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Best of the Web

The "Best of theWeb" rounds up some of the more noteworthy recent coverage we haveencountered on issues affecting the Asia-Pacific financial sector. Please notethat some links may require a subscription.

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Chinasays insurers cannot be 'ATMs' for corporate raiders

China's insurance regulator warned insurers not to becomeATMs for shareholders, the FinancialTimes reported. The comments from Xiang Junbo, chairman of the ChinaInsurance Regulatory Commission, come after two years of premium growth, mainlydriven by sales of universal insurance policies that were wealth managementproducts in disguise. The remarks are also a veiled reference to the battle forcontrol ofresidential developer China Vanke by insurance group Baoneng Group. ForeseaLife Insurance has used the proceeds from selling universal insurance policiesto finance its bid for Vanke. Vanke had protested the use of wealth managementproceeds to build its stake, claiming it was illegal. Xiang had warned that theregulator would not allow companies to become financing platforms and ATMs forlarge shareholders.

1MDBscandal prompts Singapore to shame banks engaged in money-laundering

Singapore's central bank is not putting up with moneylaundering among the city's banks. Ravi Menon, the Monetary Authority ofSingapore's managing director, vowed to name and shame banks engaged in moneylaundering following a scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.,Agence France-Presse reported. The MAS will now publish regulatory dealingswith financial institutions that are engaged in money laundering or terrorismfinancing. The move will hurt them more than financial penalties, said Menon.The MAS had discovered money-laundering lapses in certain financialinstitutions from their relation to 1MDB. The lapses were "simplyunacceptable" and have dented Singapore's reputation as a financialcenter, Menon said.

Westpacputs robots on trial in digital banking platform

WestpacBanking Corp. is looking at outsourcing some of its bankingprocesses to robots, The Sydney MorningHerald reported. The bank is considering using artificial intelligence inits digital banking systems, said Travis Tyler, the bank's general manager ofconsumer digital. So called "bots" will be allowed to answer simplequestions about customers' finances, he said. The bank is working on a proof ofconcept over the next six months for the digital system that would be able toanswer questions about the best deposit rates available. The artificialintelligence can also be used to answer questions about payments betweenaccounts. Tyler predicts that artificial intelligence will be integrated insome services in the financial sector in the coming year.

Daiwa,Digital Garage plan fund targeting AI, blockchain

DaiwaSecurities Group Inc. is planning to tap into the future bydeveloping a fund that will invest in artificial intelligence and blockchaintechnology. Daiwa is collaborating with Japanese venture capital firm DigitalGarage for the fund, The Nikkei reported.The two firms will set up a joint venture that will manage the fund, which isaiming to begin investing by autumn. The fund will support companies involvedin virtual reality, data security and biotechnology. The fund will spend about¥10 billion to ¥20 billion.

Bankslike Kotak Mahindra, Axis Bank and others mulling iris-recognition technologyfor ATM transactions

Some Indian banks are considering high-tech methods ofsafeguarding their ATMs, The EconomicTimes of India reported. Banks such as DCB Bank Ltd., Axis Bank Ltd. and Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. are considering rolling outiris-recognition technology to authenticate ATM transactions. Iris recognitionis a better option than fingerprint recognition ATMs, as some blue-collarworkers and farm laborers have bruises or cuts on their fingers, reasoned RajivAnand, executive director and head of retail banking for Axis Bank. DCB Bank,for its part, is still in the exploratory stages for iris recognition butimplementing the technology should not be a problem, said Managing Director MuraliNatrajan.