Published Date: 24 April 2023

"More Pathways for Young Talent in the Financial Sector" - Remarks by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Board member of MAS, at the Growing Timber Series on 24 April 2023

Industry partners,

Representatives from our 5 polytechnics, 

Distinguished guests, 
Ladies and gentlemen,


Thank you Ngee Ann Polytechnic for hosting today’s Growing Timber series by MAS and the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF). It is my third time here in Ngee Ann. I have been here every year since 2021. Thank you to Kok Kiang and Mei Fong for being great hosts. 

Happy to be here on invitation of my MAS colleagues. Many of you are here to learn about the financial sector. I hope I can share something useful, from my experience working in the financial sector.

I’m here to help recruit and pitch the financial sector. I will talk about:

  • Trees;
  • Leaves;
  • Seeds;

to play on the Growing Timber theme.

Why join the financial sector?


First, like a big tree with many fruits and flowers, there are many jobs in the financial sector.

  • It accounts for about 14% of GDPSource: MTI’s Economic Survey of Singapore 2022 and close to 200,000 jobsSource: Administrative Records and Labour Force Survey, Manpower Research & Statistics Department, MOM (2022). Data are primarily from administrative records, with the self-employed component estimated from the Labour Force Survey.
  • It is a bright spot in the economy, despite challenges. Singapore is one of the top financial centres in the world. 
  • Like a strong sturdy tree, our established strength in financial services allowed our economy to remain resilient during the pandemic.

Second, the fruits in this tree are juicy! 

  • The median gross monthly income of full-time employed locals in the financial sector is $8,190This refers to the finance and insurance industry which includes holding companies.
  • This is 60% higher than economy-wide median gross monthly income of $5,070Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, Manpower Research and Statistics Department, MOM.

Third, this tree provides many different benefits to the environment. 

a) Its many branches connect people and industries in Singapore and beyond. You can now transact easily with one another and with businesses through payment systems like PayNow and Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR). 

b) It provides nutrients for our entrepreneurs. Startups and growth companies come to Singapore to access capital and raise funds, because of our vibrant ecosystem of more than 400 private equity and venture capital managers.

c) It helps other plants to grow. Relationship managers help their clients achieve financial goals, such as saving for a home or further studies, and making an impact with their investments. Its roots and branches also help channel wealth towards philanthropic causes in line with high-net-worth clients’ interest. 

d) Like a flowering tree, it is innovative and vibrant. Our software developers design innovative tech solutions, such as AI tools that suggest suitable insurance solutions or detect fraud and money laundering.

e) Like a tree, it is green and sustainable. Sustainable financing helps catalyse Asia’s transition to net zero. For example, banks support corporates to raise funds to invest in sustainable projects and assets, and adopt sustainable business practices.

f) There are many portfolio managers and ESG analysts who develop investment strategies and product offerings, to direct capital towards sustainable initiatives that can help us transit to a low-carbon future. MAS just refreshed its Finance for Net Zero Action Plan, which will quicken the decarbonisation of our economy. 

And the good news with all of these is that financial institutions are hiring!

Our financial sector has been growing like a fast-growing tree. Financial institutions and FinTech companies need a strong pool of talent. One group they hope to attract is polytechnic graduates like yourselves.

Do you know that only 3% of polytechnic graduates who go into full-time permanent jobs upon graduation join the financial sectorSource: 2021 Graduate Employment Survey jointly conducted by the polytechnics, even though financial sector jobs make up more than 5% of all jobs in the economy?Source: Administrative Records and Labour Force Survey, Manpower Research and Statistics Department, MOM (2022). Data are primarily from administrative records, with the self-employed component estimated from the Labour Force Survey. Data exclude migrant domestic workers (MDWs). 

Many of you are technically competent, good problem-solvers and operate well in an interdisciplinary environment, thanks to our polytechnics’ industry-oriented training that combines theory with hands-on experience and real-world application. 

So, you have much to contribute, and the good news is that you are not alone. 

Some financial institutions have developed programmes specially for polytechnic graduates. 

J.P. Morgan runs a one-year apprenticeship programme where polytechnic graduates are placed in various roles within the firm. 120 apprentices were trained since the start of the programme in 2015. Many have progressed well within the bank.

Earlier I spoke with Vennica Li, who joined J.P. Morgan as a tech apprentice in 2019. She started as a software engineer, managing the user experience of in-house applications, working on data automation and improving the bank’s intranet. 

After the apprenticeship, J.P. Morgan offered Vennica a full-time job as a technical operations analyst, supporting the bank’s payments services.

J.P. Morgan recognised her hard work and she was recently promoted to the Associate level. Congratulations Vennica! I remember starting as an Associate in an investment bank over 13 years ago, after I completed graduate school in Boston. But it is increasingly deemed less necessary to earn a degree to enjoy successful careers in the financial sector. 

With the Growing Timber series, MAS and IBF hope to nurture young seedlings like you and prepare you for an exciting career in the financial sector.

Preparing yourselves for a career in the financial sector

The MAS and IBF team suggested that I share a couple of leaves out of my book in case you find it helpful. So having shared about trees, I will offer three leaves! 


Redefine your boundaries

The first leaf I will offer is to grow outside your pot! When cramped within the limits of its container, a plant’s growth is inhibited. For the plant to thrive, we must move it into a larger pot. Just as how a plant outgrows its pot, we need to push past pre-defined boundaries and challenge ourselves to grow.

Many may see a university degree as a powerful piece of paper that will bring you success. However, having a degree is not a pre-requisite to land a good job in the financial sector.

(a) A recent report by MOMSource: Job Vacancies 2022, Manpower Research and Statistics Department, MOM. found that for 65% of PMET job vacancies in 2022, academic qualification was not the main determinant in hiring. This proportion has increased from about 40% in 2017. In fact, the report found that skills and work attitude of the job applicant were the key considerations.

(b) With right skillsets and attitudes, many doors will open. As an employer in the private sector before joining the government, I know this to be true. 

Let me share about Aaron Young, a young professional from Dymon Asia Capital (Dymon), a leading alternative investment management firm.

(a) Aaron graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2012 with a Diploma in Accountancy. After National Service, he started his career as an auditor and then a relationship manager in a bank. He later applied to join Dymon.

(b) Not having a degree did not hinder Aaron. Dymon saw his potential and recognised him for his tenacity, willingness to learn and ability to think outside the box. Four years on, he is now an Execution Trader, executing and monitoring trades for portfolio managers and participating in equity offerings across Asia.

(c) Like Dymon and Aaron, we hope to see more financial institutions invest in their young talent and individuals taking the path less travelled.

Explore widely

Second, explore widely. There are different plant species. Each require different balance of elements to flourish. Some need more sunlight, others do better in the shade. The same is true in finding a job we love and are good at.

The financial sector offers diverse opportunities for individuals with different strengths and interests.

(a) If you are analytical and detail-oriented, you can consider roles in operations and risk management. 

(b) If you enjoy meeting people and have a service mindset, you can consider roles in sales and relationship management.

Your experiences and skillset will be highly transferrable across different segments within the sector and even to other sectors in the economy. 

(a) If you start off in an underwriting role in an insurer, you can move into a bank to review credit and mortgage applications.

(b) If you conduct risk measurement and assessments, you can move into other sectors to take on roles relating to risk management.

Many of you may not know what you plan to do when you graduate. Take up internships in financial institutions. Speak to industry veterans to learn about their work, and see if it is something that you are keen. Join our MentoringSG movement to connect with mentors from the financial sector. If you are a financial institution here today, please sign up for MentoringSG, and encourage your employees to join as mentors.

Learn continuously

Finally, my third leaf I would like to offer, is to learn continuously. A plant is constantly exposed to the elements of nature. It must dig deep and establish strong roots to withstand the storms.

Structural trends such as emerging tech and sustainability have significantly disrupted many industries. To remain relevant and competitive in the face of change, we must learn continuously and stay adaptable.

The financial sector invests in this heavily. Many financial institutions have initiatives to equip their workforce with skills, such as training and job rotation programmes, and overseas opportunities.

Check out the industry showcase later to learn about what is on offer. 

More opportunities for Polytechnic students and graduates


So we have built a strong tree (financial sector), and I hope you take some leaves out of my book. But that is not all, we are going to give you a special seed this morning.

Today, MAS will launch a new grant scheme – the Polytechnic Talent for Finance Scheme. 

This scheme will expand opportunities available to polytechnic students and graduates. It will provide opportunities at three stages of your career journey.

(a) For polytechnic students, we are encouraging financial institutions to offer quality internships to provide you with skills that the industry wants, and help you enter the workforce when you graduate. We will defray the costs of internship stipends.

(b) For polytechnic graduates, we want to provide apprenticeships as a meaningful pathway for you to be trained and take on good job roles. We will provide salary support to financial institutions for the first year of training and additional funding if you are eventually placed in a university graduate-equivalent role.

(c) For polytechnic graduates working in the financial sector, we recognise that some may still want to earn a degree. To encourage you to stay in your jobs, we will partner financial institutions to offer sponsorships for relevant post-diploma and degree-equivalent programmes.

We will provide the nutrients to grow this seed. 

The Financial Sector Development Fund (FSDF) that MAS administers, will set aside S$8 million grant funding over the next 3 years to support this scheme. 

MAS and IBF will also bring together our polytechnics and financial institutions to deepen collaborations and increase industry’s outreach to draw in polytechnic talent.

Even before today’s launch, we already have 14 financial institutions – banks, insurers and investment management firms – which together employ more than 60,000 employees, who are keen to hire, train and nurture our young polytechnic talent. I encourage more to come forward to help us sow the seeds of our future and grow our timber together. 

Our financial sector is growing. It is flowering and producing good fruit. To you, our seedlings, we are providing the sunlight, water and nutrients for you to grow and thrive in your future careers. So, seize the opportunity! 

Thank you very much.