Published Date: 12 June 2006

Opening Address by Mr Heng Swee Keat, MD, MAS and Chairman, IBF,at IBF's 31st Annual General Meeting on 12 June 2006

Good afternoon, fellow Council members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for making the special efforts to attend this AGM.

Building a World-Class Financial Talent Pool

2   As financial services grow in depth and sophistication, the competition for talent will intensify.  To be a world-class financial centre, we must have a talent pool that is world-class.  Hence, to sustain the dynamism of our financial sector, we must attract and retain our share of the talent, and ensure that the talent is developed to the fullest potential. We will need to raise the level of professionalism of those who are already in the industry, as well as enhance our efforts to attract top graduates to join us.

World-Class Financial Sector Workforce

3   Our financial sector workforce is highly regarded, and that is a main draw for many international financial institutions to locate key operations in Singapore.  However, as the pace of financial innovation accelerates, and as we move up the value-chain in financial services, our workforce must not only rise above current tasks, but must be well equipped to meet future challenges.  We need to constantly benchmark the standards and competencies of our workforce against the best globally.

4   To build the capabilities of our financial workforce, IBF has been collaborating with key stakeholders on the Financial Industry Competency Standards (FICS) initiative.  After about two and a half years of extensive research and consultation with the industry, the FICS framework was launched on 2nd September last year, at the Institute's 30th Anniversary Celebration. We released the first set of standards for 4 job families then.

5   I am pleased to report that we have made good progress to-date, particularly in wealth management.  So far, more than 30 key financial institutions and training providers have adopted or will be adopting the framework.   Some of the most reputable institutions have adopted these standards.  For example, Credit Suisse and the Wealth Management Institute (WMI) have been successfully accredited for their training and assessment capabilities in private banking.  Credit Suisse also sponsored six of their Assistant Relationship Managers to be certified by IBF.

6   Another 2 new companies from the insurance segment has been accredited.  They are Great Eastern Life Assurance and the Singapore College of Insurance.  I congratulate all the organisations which have been successfully accredited. 

7   In the next 12 months, IBF will work closely with key financial institutions and training providers to build the critical mass of users of the FICS.  Our priority will be on 3 areas with critical skills or manpower gaps, namely wealth management, risk management and financial markets.

8   In response to the strong interest from industry, I am pleased to announce the launch of another set of standards for 48 job families.  These job families cover the whole range of banking, capital markets and insurance.  Institutions that are interested can obtain these from the IBF.

9   To translate the comprehensive FICS standards into high quality training programmes, IBF, MAS and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), will work with training providers to align their training curriculum with the FICS standards.  It is encouraging that several institutions, such as the Singapore Management University (SMU), WMI and ACI Singapore have already undertaken efforts in this direction. 

10   The quality of training providers is critical to the quality of training.  Hence, to enhance the quality of training, IBF will be stepping up our efforts in FICS accreditation of training providers.  I therefore urge companies that are providing financial sector training to embark on this journey without delay. The competitive pressure will intensify, and the winners will be those which are able to continually upgrade their capabilities.

11   To encourage participation in the FICS, IBF announced last year that all accreditation and certification fees would be waived until 2007.  As the FICS is a key pillar in upgrading the workforce capabilities of our financial sector, I am happy to announce that MAS will make available to our financial institutions a funding scheme under the Financial Sector Development Fund (FSDF). Financial institutions can obtain a 70 percent funding support of the training or assessment fees for their employees who successfully complete programmes accredited by the IBF.The scheme will take effect immediately and will be available until 31st December 2008. MAS will review the level of funding at the end of this period.  I hope that the industry will make full use of this co-funding scheme to raise the competencies of their employees.  

Expanding Pool of Job-Ready Graduates & Increasing Talent Flows

12   The second key area we must focus our efforts on is to increase the flow of talent into the financial industry, especially in the high growth areas.   Indeed, data from the Department of Statistics show the financial services industry has the highest average monthly earnings of $7,557 amongst all industry segments in Singapore.  This is about 60% more than the next highest industry, which is the information and communications, at $4,722.  The demand for financial talent will continue to grow strongly, as the economies in Asia power ahead.

13   As financial services grow in volume and complexity, we must ensure that our graduates have a firm grounding in the fundamental concepts, as well as a sound understanding of the latest developments.  Enhancing the alignment between the curriculum in our Institutes of Higher Learning and the demands of the industry will not only equip our graduates well when they start work, but also enable them to undertake life-long learning.

14   Today, it is my pleasure to announce the establishment of a Tripartite Task Force, comprising 16 members drawn from the industry, academia and government agencies.   These members all have extensive experience in the area of education and human resources development. They include Principals, Deans and Regional Heads of Human Resource.   The Task Force will focus on measures to address the short-term and long-term human resources needs of the financial industry, and on improving the integration of pre-employment education and in-employment continuous education and training.  An immediate area of work of the Task Force is to assess the adequacy of existing programmes offered by our universities and polytechnics in imparting new and emerging skills required to support the industry's growth.

15   Given the rapid development in the industry, even with the best planning, we must expect that from time to time, there will be severe shortage of certain skills.   To address such immediate needs, before the Institutes of Higher Learning are able to modify their curriculum, I am pleased that the IBF will partner MAS and the industry to launch the Finance Preparatory Scheme. 

16   Under this Scheme, financial institutions can sponsor their new hires to undergo a specialized training programme, even before they graduate or join the company.  Based on industry feedback, IBF will roll out 3 programmes this year, namely settlement operations, middle office operations and risk management.  The first run of the programmes will be conducted in the last quarter of this year, during the students' vacation break.  FSDF will co-fund 70 percent of the course fees.  IBF will provide the details on this programme to the financial institutions. 


17   The financial industry is developing rapidly in Singapore.To sustain this rapid growth and to stay ahead, we must invest in building a deep pool of talent.

18   I am pleased that with the strong partnership of the industry, IBF has achieved much in previous years.  In particular, in the last few years, the FICS Committee, under the leadership of Ms Euleen Goh, has made very significant contributions in drawing up the standards.I am delighted that the FICS Committee has agreed to serve for another year to continue to guide the implementation of the standards.

19   In closing, let me also thank our industry partners, as well as our colleagues in the academia and the WDA and MAS for your strong support to the IBF.With the commitment and hardwork of so many dedicated professionals, I am confident that our financial sector workforce will grow from strength to strength.   Thank You.