Published Date: 02 September 2005

30th Anniversary of Institute of Banking and Finance & Launch of Financial Industry Competency Standards

Opening Address by Mr Heng Swee Keat Chairman, Institute of Banking and Finance / Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for joining my colleagues and me this morning to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Institute, and to officially launch the Financial Industry Competency Standards.

2   IBF turns thirty this year.  Over this 30-year period, IBF has held fast to its mission of upgrading the workforce in the financial industry.  During this period, as our financial industry develops, IBF's roles have also evolved.   This adaptability allowed IBF to score important achievements in supporting the development of the industry. 

The First 25 Years

3   When IBF was set up in 1974, the overall education level in Singapore was low and training opportunities were scarce.   IBF then served a critical function as the permanent centre dedicated to the training of our financial sector workforce.

4   As financial services develop, IBF expanded its role to include the administration of local and overseas examinations.  It also broadened its charter to include non-bank sectors in the financial industry.  The Institute built up strong connections with professional bodies and overseas training providers.  It served its members well - over 180,000 participants have benefited from the 4,000 over courses offered. IBF gradually earned the reputation of being a high quality training provider.  

Year 2000 - A Key Change

5   In the year 2000, IBF conducted a strategic review of its direction and strategy.  The review showed that certain training activities of IBF overlapped with other training institutions.  In other areas, there were significant gaps in the provision of financial training in Singapore, especially in new, emerging activities.

6   To address this, IBF re-positioned itself in 2001. It gradually relinquished its role as a training provider, which could now be adequately done by the private sector.  IBF began to focus on a broader and more strategic role of enhancing the financial training infrastructure in Singapore. "f-NExT", which stands for Financial Network for Excellence in Training, was then conceived. Apart from serving as a platform to develop a more robust, forward-looking training infrastructure in financial services,  "f-NExT" also promotes more active industry involvement and collaboration.

7   Since the revamp, IBF has established a network of more than 50 quality financial training providers as partners of "f-NExT".   They all share the Institute's vision to raise the quality of training, and to create a more vibrant financial training landscape in Singapore.

8   Under the "f-NExT" umbrella, IBF established a standard-setting committee known as the FICS Committee in 2003 to raise the professional standard of our financial workforce, across the entire range of jobs in the industry.  

Financial Services in the Future

9   What will the next lap for IBF be like?   It depends on how  the financial services industry in Singapore will continue to evolve. 

10   I believe financial services will remain a significant engine of our economy, growing in scope and sophistication.  As Asia's growth story continues to unfold, many new opportunities will arise. Financial institutions based here are well-positioned to benefit from this. But they can do so only if our workforce is talented and committed, possessing deep skills and special competence.  

11   We must grow our capabilities to keep up with changes in markets, technology and clients' demands.   To achieve this, MAS will work closely with the industry, academia and training providers to promote research and education in the financial sector.  

12   Research and education are inter-twined.  Research helps us break new frontiers, and keep up with the best in the world. It also enables us to develop talent in specialist areas, and facilitate the diffusion of knowledge.  We have 3 local universities, NUS, NTU and SMU, which are very well-regarded.   As part of Singapore's Global Schoolhouse programme, we have also anchored world-class universities and business schools like INSEAD, Wharton, and the Chicago Graduate School here.  All of them have high quality research and education programmes in Singapore. MAS will work closely with these institutions and the industry to draw up specific areas of focus.  For instance, the programme in "Risk Management and Financial Innovation" which we announced recently has received very good response, and we are now discussing the details with the key players.

13   Beyond research, we must develop the entire workforce in financial services.   As Prime Minster Lee noted in his National Day Rally speech, we want a mountain range, not a pinnacle. 

14   A recent issue of Asia Intelligence, which ranked our workforce well ahead, made a related point.   Quote:

15   "Singapore's small size and developed status& means it must keep finding ways to enhance the value-added it can get from the labour it has&" Asian Intelligence, 24 Aug 2005.  Unquote.

16   The imperative to maximize value-added in our workforce in the financial sector is even greater.   Financial services are a knowledge-intensive, relationship-rich business.   There are many specialized areas. We need a wide portfolio of specialist skills - not only at the strategic and management level, but at every operational level - from the frontline tellers who serve a wide-range of customers, to the relationship managers who serve private banking clients, from the traders who execute trade, to those who structure complex derivatives.

17   The competitiveness of each financial institution will depend critically on their human resources policy - how each recruits, trains and develops its staff.   Hence, the best financial institutions pay very close attention to this.  At the macro-level, the competitiveness of our financial sector depends on the breadth and depth of skills of our entire workforce. 

The Next Lap for IBF

18   We can prepare our workforce to acquire broad and deep skills in two ways. First, at the pre-employment stage, to ensure that the curriculum at our universities, polytechnics and ITE prepare their graduates well for the world of work and for life-long learning. Second, at the post-employment stage, to ensure that opportunities for continual upgrading are available and cost-effective.  IBF can play a lead role in both these areas.

First Thrust:  IBF as Focal Point

19   For pre-employment training, IBF can act as a focal point between our educational institutions and the industry.  

20   As the focal point, IBF can work on several initiatives. We should continually ensure that there is a close fit between what is taught at our institutions, and what the industry needs.   IBF can work out a systematic way of gathering industry's feedback on the skill sets, especially emerging ones, so that these can be incorporated into the curriculum, and enhance the job-readiness of our graduates.

21   Second, IBF can work with the industry to provide internships, to enable students to engage in projects or day-to-day operations of the financial institutions.  Such first-hand experience help students acquire useful skills, and enable potential employers to identify job candidates.

22   Third, IBF can coordinate with our financial institutions to market job opportunities for graduates.  Financial services job command the highest average pay of all sectors.  This makes it easier to sell the attraction of the financial industry. Still, we must not be complacent. We must continue to attract, develop and retain talent in our industry, and draw competent people to fill positions across the entire financial services industry.  IBF's partnership with the industry to hold talks on the campus, such as the recent one at the NUS Business School, is a good start.  I am glad that IBF will continue to do this in the other universities and polytechnics.

2nd Thrust:  FICS as the Flagship

23   Our second broad thrust is the continual upgrading of the entire financial services workforce. This will require collaboration among key stakeholders. The flagship programme of IBF in this area is The Financial Industry Competency Standards initiative or "FICS" that we are launching today.

24   With the launch of the FICS, IBF will undertake yet another new role, as the National Accreditation and Certification Agency for the financial industry. IBF will encourage industry practitioners to upgrade themselves and achieve certification.  In parallel, IBF will promote the accreditation of financial trainers.  To encourage greater participation, the Institute will waive all accreditation and certification fees until 2007.    

25   Once FICS is firmly in place, IBF can promote collaboration with regional training institutes, industry associations and professional financial bodies to achieve mutual recognition for the FICS' certification.

26   FICS is a very significant collaboration among key partners. The FICS framework was put together with the inputs of hundreds of industry leaders and leading practitioners across almost one hundred financial institutions, as well as industry associations and training providers. FICS marks a significant step forward not just for IBF, but also for the financial services industry, and for Singapore.

27   As Chairman of IBF, I would like to express my appreciation, and those of my fellow Board members, to all those involved in the development of FICS.   Special thanks go to the FICS Committee, WDA, and staff of IBF and MAS.  In particular, I would like to express our deep gratitude to Miss Euleen Goh, Chairman of FICS.  Euleen has been a tireless champion. Her strong leadership and steadfast commitment has made the launch of FICS possible today. 


28   IBF has a contributed well to the industry in the last 30 years.  Going forward, IBF can make good use of this institutional knowledge and history to discharge its mission even more effectively.   The FICS is a major part of the coming journey.   When fully implemented, Singapore would have a structured approach to developing our industry workforce to meet the changing needs of our financial sector.

29   To succeed, IBF needs the strong support of all key stakeholders - the leaders and practitioners in the financial services industry, the academia and training providers, and relevant government agencies. IBF will need to work hard to win this support. It is in our collective interest that we have a world-class financial services workforce, and I am confident that all our key stakeholders will contribute to achieving this goal.

Thank you.