Published Date: 24 June 2009

Opening Address By Mr Heng Swee Keat, Chairman, IBF and Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore, at the 3rd IBF Annual Conference, 24 June 2009

Good morning, fellow Council members, FICPs, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.   Welcome to the 2009 IBF Annual Conference which is held in conjunction with our 34th Annual General Meeting.

2   When I spoke at last year’s Annual Conference, inflation was a major global concern. Events took a dramatic turn in September last year. Inflationary concerns gave way to severe risk aversion and global deleveraging, and financial authorities globally had to take unprecedented measures to restore liquidity and confidence in financial systems.

3   In Singapore, financial services experienced two quarters of double-digit declines before turning positive in the 1st quarter this year. Global economic conditions appear to have reached an inflection point with a moderation in the pace of economic contraction in the 2nd quarter of this year. However, the pace of recovery in the global economy is uncertain, and most analysts do not expect a decisive rebound this year. We need to temper our growing optimism in financial markets with continuing vigilance on the future trajectory of the global economic recovery.

Implications for the Financial Sector

4   The global financial crisis has important implications on the development of capabilities and competencies of practitioners, institutions, leaders and regulators in the financial industry.

5   During this crisis, one often quoted phrase is "too complex to manage". Indeed, financial practitioners will require a much better grasp of the increasingly complex and inter-linked elements of the financial industry and enhance their level of competence and professionalism to manage such complexity or to simplify operations.

6   With heightened awareness of risk and tightening of regulations, the operations of financial institutions will be more closely scrutinized in a business environment that remains no less demanding than before. Financial institutions would need to develop organisational competencies by integrating the knowledge and expertise across different business functions to manage the risks and operations more holistically.

7   Leaders in financial authorities and financial institutions have also been challenged by the ongoing developments in the financial markets. They need to manage immediate priorities without losing sight of the long-term goals and strategy.

8   One such balancing act is in capability building. In an economic downturn, the pressure to cut cost is intense. Capability building becomes an easy target for cost-cutting measures. But this will be short-sighted. One key lesson from this crisis is that no organisation can expand beyond its capabilities. To position ourselves for the future, the building of individual competencies and corporate capabilities is imperative. In the last 12 months, IBF has been working on three major areas to support the industry’s competency and capabilities development. Let me briefly outine these.

Reaching Out To Talent Pools 

9   The first area is to attract and recruit quality talent. Recent events that triggered the financial crisis, including the fraudulent schemes that surfaced in the midst of the crisis, have dented job-seekers’ perception of the future of financial industry. There is a need to step up profiling efforts and provide students with a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges ahead. Last year, IBF conducted career profiling talks at the 3 local universities. Apart from inviting practitioners to share about various industry segments such as fund administration, securities operations, risk management and insurance, IBF provided students with an appreciation of the professional development plan that is available through the Financial Industry Competency Standards (FICS). These events attracted over 800 participants.

10   Besides profiling talks, IBF participated as a strategic partner of the General Insurance Association in its Global Internship Programme. This programme provides undergraduates with an opportunity to acquire industry competencies through FICS and gain insights into the culture, history and daily business life of participating insurance companies. This is a commendable industry effort to prepare and equip students for a career in the financial industry. 
FICS – Enhancing the Resilience of the Financial Sector Workforce

11   The second major area of IBF’s work is to promote the industry’s adoption of the Financial Industry Competency Standards (FICS) – a comprehensive framework for continual development of our financial practitioners. 

12   The modular approach in FICS allows practitioners to use FICS not just for upgrading their skills but also for developing broader competencies of related job families.  This enables financial practitioners to broaden their skills and integrate these recommending solutions to clients.

13   With more than 100 programmes accredited across various job families, including programmes for senior executives with supervisory responsibilities [1], we witnessed an increase in the industry’s participation in such programmes.  Up to the 1st quarter of this year, close to 1,700 financial practitioners have been trained and 650 financial practitioners assessed  under FICS, an increase of about 200% over last year’s figures. Close to 100 financial institutions have sponsored their staff for these programmes.

14   In view of the challenging economic conditions, the Monetary Authority of Singapore recently increased the funding support for FICS accredited programmes from 70% to 90% and extended support to financial institutions that develop or align their in-house programmes to the FICS framework. I urge all financial institutions to take this opportunity to make use of FICS to deepen the skills of your talent and build capabilities required for the upturn.

15   In November last year, IBF welcomed its 2nd cadre of distinguished Financial Industry Certified Professionals (FICPs). The FICP title is the highest certification for a financial practitioner in Singapore. FICPs are role models of professional competency and commitment to excellence. The inaugural FICP Forum last month provided a key platform for several FICPs to share their perspectives on current developments and future trends. Nominations for 2009’s Distinguished FICP Award are now open and we look forward to receiving nominations of senior executives based in Singapore.

Forums to Promote Best Practices

16   The third major area of IBF’s work is to promote networking and discussion among practitioners, to stimulate learning and the development of new ideas.

17   I am pleased to note that IBF’s seminar on delivering world class wealth management services in November 2008 and its inaugural best practices seminar on compliance in March this year were very well received. One common theme that emerged at both seminars was the need to enhance competencies of wealth managers and compliance practitioners in light of the global developments, and how FICS, with its competency-based framework, could be deployed to plug skill gaps.

18   The financial crisis has focused attention on the proper management of risks from an organization-wide perspective. In a recent survey conducted by KPMG [2], half of the executives responded that the lack of risk governance was one of the leading causes of the credit crisis. IBF is organizing a seminar in July in partnership with the NUS Risk Management Institute to discuss issues such as an integrated approach towards risk management and the skills required by risk management practitioners.

19   Apart from financial practitioners, Human Resource practitioners play an important role in supporting the development of financial talent. Besides inviting renowned HR thought leaders to speak on topical issues, IBF will be hosting a group of HR leaders later today as part of its Beacon Series [3]  .

Transformational Leadership in a changing financial landscape

20   I mentioned earlier about the challenges faced by leaders in the current crisis.  It has been said that extraordinary events demand extraordinary responses.  I would add that post-crisis, transformational changes will demand transformational leadership. Leaders with the vision to make changes and the perseverance to develop and integrate individual and corporate capabilities will differentiate their institutions in the long term.

21   Today's conference on Transformational Leadership in a Changing Financial Landscape is aimed at providing some insights and case studies on key qualities of transformational leadership and enduring principles that guide leadership development. I am delighted to welcome Professor Michael Useem as our keynote presentation speaker. I also wish to thank the panelists, Fu Hua, Hugh and Piyush for their participation, and look forward to a lively discussion later. 


22   In closing, I would like to thank many of you who have contributed to IBF in various ways.  I thank my fellow Council members, the FICS Steering Committee and FICS Working Group members for their dedication towards the development and adoption of FICS.

23   On behalf of IBF, I want to extend a special appreciation to Ms Euleen Goh and Mr David Wong who have led the FICS initiative as FICS Steering Committee Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson respectively since its inception in 2003. Under their outstanding leadership, the FICS Steering Committee has made significant progress.  The framework and standards for 53 job families have been launched and the necessary accreditation and certification infrastructures have been set up. To recognize the significant contribution of Euleen and David, I am delighted that we will present them the FICS Distinguished Contribution Award. They have passed on the torch, at the end of 2008, to Mr Wee Ee Cheong and Mr Seck Wai Kwong. I am certain that Ee Cheong and Wai Kwong will build on the solid foundation and remarkable progress that Euleen and David have built.

24   I would also like to extend my appreciation to our partners, including the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and my colleagues at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, for their close collaboration with IBF. Finally, I would like to thank all our members for your support for IBF in the past year. I look forward to your continuous partnership in our journey in the year ahead.

25   I wish you a fruitful session ahead.


[1]  For example, the Wealth Management Institute’s Advance Wealth Management programme for Job Role V and the International Compliance Association’s Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering programmes for Job Role V.

[2]  The report can be accessed at http://www.continuitycentral.com/news04341.html .

[3]  In October 2008 and April 2009, IBF invited Professor Dave Ulrich, partner and co-founder of The RBL Group and a professor of business at the Ross school of Business, University of Michigan and Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University to speak on HR issues that are pertinent to the financial sector.