Published Date: 22 May 2012

Developing our Capabilities and the "Singapore Core" in Financial Services

Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Finance, Minister for Manpower,
Chairman of Monetary Authority of Singapore
Speech at the FICS Annual Conference 2012
Marriott Hotel, 22 May 2012

Mr Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS and Chairman of IBF,
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

1   I am very happy to be here this evening to join you at the FICS Annual Conference.  First, let me extend my congratulations to this evening’s Distinguished Financial Industry Certified Professional (DFICPs) and to the prestigious winners of the inaugural Friends of FICS award.

2   We have come some distance since the IBF embarked in 2000 on a new journey, aimed at raising capabilities across our financial sector workforce.  I had the privilege of being with the IBF then1, so this is a bit of a homecoming for me. The IBF exited from its role as a direct provider of training, to focus on defining competency standards and appropriate professional qualifications and accreditating training providers.  It was a journey leading to the launch of the Financial Industry Competency Standards (FICS) in 2005.

3   By the end of 2011, 364 training and assessment programmes had been accredited under the FICS framework, and close to 9,500 people trained in various disciplines. There are now more than 1,200 individuals certified under FICS.   These are good achievements, and I commend the IBF and all the FICS stakeholders, many of whom are here today, for your commitment to this important task.

Gearing Up for Future Growth – Developing Deeper Capabilities and a Strong Singapore Core

4   The demands on the profession can only get higher.  Global regulatory reforms and measures to strengthen financial systems will require enhanced and more robust risk management systems. At the same time, the needs of investing clientele today have become more complex and sophisticated. So too for the corporates who rely on banks and the capital markets for funding, or to hedge their industry, commodity, currency or country exposures.

5   It is therefore be a continuous  journey.   I believe we can and must do more to raise skills and deepen expertise so as to reinforce our role as a key financial centre, supporting the growth of the Asian region. We must at the same time build up a strong pipeline of Singaporeans for both leadership and specialist roles within  the industry.  Let me highlight some of the areas that we are moving further on.   

(I)  Building Competencies

6   Review of FICS Standards.  The FICS will continue to be the key platform for which we encourage industry competencies for the financial sector.  It is timely that IBF is taking a fresh look at FICS to ensure it stays relevant. 

7   In particular, IBF plans to introduce revamped Foundational Programmes for new entrants in high-growth segments such as Compliance, Corporate Banking, Consumer Banking, Wealth Management as well as Insurance.  This will allow Singaporeans planning a career switch into these high-growth segments an opportunity to undertake structured foundational training to be able to enter and excel in these roles.

8   The review will also touch on an area not currently covered under FICS: financial services IT. We will nurture a strong cadre of competent IT professionals with  hybrid skills   -  strong in technology and possessing a good understanding of financial services and processes.  IBF will work closely with the industry and IDA to address the needs of this segment of the industry, and create opportunities for Singaporean IT professionals to undergo structured training to prepare themselves for progression within the financial sector. 

(II) Developing the Singapore Core: Leaders in Finance and Specialist Talent

9   The second key pillar is to build a strong pipeline of potential leaders and specialist talent amongst Singaporeans. 

10   We have to build and sustain a strong Singapore core in finance, even as we stay open to global talent and expertise. That balance is important, so that we stay competitive and provide the best possible environment for Singaporeans to develop and progress in their careers. 

11   We have tightened up on standards for Employment Passes, so as to manage the growth of the foreign workforce even amongst professionals and ensure that Singaporeans continue to have opportunities for good jobs and careers.  We will continue to keep watch on this, and raise standards further if we have to.

12   But higher standards do not mean turning inward. We have to stay open to diverse talent and expertise in financial services because that’s how Singaporeans get the opportunity to be part of competitive teams, and how our financial centre stays relevant in an intensely competitive global business. Young Singaporeans especially are mobile and making the most of  opportunities  -  many are working in Hong Kong, New York and London. We must keep growing those opportunities for them in Singapore -  opportunities  to be part of the diverse teams that can win deals and grow a global business. 

13   But it is not just about staying open and diverse. It is just as importantly about proactive people development -  recognising Singaporeans for their capabilities and potential, giving them opportunities to be exposed to different parts of the business here and abroad, and grooming them to take on more responsibilities.  Let me mention a few initiatives.

14   Expanding Pool of Singaporean Talent. Measures to build opportunities start at the entry-level.  MAS will work with financial institutions to co-fund programmes to nurture young Singaporeans for roles that can lead on to leadership in various segments of the business. The programmes will provide for greater exposure to different aspects of a financial institution’s global operations, and opportunities for interaction and mentorship by senior leaders.

15   Regional / Global Opportunities. In my conversations with global bankers on their talent management policies, there is a common theme in what they look for in future leaders. They look for people with both deep professional competencies and a range of international exposures.

16   MAS will work with the key financial institutions here to help create more opportunities for Singaporeans to gain the requisite specialist know-how, and the international exposure that future leaders need. MAS will also work with other government agencies to help Singaporean professionals work through the issues they often face in taking up such international postings, such as ensuring a suitable path of schooling for their children, including after their return home; and career opportunities abroad for their spouses.  These are challenges that expatriates face everywhere, but we will want to help Singaporean professionals overcome them.

17   Specialist Talent. Besides international exposure, we must also develop a strong pipeline of specialist talent to meet the increasingly complex  needs of the financial sector.  To help achieve this, MAS will provide more scholarships under an expanded Financial Scholarship Programme (FSP).  This will enable early-career Singaporeans to develop in specialist tracks such as quantitative finance, risk management, actuarial science and specialty insurance. Since the scholarship’s inauguration in 2006, more than 30 FSP scholarships have been awarded each year to top-calibre talents.

(III) Developing the “Asian Advantage”

18   A third pillar lies in developing the knowledge for what we call the “Asian Advantage”.  Singapore is in a unique position, given our growing networks within ASEAN and with China, India and the Middle-East, to develop deep pools of knowledge of these regions. MAS will be working with the industry to develop integrated programmes that will help financial sector professionals, especially those in senior positions, to build and keep updating their knowledge of Asian business practices, financial markets, and regulatory regimes.

19   A deep and intuitive understanding of Asia’s continuing evolution has to be part of the DNA of the Singaporean financial sector professional and leader. Some will specialise in particular markets. And all must bring trusted value to clients with an interest in investing, lending or borrowing in Asian financial markets.


20   Finally, I want once again to commend the industry leaders that we are recognising tonight.  I am sure many will be inspired by the paths you have taken.

21   I wish you all a pleasant evening.

1 DPM Tharman was Chairman of the IBF Council from 1998-2000