizations managed by clever professional managers are at risk.
When countries can be sold, what is so special about banks or sovereign funds when they are managed not by the true owners but by professional managers who owe no loyalty to the organization except to themselves? Most of the big international banks and MNCs are now in the hands of professional managers with the minority shareholders not knowing what is happening and still very trusting of the management.
What is so special about Singapore and Singapore govt owned organizations when they are managed by professional managers who owe no loyalty to the country? Who is there to guard against professional theft or adventurism when UBS too can do nothing about it?
Nothing beats the real owner sitting in management and watching his own money carefully. The day UOB goes the way of being run by professional managers, without the owners in control, I will withdraw my view that it is the safest bank.