Friday, August 8, 2014

CPF staff could not answer simple queries regarding CPF Investment Scheme for gold bullion

In my research on gold bullion investments in Singapore, I found out that Singaporeans can actually use their CPF Ordinary Account to invest in gold bullion. Interestingly, UOB is the only agent authorised by CPF to sell physical gold using CPF savings and if you wish to invest in gold, you need to set up an investment account with UOB. There is a limit to the amount you can use for gold investment and it is capped at 10% of your investible saving for gold (if you have more than $20,000).

Now, one question had been bugging me. What if I sold the gold bars bought from UOB to another dealer? How is CPF going to make me return the proceeds back to my CPFIS or OA account? If the policy does not address this aspect, does this mean that this is a potential loophole for investors to liquidate their CPF monies before turning 55 years old (without giving up their citizenship or ending their lives)? Out of curiosity, I wrote in to the CPF Board to find out more details. If you are interested to know more, read on.

 


Dear Gerald,

I refer to your email of 2 August 2014.
We are sorry that we are unable to advise.
You may wish to check with UOB directly.

I would be pleased to help you if you need clarification or further assistance on CPF matters. Alternatively, you can call us on 1800 2271188 from Mondays to Fridays, 8am to 5.30 pm. Thank you.

Yours sincerely

Michelle Thoi (Ms)
Customer Correspondence Unit
Central Provident Fund Board

When I saw the initial response from CPF, I was pretty upset because of the heck-care reply from the CPF customer service unit. As public servants, they are supposed to serve the citizens and provide constructive solutions in their responses to public queries. Therefore I find their initial reply really absurd. To me, it is unacceptable that CPF staff cannot even answer simple queries pertaining to CPF policies satisfactorily. So I wrote in again and demanded a better reply.

Michelle,

What do you mean by "not unable to advise"?

This is a matter of policy pertaining to CPFIS. How can CPF officers not able to advise?

I can accept it if you explained that the policy is grey or does not address my query. But your reply is totally unacceptable to me.

If you don't belong to the policy-making department, then you should forward my query to your colleagues for further advice. Furthermore, as part of Singapore civil service "no wrong door" policy, you should have directed me to the UOB officer contact.

What happened to our civil service ethos?

I am expecting a better response from CPF.

Regards,
Gerald


Within three hours, the manager of the CPF customer service unit called me and clarified the issue. Below is her written reply:

 

Dear Gerald,

I refer to your feedback and our telephone conversation yesterday.

I am sorry for the service experience you had with my staff, Michelle. Though your enquiry on Gold investment is under the bank’s purview, Michelle should have further assisted by providing information on the refund of the sales proceed. I have coached her on this and also shared the learning points with my team.

Currently, UOB is the only CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS) agent bank to offer new gold investments. I have called UOB and was told by the bank officer that for the sale of the physical gold, you will not be able to sell to other dealers. You will have to sell the physical gold to UOB.

As for the refund under the CPF Investment Scheme - Ordinary Account (CPFIS-OA), when you sell your investments, the sale proceeds will be credited into your CPF Investment Account. The monies will remain in your CPF Investment Account unless you instruct your agent bank to effect the refund into your CPF Ordinary Account. However, if your Investment Account has been inactive (i.e. if you have not made any investment transactions) for two consecutive months, your agent bank will automatically transfer the cash balance held in your CPF Investment Account to your CPF Ordinary Account.

Alternatively, you may also transfer your cash balance in your CPF Investment Account to your Ordinary Account by using your agent bank's self-service facilities (e.g. ATMs, I-Banking or phone-banking facilities) or over the counter at the bank.

I can be contacted on 6229 3054 if you require further clarification or assistance.

Thank you.

 Yours sincerely

Stephanie Lim (Ms)
Manager (Customer Correspondence Unit)
Central Provident Fund Board

While CPF have closed the case yesterday, at the back of my mind, I am wondering if the CPF policy of refunding physical gold proceeds is enforceable. Just wonder if any of my readers had tried this idea before. I would be very interested to find out more.

Magically yours,
SG Wealth Builder

2 comments:

  1. Have a read at the discussion here:

    http://www.goldclubasia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6214

    It seems the physical gold u purchase at UOB with your CPF OA with be kept in the bank. You will only be issued a proof / receipt of purchase. There's no way you can sell your gold to other places then.

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks for sharing. Nice article

    ReplyDelete