Published Date: 27 September 2019

"Raising Financial Sector Workforce Mobility" - Keynote Speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education and Board Member, Monetary Authority of Singapore, at the Institute of Banking and Finance Distinction Evening 2019, on 27 September 2019

Mr Ravi Menon, Chairman of IBF Council
IBF Council members
Award recipients
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
1     I am happy to join you for this year’s Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) Distinction Evening. Congratulations to all award recipients. We live in a time of major changes, and you have demonstrated resilience and professionalism in adapting and thriving in a new environment.  I hope that through these awards, we uphold you as role models, to foster a culture of lifelong learning in the finance industry.
2     The financial services industry has grown significantly over the years.  Today, it contributes about 12% of GDP and 4.5% of workforce, and is a major industry in the Singapore economy.  We are on track towards our targets of growing the industry by 4.3% and creating 4,000 net jobs annually, on average.
3     The biggest change happening in the industry has to do with technological advancement.  The greater use of data and automation technology, including AI, is changing the way the industry designs, develops and delivers products. Hence, one of the key tasks of MAS and IBF is to work with the industry to build a smart financial centre with a skilled and adaptable workforce. 
Response of Industry Players
4     To achieve this, responses of industry players are critical. Established financial institutions cannot stay still.  Financial institutions are reinventing themselves, embracing technology to start digital banks, and installing Video Teller Machines.  In the payments space, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) launched FAST (Fast and Secure Transfers) over five years ago. This has enabled real-time fund transfers anytime, anywhere. ABS also launched PayNow two years ago, and expanded this to corporates last year.
5     FinTech firms will play an increasingly important role.  Some are major technology firms, while others are start-ups.  There are now over 500 FinTech start-ups in Singapore, some sprouting from within traditional financial institutions. They are creating jobs that are technology-related, as well as those related to traditional professional skills, such as investment management, risk management, and compliance.
Imperative for Workers
6     The larger challenge however, is how we can support workers to participate in this wave of change and growth.  A recent IBF-MAS commissioned study showed that automation and data analytics will augment one in two job roles. One in three job roles will substantially change, with tasks being substituted and roles merging. Some job roles – a minority – will be displaced.
7     It is therefore erroneous to think that there will be a huge shake out and massive replacement of workers in the industry.  Despite technological advancement, the basic functioning of the industry still depends predominantly on traditional professional and technical skills, institutional knowledge and customer relationships. What has changed is that all workers performing those tasks need to now familiarise themselves with technology.
8     In other words, we do not have to entirely unlearn and relearn skills to stay relevant – that will be overstating the case.  More often than not, we need to augment and adapt.  That is our imperative across all industries, including the financial industry.  That is the most important thing to accomplish to prepare ourselves for the next phase of inclusive economic growth, where all workers can participate and benefit.
Skills Framework for Financial Services
9     To augment the skills of the workforce of an entire industry is a major undertaking, and requires a comprehensive action plan.  Tonight, let me outline the four thrusts of this action plan.
10     First, we will guide our efforts through a Skills Framework for Financial Services. This is the 33rd skills framework launched under the SkillsFuture initiative. It is a key part of the financial services industry transformation map. The Framework builds upon the IBF Standards, which financial institutions are familiar with, and sets out the technical and generic skills required in financial sector jobs over the next one to two years. It covers different functions, for example, in sales, product solutioning, operations, and risk and compliance, for three different job seniority levels. The Framework includes new job roles in digital and data analytics that help drive financial institutions’ strategies and digital transformation. It also incorporates new skills identified in the earlier IBF-MAS study.
11      The Skills Framework is a valuable resource for employers to map out skills needs and plan for workforce development.  It helps employers conduct skills training systematically across all business lines and across their entire workforce.
12     UOB is an example of a bank actively leveraging the Skills Frameworks for Human Resource, Infocomm Technology, and Accountancy to develop its own in-house competency framework. This will soon also incorporate the Skills Framework for Financial Services.  Hence, in UOB, staff can also use the Skills Framework to identify skills required to better perform in their current jobs, or move into a new one, and then enrol themselves into relevant courses. 
13     The second thrust is the Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs).  While not a new programme, it is worth noting that we are seeing broader adoption in the financial services sector. There are now 28 financial institutions on board, and they have committed to reskill 4,100 professionals in the next two years, and redeploy them in new or expanded jobs. Half have started their training and one-fifth have already transited to new job roles.
14     PCP recorded early successes in consumer banking, and we need to replicate the results across other segments. According to the IBF-MAS commissioned study, 15 out of 17 of job roles in the insurance segment will be impacted by data analytics and automation in the next three to five years.  Some insurers have commenced their own reskilling programmes. For example, Prudential has refashioned customer service officers as Chatbot trainers.
15     One of the Workforce Transformation Award recipients tonight is Aviva, which has implemented PCPs for various job roles. To support its adoption of cloud-based technologies, Aviva is also tapping on IMDA’s Company Led Training programme to hire and train workers in cloud computing. The labour movement will also be working with insurers to make skills upgrading a priority. Further details will be announced next week.
16     Those were two examples of employers. There are also individuals. Among them is Ms Lena Yuen, who is our Outstanding Finance Professional Award winner tonight.  She used to be a CitiPhone officer answering phone calls on bank balances and transactions. She was among the first in Citibank to reskill and become a Digital Service Advisor through the Professional Conversion Programme. She now uses e-chat and shares computer screens to guide customers through digital processes. To perform her new role, Lena learnt new skills in cybersecurity, customer journey mapping, and human centered design.
17     Third, we are building a pipeline of technology professionals. The Technology in Finance Immersion Programme (TFIP), launched in April this year, offers mid-career individuals with no prior experience the opportunity to switch into technology areas such as cloud computing, cyber security, data analytics and full-stack development. It is a very rigorous programme, with structured training and attachments to participating financial institutions, and lasts up to two years.
18     IBF received overwhelming interest in TFIP. We had 1,700 unique applicants for 80 positions. We started with seven financial institutions, which have since grown to ten.  Participants are just starting their training and I wish them all the best.
19     Our Autonomous Universities have also doubled the intake for Information and Digital Technologies over the past three years.  For example, SMU is offering a new major in Computer Science this year. NTU started its Data Science and Artificial Intelligence programme last year.
20     Fourth, our Institutes of Higher Learning and employers are working together to deliver Work Study programmes to build a pipeline of talent for the industry. These include undergraduate programmes like the Applied Wealth Management track in NTU’s Bachelor of Business programme. NTU’s Nanyang Business School launched its academic programme that integrates Wealth Management Institute’s practice-based curriculum, with structured internships with DBS Bank, and mandatory entry-level regulatory certifications. The inaugural batch of 33 students have recently completed their first internship with DBS. The Bank has offered many of them full-time employment even before they start their second internship. 
21     In another example, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) partnered Standard Chartered Bank for its Bachelor of Science in Finance programme. Students spend about one to two days in class, and three to four days at work each week. Now in its third year, the programme has seen keen interest from students. Some students have already secured jobs at the bank before graduation.
22     Let me end my speech by underscoring the importance of Tripartism.  It has been the cornerstone of our inclusive growth model. Regardless of how technology has advanced, or how industry has been disrupted, we are always determined to find a way forward where Singaporean workers can collectively benefit.
23     Today, in this major phase of change and disruption, SkillsFuture is central to the fulfilment of our objective. Workers must have the right skills to participate in growth and make inclusive growth possible.  For most, it is not about a drastic change from one skillset to something totally alien, but augmenting existing skillsets to adapt to a different way of performing your tasks and fulfilling your job roles.  Not quite a career switch, but a pivot.
24     We need the co-operation and concerted effort of MAS, IBF, the labour movement and employers, to reach out to more employers, promote the adoption of the Skills Framework, and prepare workers for jobs of the future.  The labour movement is driving the formation of Company Training Committees to achieve this, and MAS and IBF will support the effort. 
25     Finally, I would like to once again congratulate all award recipients. I hope you will continue to lead with distinction, serve as mentors, and inspire others to learn together.  Thank you and have a good evening.