Reply to Parliamentary Question on the re-skilling of the financial sector workforce due to digitalization
QUESTION NO 2144
NOTICE PAPER 1284 OF 2018
FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
Date: For Parliament Sitting on 06 August 2018
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Desmond Choo, MP, Tampines GRC
To ask the Minister for Finance in light of the announcement by a major bank to reduce the number of bank tellers by half (a) whether there will be similar changes across the banking industry; (b) what are the measures in place to help older residents migrate to digital banking; and (c) how is the Ministry helping bank tellers who are at risk of losing their jobs as digitalisation persists.
Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:
1 Technology is changing the way that financial services are being provided and used. Consumers in Singapore, as in other countries, are increasingly making use of their smartphones for electronic payments and other banking transactions. This reduces the demand for physical bank branches, and for bank tellers. However, this also means new jobs are created in areas such as service ambassadors, software development for banking apps, data analytics for consumer insights, and cyber security.
2 The opportunities presented by technology are immense. But the upside is limited by how much we can retrain and reskill employees to take on new roles, and to educate and help consumers to embrace technology.
3 On the first1, the approach taken by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is to work closely with the banks and unions, to pre-emptively reskill and redeploy affected employees into new job roles.
4 Specifically for jobs in consumer banking, NTUC, MAS, Workforce Singapore, the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF), and the banks have put together a professional conversion programme to re-skill bank tellers and customer servicing staff to take on new roles in relationship management, quality assurance, process re-design, data analytics and digital marketing. Through the programme, the major consumer banks have committed to re-train 3,500 employees over the next three years under the PCP. To date, more than 800 employees have commenced training, of which over 450 have successfully completed their training and have been deployed into new roles. PCPs are in the works for three other areas in banking, namely operations, technology and wealth management.
5 In the case of the bank which the member asked about, as announced by the bank earlier, it has committed to retrain existing customer service officers at branches to take on these new roles, and does not expect them to be retrenched.
6 Digital banking models will become more ubiquitous in the years ahead. This is a trend not just in banking, but across industries. With close collaborations between Government, unions and employers, we will do our best to educate and help consumers, and to retrain workers, so that Singaporeans can ride the wave of the digital revolution.1 The second issue will be addressed in the reply to Question No. 2137 for Oral Answer, which has been deferred to the next sitting of Parliament.