"World-class Financial Sector Workforce with a Strong Singapore Core" - Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, at the Launch of the Tripartite Advisory on Human Capital Practices for Banking on 14 March 2018

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you very much for joining us at the launch of the tripartite advisory on human capital practices for banking.

1   Let me begin with a quick overview of Budget 2018 to set the context of my speech. When Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the Budget a couple of weeks ago, he talked about the three big shifts that are coming our way.

  • First, the shift of global economic weight towards Asia;
  • Second, the emergence of new technologies; and
  • Third, the ageing population.

2   A lot of what we are doing has to be seen in the context of these three big shifts. My speech today speaks to the first two; the fact that there is going to be a lot of economic activity here and Singapore must get itself ready for it, as well as the impact of technology. Budget 2018 is our plan to position ourselves for the future, and the content of what I will be talking about today is part of that plan.

Changing financial landscape

3   The financial sector is changing quickly. Technology has opened doors for financial institutions to enter into new markets, products and modes of payment, fostering financial inclusion in the region and benefitting consumers. With artificial intelligence and data analytics, financial institutions are better able to generate insights, formulate strategies and make decisions. Digitisation and automation have also revamped financial institutions’ operations and processes.

4   Against this backdrop, MAS launched the Financial Services Industry Transformation Map last year, setting out the vision to be a leading global financial centre in Asia, providing global connectivity, supporting Asia’s development, and serving Singapore’s economy. The ITM sets out an annual growth target of 4.3% for financial services’ GDP. It also aims to create 3,000 net jobs every year in financial services, and an additional 1,000 net jobs per annum in the FinTech sector. The sector is on track to achieving these targets.

Workforce transformation – Building a world-class financial sector workforce

5   As the financial sector undergoes change, the financial sector workforce will also have to transform. With digitisation and automation, job roles will change quickly, and existing professionals must be equipped with new skills to enable them to leverage on technology and data in their day to day work.

6   A sound and competitive financial centre must be underpinned by a versatile and resilient workforce.  To achieve sustainable growth, we must ensure that our financial sector workforce keeps up and remains relevant.  Equipping our workforce for the future is not an easy task, and meaningful transformation will not be easy to achieve.  But difficult as it may be, business as usual is not an option. As things stand, we are seeing two very contrasting phenomena – in “hot” areas such as IT, there is a shortage of skilled talent in, for instance, data analytics and cyber security.  On the other hand, we also know that firms could end up with surplus staff as they look to digitise and automate various aspects of their businesses. 

7   It is important that we are able to devise effective mechanisms to address these key issues. First, while we want our financial institutions to be able to compete for and have access to the best regional and global talent, it is also important that we put in place plans to grow our own timber that meets financial institutions’ business needs, and contributes to the growth and transformation of the financial sector.  This makes for a more sustainable strategy to address talent needs. Second, for jobs-at risk areas, we need to find ways to pre-emptively equip staff with new skillsets and capabilities that enable them to continue to contribute meaningfully in the new financial landscape.  This is not easy, as we could very well be confronted with skills mismatches, where skillsets required by new job roles are different from the skillsets that existing professionals have.  To a certain extent, skills matching can be done within a firm.  But where it cannot be solved from within, we need to create industry structures to render assistance where needed, and facilitate more seamless matching of roles.

8   There are no quick fixes.  We must systematically plan ahead to equip our workforce for the future, and give professionals the best chance of securing meaningful roles in the new financial landscape.

Launch of the Tripartite Advisory on Human Capital Practices for Banking

9   Today, we launch the Tripartite Advisory on Human Capital Practices for Banking. This advisory was developed, after extensive discussions by the Association of Banks in Singapore, MAS, Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation.

10   Why the need for this tripartite advisory?  The tripartite advisory aims to promote progressive human capital practices within the banking sector, and sets out key paradigms that help us achieve our objective of developing a versatile and resilient workforce. We want to maintain open access to best talent wherever we can find them – local, regional and global. At the same time we want to build a strong Singapore Core as part of a deep and diverse talent pool of local and foreign professionals that contribute to the growth and transformation of the banking sector. Furthermore, as the workforce undergoes change, we want to work closely with the industry to create more seamless pathways that can help ease transition as professionals move from one job role to another.  We want to encourage efforts to reskill and redeploy employees as a first resort, and to manage retrenchment responsibly.

11   Why the need for a tripartite approach?  Because the solutions involve multiple stakeholders – the government, banks, unions and individuals, and each stakeholder must play their part. 

12   On the government’s part, MAS has played a key role in developing a strong jobs and skills agenda for the financial sector, and has worked on various fronts to expand the talent pool, deepen skillsets, and develop leaders. While there has been good progress, MAS is keen to do more with financial institutions and unions under the tripartite movement, to keep up with the sector’s needs.

13   While MAS develops the talent pool, the Government has also taken concerted efforts to support PMETs across sectors.  In particular, the Government has stepped up efforts to facilitate placements into five main job growth areas in finance, professional services, infocomm and media, wholesale trade, and healthcare. We have generated positive momentum.  Placements in these five sectors accounted for about 50% of all placements of PMETs with wage or skill mismatches in the second half of 2017.  About 50% of these placements were mature PMETs above the age of 40. This sectoral and whole-of-Government approach has allowed closer connection and engagement with the industry and companies.  This has better enabled us to identify jobs that are evolving, and develop sector-specific initiatives to reskill and redeploy local PMETs, especially those who are mature, into job growth areas.

14   Banks, unions and individuals must play their part too.

Banks should systematically plan ahead to equip employees with digital and data skills to support changes in business models, and to reskill and redeploy employees impacted by technological changes. 

  • Banks’ management and HR should work hand in glove to support the business and workforce transformation.  To strengthen the capabilities of HR professionals, banks should invest in their continuous training and professional development, including providing opportunities for exposure to global and regional HR operations.
  • Banks should also consider a skills-based hiring model, focusing on competencies and expertise required to perform the job, than set a strict minimum number of years of relevant experience.  Studies have found that skills-based hiring is up to five times more effective than any other hiring practice.1 
  • The unions play a key role in changing employees’ mindset and supporting their efforts in acquiring relevant new skills. 
  • Individuals should play their part in proactively responding to how their jobs are evolving, and deepen their skillsets and acquire new competencies. 

15   In our consultations with the banking sector, the banks have affirmed the importance of implementing these practices, as set out in the tripartite advisory.  Hence, I am happy to share that all ABS members, accounting for almost 160 banks, have committed to adopting the tripartite advisory.

16   The launch of the tripartite advisory complements other good examples of tripartite initiatives being undertaken in the financial sector.

17   First, we have seen early success in the tripartite collaboration to develop professional conversion programmes for the financial sector. Through extensive consultations with financial institutions, MAS, the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) and Workforce Singapore have launched a professional conversion programme (PCP), for consumer banking. This PCP identifies a range of skills such as sales, product development, analytics and digital engagement, which are needed to prepare consumer banking professionals for emerging roles, as banks pivot towards digital banking models over time.  The major consumer banks have already committed to train more than 3,000 existing consumer banking employees over the next two years.  We hope that this number will grow as the initiative gains traction and other consumer banks come on board. PCPs for other areas of the financial sector are in the works – for instance, IBF is looking to develop PCPs to support the growth in wealth management, as well as the increasing use of data analytics and automation in operations and support functions. For PCPs to succeed, employee mindset is key – they must be willing to undergo reskilling and redeployment into new roles.  IBF will continue to work with tripartite partners to bring employees on board PCPs that support their transition into job growth areas.

18   Second, the tripartite partners have come together to support IBF’s efforts to set up a dedicated career centre to provide career advisory and job placement services for the financial sector by August this year.  This builds on the Financial Industry Career Advisory Centre (FiCAC) that was launched by the tripartite partners in 2016 to provide guidance to those keen to join the financial sector or those looking to move to new jobs within the industry.  The functions of FiCAC will be subsumed under the IBF career centre when the latter is fully set up. As an immediate priority, IBF will focus on developing PCPs that will help reskill professionals who are affected by changes in their job roles. IBF will also provide job placement assistance to individuals, and match them with appropriate job opportunities within the financial sector. By working with tripartite agencies – e2i, NTUC and Workforce Singapore, IBF can also help industry professionals to be placed in other sectors.  Similarly, professionals from other sectors can be placed in the financial sector.  

Keeping in touch with Overseas Singaporean professionals

19   As part of our efforts to build a strong Singapore Core for the financial sector, MAS continues to stay in touch with Singaporean finance professionals who are based overseas, and offers support to those who are keen to return home.  This is an important initiative as there are quite a number of Singaporeans that take up positions with major financial institutions in other key financial centres, and each of them have the potential to contribute to the growth of our financial sector.

20   MAS has collaborated with the industry and Overseas Singaporean Unit to launch a LinkedIn community to connect with overseas Singaporeans in finance. The LinkedIn community, which we are launching today, will serve three objectives.

  • First, to provide the latest insights on key developments in our financial sector.
  • Second, to offer a line of sight to relevant career opportunities in Singapore, and facilitate networking among Singaporeans based locally and overseas.
  • Third, to offer access to information resources that are useful for overseas Singaporeans returning home.

Conclusion

21   Let me conclude.  Building a world class workforce does not happen by chance.  It requires pre-emptive planning, troubleshooting, and putting in place effective programmes that create more optimal outcomes at the systems level.  No single stakeholder can do this alone, and that is why we have the tripartite approach, which is all about partnerships.  We are in this together – transforming our workforce to take on jobs of the future.

  • Banks to look into a longer horizon and pre-emptively retrain employees for a digital future.
  • Government to support such efforts through the SkillsFuture and Adapt and Grow initiatives.
  • Unions to offer assistance to employees undergoing redeployment or other career transitions.
  • Professionals to pursue continuous learning and embrace the constant upgrading of skills as the new norm.

22   Together, we can develop a world-class workforce that supports the strong and sustainable growth of the industry.

1 Innovate Educate 2015.
Last Modified on 15/03/2018