Keynote Speech by Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry, at the Institute of Banking and Finance Distinction Evening 2022 on 6 October 2022
Mr Ravi Menon, Chairman of IBF Council,
IBF Council members,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good evening to all of you. Thank you for inviting me to the annual IBF Distinction Evening. I am very happy to be here to celebrate the exemplary achievements of individuals and financial institutions, or FIs, who have contributed to the advancement of the financial services industry. Allow me to extend my warmest congratulations to all the award recipients present here tonight.
Achievements of the Financial Services Sector and IBF
2. Let me begin by highlighting some of the key achievements of the financial sector. The sector grew by 7.4% in 2021, bouncing back strongly from the pandemic. FinTech investments hit a high of US$3.9 billion, with 4,300 net jobs created in financial services and FinTech.
3. Such achievements would not have been possible without a strong public-private partnership. In this regard, IBF has been a key champion of industry-wide efforts to help FIs develop the talent they need. Nam Sin had earlier shared some of IBF’s accomplishments in the past year. Let me also share that during the COVID-19 pandemic, IBF was appointed as a Jobs Development Partner by the National Jobs Council, to boost opportunities for Singaporeans to access jobs, traineeships, and training in the financial sector. IBF has also been responsive to the industry’s evolving needs. For example, it has developed targeted initiatives such as the Technology in Finance Immersion Programme, or TFIP, which has achieved good results since its launch in 2019. More than 70 FIs and around 600 mid-career individuals have participated in TFIP, with 75% of the participants from the first two batches emplaced in related tech jobs. This is a noteworthy outcome since these are mid-career individuals with little or no IT experience. In May this year, IBF also launched the Wealth Management Accelerator Programme, modelled after the TFIP, to grow a pool of retail banking relationship managers, who would support the growth of Singapore as a Wealth Management hub. Indeed, IBF’s programmes have tangibly benefited stakeholders in your sector, and directly contributed to the growth of the sector.
Seizing Opportunities in New Growth Areas
4. While we speak about these achievements, the financial services landscape continues to evolve. As businesses resume post-COVID, several structural drivers are gaining momentum, and will serve as key engines of growth for the financial sector in the years to come. Let me elaborate on some of these trends.
5. First, the drive towards sustainability has gathered pace, especially after COP-26 last year. We saw close to 200 countries agreeing to stronger climate action, including to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, and provide more ambitious deadlines for credible plans to reduce emissions. Such strong resolve was observed not just amongst governments, but also within business communities, where there are strong commitments in financing green investments.
6. Singapore is firmly committed to play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and eventually reaching net-zero. As a global financial hub, Singapore is well positioned to be Asia’s centre for financing sustainable projects. We focus our efforts in three key areas:
a. First, develop financing roadmaps and instruments that support decarbonization efforts, garner investor confidence and catalyse action.
b. Second, scale up blended finance solutions, to crowd in private sector capital through targeted risk sharing by governments or multilateral development banks.
c. Third, strengthen our data and disclosure systems for companies, and ensure seamless access to trusted data by investors.
Digitalisation and Technology
7. The second driving force that is taking centre stage in the financial sector is technology, especially digital technology. The technological wave in the financial sector is not new, but COVID-19 has no doubt fast-tracked the rolling out of digital offerings by our financial institutions. Gone are the days when we had to head to a branch or the ATM to deposit or withdraw money. With technology, everything is now within the touch of a button, and consumers have greater access to services ranging from payments, insurance and financial advisory.
8. More than ever, we are also seeing stronger synergies between sustainability and digital finance. When brought together, these two forces can power us ahead in our growth and sustainability journey.
a. Project Greenprint by MAS is one good example of our drive towards a sustainable digital economy. Under the project, MAS will work with the industry to pilot four digital platforms, to facilitate reporting and efficient access to data that would help companies mobilise capital for sustainable projects. For instance, one of the platforms will help connect green technology providers with investors and FIs, and another will manage and standardise the ESG data provided by companies as part of climate-related disclosure.
Equipping our workforce for the evolving financial services landscape
9. The growth trend driven by sustainability and technology will have a significant impact on the kind of talent and skills needed in the financial services sector. Traditional expertise in finance remains important, but our finance professionals will have to also be proficient in the fields of sustainable business, as well as in digital finance. It is therefore important that we have a pipeline of workforce equipped with the skillsets needed not just for today, but adaptable to the evolving needs of our future financial services landscape.
10. MAS, with the support of IBF, has been stepping up efforts to support mid-career transitions through skills training programmes for specific emerging needs.
Augmenting our pool of local finance professionals
11. One of our key focus in the financial sector is to develop more Singaporean finance specialists and leaders. To achieve this, MAS announced the Talent and Leaders in Finance Programme at the launch of the Financial Services ITM 2025 a few weeks ago. We are also working closely with our FIs and our Institutes of Higher Learning to tap on new sources of talent, and develop the necessary skills in our graduates by updating the curriculum.
12. For this to work, we would need the support and partnership of our leaders in FIs, who not only contribute to our capabilities in growth areas, but also go beyond their core work to develop budding leaders in the sector. Our seven IBF Distinguished Fellows this year embody these exemplary traits – they have made significant contributions to the development of Singapore’s financial sector through their active involvement in industry initiatives and promoting professional excellence.
a. Ms Deborah Ho is one good example. As the Regional Head of BlackRock’s Southeast Asian business and Country Head of BlackRock Singapore, she is well regarded as a sector veteran in investment banking and asset management for the Southeast Asian markets. She serves as a member of the MAS Financial Centre Advisory Panel and devotes her time to champion talent development efforts for women, including to mentor and train female finance professionals.
b. I hope more of our financial sector veterans who have become masters of their craft will step forward like Deborah to lead and inspire others in their career journeys.
13. Besides tapping on new sources of talent, we are also keen to upskill and reskill our existing financial services workforce. Our IBF Inspire and Advance Award recipients, whom we are recognising tonight, have committed to and made significant progress in workforce transformation and skills development across their organisations.
14. And it is encouraging that the financial services sector continues to make further strides in workforce development. Today I am happy to announce the launch of the Future Skills Accelerator, or FSA in short. FSA leverages AI technology to transform workforce planning and development. It automates the process of identifying skills needed for job roles, personalising training to close the skills gap, and facilitating job mobility within organisations.
a. Co-developed by IBF and a pilot group of 15 FIs, the FSA can be used to automate the onerous process of workforce planning, and it allows the industry to do so at scale. The FSA can also be availed to employees to enable them to be self-directed in charting their career progression and learning pathways. This will promote a more dynamic learning and development culture, ensuring that skills are kept up-to-date and talents well deployed.
b. I would like to commend all 15 pilot institutions for their contributions in developing the FSA, and I would like to encourage our FIs to make full use of the platform to drive workforce planning and career development efforts within your organisations.
15. Indeed, our FIs are already actively grooming their own talent to drive new areas of growth.
a. For example, UOB, one of our IBF Inspire Award recipients this year, has launched a new programme to develop and prepare its pipeline of technology talent, by hiring recent graduates from our Institutes of Higher Learning to take on roles in Software, Infrastructure and Platform Services, and Cybersecurity. These graduates will go through a 12-month programme which provides structured training, hands-on work experience and mentorship, to help them transit into these new roles.
Attracting top global talents to complement local workforce
16. Even as we grow and upskill our local workforce, we will also need high quality global talents with critical skillsets to help expand the boundaries of our growth areas, and allow us to tap on the emerging global opportunities. MOM and MTI recently introduced the new Overseas Networks and Expertise Pass to attract such top talent with valuable networks, deep skills and expertise. Experienced professionals filling specific tech occupations will also benefit from a 5-year Employment Pass, allowing Singapore to anchor the much needed tech capabilities.
17. Stepping up efforts to attract global talent does not mean we pay less attention to the development of our local workforce. As highlighted earlier, our priority continues to be to develop local talent, so that in the long-term, our local workforce will have the right skills and capabilities to take on the good jobs offered in the financial sector. Ultimately, we seek to build the best Team Singapore, comprising locals and foreigners, that will help to create and seize new opportunities for Singapore’s growth and for Singaporeans.
18. As we look ahead, technology and sustainability will continue to be key structural disruptors for financial services, but these are also the areas where we can see strong potential for growth. Singapore is starting from a position of strength as we have built up a strong reputation as a leading global financial centre, supported by a competent pool of financial professionals. It is important that we continue to harness our strengths to seize the window of opportunities ahead and widen our edge over our competitors.
19. To this end, the involvement of IBF, as well as our sector veterans seated here tonight will be key. Looking at the slate of forward-looking initiatives and strong partnership across Government, trade associations, and the industry, I have full confidence that Singapore’s financial sector will continue to be a bright spot in our economy, one that stays relevant and competitive, and provides quality and exciting jobs for the future.
20. With that, thank you, and have a great evening ahead.
MAS and Google Cloud signed a MoU to collaborate on generative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that are grounded on responsible AI practices.
MAS, through the Financial Sector Development Fund, will set aside S$8 million over the next three years for the Polytechnic Talent for Finance scheme. The scheme comprises three tracks: Internships, Apprenticeships, and Sponsorships.
At the Growing Timber Series, Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Board member of MAS, launched the Polytechnic Talent for Finance Scheme, to expand opportunities available to polytechnic students and graduates.