Published Date: 04 September 2015

"Mastering Your Craft, Inculcating Lifelong Learning" - Keynote Address by Mr Goh Chok Tong, Emeritus Senior Minister and Senior Advisor to Monetary Authority of Singapore, at the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) Distinction Evening 2015 on 3 September 2015

Mr Ravi Menon
Managing Director of MAS and Chairman of IBF

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Friends of the Financial Industry

A very good evening.

1   As you know, I am in the midst of an election.  But a promise made is a promise kept.  Also, election or no election, the business of life must go on; and certainly the life of business too. What I find missing at the hustings so far is a serious debate on the future of our economy. And yet economy is central to our lives.

2   Thank you for inviting me to join you for the IBF Distinction Evening 2015.  This evening, we have come together to celebrate the success of our financial sector leaders and the contributions of talents who have built up Singapore’s financial sector.

Drivers of Change

3  . According to the Global Financial Centres Index1, or GFCI, Singapore is the fourth most competitive financial centre in the world.  The GFCI questionnaire also asks respondents which centres they consider likely to become more significant in the next few years.  Seven of the top ten are in the Asia-Pacific region.  Singapore comes in second, after Shanghai.  Clearly, competition among financial centres in Asia will intensify in the coming years.

4   Human capital plays an integral role in the competitiveness of a financial centre.  Our success as a financial hub is very much dependent upon the ability of our financial sector professionals to attract financial flows and generate new business.  Hence, our financial sector workforce must not just be ready for the realities of today, but also for the future landscape.

5   What drivers will re-shape the future landscape of finance?  How will this affect our financial sector workforce?  What are the abilities and skills that will make us future-ready?

6   The first mega-trend is technology.  In the past, one may face the threat of being outperformed by your colleague, or your job being outsourced to a cheaper location.  Today, your competition is not only your peer; your competition is also against a machine, an updated process, or time.  Let me elaborate.

7   First, work is becoming borderless – the Internet has made it possible for individuals to easily collaborate across geographical borders.  Companies can assemble teams “in the cloud”.  They can tap on a diverse workforce anywhere in the world in a cost-effective manner.  The competition faced by our workforce will therefore be even keener than before.

8   Second, automation.  Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm, predicts that one third of jobs will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines by 2025.  Computers are able to analyse and interpret data speedily without error.  They are becoming increasingly capable of recognising patterns and producing predictions.  It is inevitable that more job processes will be automated and workers made redundant.  Computers and algorithms have already taken over some of the traditional work of analysts, traders, and financial advisers.  Our workforce must build up unique, distinctive talents that cannot simply be replicated by computers, such as creative, conceptual, and critical thinking.

9   Thirdly, new multimedia technologies.  Singapore has high rates of Internet penetration, with 88% of households having Internet access, and a mobile phone penetration rate of 148%2.  Just look around the train during your morning commute.  Most people are tapping away on their device of choice.  Organisations are taking advantage of this trend, using social media to enhance their brand presence and engage users about their products or services.  Even MAS has launched a Twitter account to expand its outreach.  New media forms will be everywhere and integrated into our daily lives.  Future workers will need to be able to leverage on these media for persuasive communication.

10   The second mega-trend is demographic change.  People are living longer.  In Singapore, the life expectancy at birth increased by 7 years from 1990 to 20143.  Living longer means more time spent working.  Multiple careers in one’s lifetime will be common-place and lifelong learning will be crucial.  Coupled with our declining birth rate, Singapore’s economy will become more reliant on older workers.  Age brings experience and wisdom to our workforce.  But older workers will still need to keep up with technological changes.  Organizations will also have to re-think traditional career paths, creating more diversity and flexibility for an aging population.

Skills of the Future

11   The financial sector is operating in a fast-changing environment.  The future job landscape will bear little resemblance to what we see today.  Today’s investors are savvier, taking charge and managing their own finances.  They have real-time access to local and international markets.  They can trade on the go and get financial advice online.  Therefore, practitioners across all sectors of the financial industry – private bankers, financial advisers, trading representatives – must adapt and be prepared to learn new skills.

12   The Government is committed to supporting skills development.  SkillsFuture was started for this reason.  It recognizes that Singaporeans should be given the opportunities to learn and develop throughout life.  This too, applies to the financial sector.  The Government and MAS are committed to provide more learning pathways and training opportunities for financial sector practitioners to learn continuously.

13   Employers are at the heart of the skills equation.  A skilled workforce is critical not only for the sustainability of business goals, but also for businesses to compete globally.  Employers must be alert to the changing environment and take responsibility to develop the workforce.  They must be willing to invest in the continual skilling up of their employees, and inculcate a culture in which learning and improvement are the norm.

14   Employers should not just look at academic qualifications in their hiring process.  They should look at other qualities as well.  I am heartened that the financial sector has been able to absorb professionals who come with experience from various disciplines.  MAS gave me the example of Mr Poh Cher Boon.  He graduated with a Diploma in Electronics, Computer and Communications from Nanyang Polytechnic.  He rose through the ranks in OCBC by starting out as a bank teller, and is now a branch manager.  There is also the story of Mr Beaver Chua.  He did not allow his underprivileged childhood to affect his career aspirations.  He started his career in the police force before he earned enough to pursue his degree in International Economics.  With his compliance and enforcement training in the police force, Mr Chua is now the Country Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer for Citi Singapore.  These Singaporeans have taken the extra step to raise their competencies and to progress into successful leadership positions.

An Institute to Build Financial Sector Capabilities

15   The IBF acts as a catalyst to raise the competencies of financial sector practitioners to meet future industry challenges.  IBF has been working closely with MAS and the industry players, to drive professional excellence.

16   Since the IBF Standards were unveiled last year, they now provide clearly-defined roadmaps for 13 industry segments in the financial sector.  IBF is working with the industry to map more structured training offerings against the Standards.  This will equip practitioners with the necessary competencies, and allow them to progress into more senior roles, or to move laterally into related functions.

17   To ensure that financial sector practitioners keep abreast of industry developments and update their skills, the IBF has been promoting structured frameworks for professional development.  They are working closely with MAS and the industry associations on initiatives targeted at financial advisory representatives and trading representatives.  With more structured professional pathways and upgrading opportunities, these practitioners can continue to meet evolving demands.

Recognising Distinction, Celebrating Industry Excellence

18   To conclude, I would like to commend the IBF partners and stakeholders, and the financial institutions and industry captains for their commitment to the IBF Standards.

19   The “IBF Distinguished Fellow” and “IBF Fellow” awards are conferred upon leaders of the industry, who have displayed leadership and commitment to the development of the industry.  They inspire the rest of the sector as master craftsmen.  They act as industry mentors – guiding and leading the industry to higher standards of professional excellence.

20   I congratulate each and every one of the IBF Distinguished Fellows and IBF Fellows who are receiving this honourable mention this evening.  You have set an example for all financial sector practitioners to continue on their learning journey.  I thank you too for playing a part in making Singapore a leading financial centre.

21   I wish you all a great evening ahead and a bright future.  Thank you.

1 The Global Financial Centres Index is a ranking of the competitiveness of financial centres based on over 29,000 financial centre assessments from an online questionnaire together with over 100 indices from organisations such as the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Economist Intelligence Unit.  It is compiled and published twice a year by Z/Yen Group and sponsored by the Qatar Financial Centre Authority.
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