Banking on governance, insuring sustainability

Content Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused health problems and fatalities all around the world. It has also wreaked havoc on financial markets and triggered a massive disruption to supply chains and business activities all over the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic is another risk that needs to be managed and demonstrates that good corporate governance and risk management have never been more important. Countries and organisations with good governance are more highly trusted and can better respond to unexpected events. Companies with good business continuity planning face less disruption to their operations during tough times.

A timely reminder

This report reviews ways in which financial services companies are responding to new and emerging challenges relating to corporate culture, technological disruption, cybersecurity, environmental, social and governance issues, and responsible lending and investing.

A key finding from this report is just how unprepared the world was for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only one bank and three insurers had identified a pandemic as one of their key risks. As most financial institutions were grappling with risks such as technological disruption and cybersecurity, they were blindsided by a much bigger risk.

But risk evolves and never sleeps. And neither should governance.

Emerging trends

The report identifies four emerging areas that require more attention from boards and senior management of financial institutions:

  • Corporate culture
  • Technological disruption
  • Cybersecurity
  • Sustainability
“Banks and insurance companies have to acknowledge that corporate governance and risk management are not checklist exercises or mere compliance with capital market regulations. Rather, they are important tools in supporting value-creation on a sustainable basis. 
Financial institutions must elevate their strategies to create socially beneficial impacts for communities they operate in. This requires independent, competent, diverse and committed boards to place key issues onto their agendas and ensure that they are considered and embedded into strategic decisions.

Key findings

Risk management

Only one bank and three insurers were prepared for a pandemic.
30 per cent of banks and 10 per cent of insurers use analytics to manage risks.


19 banks and nine insurers appointed directors with technology experience.
24 per cent of banks and 18 per cent of insurers have a board-level technology committee.


62 per cent of banks and 50 per cent of insurers named cybersecurity as a key risk.
32 per cent of banks train directors on cybersecurity.


Highest paid CEOs of banks Highest paid CEOs of insurers
1. DBS 1. AIA Group Hong Kong
2. Public Bank in Malaysia

2. New China Life

3. OCBC 3. Great Eastern Holdings
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