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UOB fights change with skills upgrade for 900 customer-facing staff

Its Professional Conversion Programme will start more courses later for risk and wealth management

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Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo (second from right) at a demonstration of augmented reality at the PCP launch. She says such programmes help to minimise the risk of local banking staff being displaced by technology. With her is Senior Minister of State for Finance Indranee Rajah (in green jacket).

Singapore

A NEW Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) rolled out at United Overseas Bank (UOB) is a good signal that the financial services sector is serious about upgrading staff skills in the face of change, Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said on Monday.

Such programmes help to minimise the risk of local banking staff being displaced by technology, while also helping the banks succeed in their transformation plans, she noted at the launch of the PCP, at UOB Tampines Centre.

"The financial services sector remains an important part of our economy and 80 per cent of the PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) they hire are locals," she said.

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"What we'd like to be able to do is, through programmes like the PCP, help them retain a very strong Singaporean core even as they go through the process of transformation."

UOB's first PCP is a course on digital skills in areas such as design thinking, customer journey design, channel management and scenario analysis and planning. It was developed in collaboration with Workforce Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and The Institute of Banking and Finance.

Each course will be conducted through classroom learning, workshops and on-the-job training and will take between three and 12 months for the employees to complete.

UOB's 900 customer-facing employees from its network of branches islandwide will be enrolled in the PCP over the next 18 months.

UOB will be holding more courses under the PCP to include areas such as risk management and wealth management for other functions in the bank in coming months.

Other banks, such as DBS, Standard Chartered and Credit Suisse, have also launched their own PCPs.

The PCP has been gaining momentum and there are now 87 PCPs across 34 sectors, Mrs Teo said.

Senior Minister of State for Finance Indranee Rajah added that such programmes are important for the financial services sector here, which has to be at the forefront of developments in order for Singapore to stay ahead.

"You can see the technology wave is coming and it's transforming big things and also the small ways that people transact. The key is to make sure that people working in the financial sector are able to keep up with that. Employees themselves have to have a mindset of being open and not being afraid of it, and to embrace it."

UOB's head of group human resources Jenny Wong added that while UOB has always run training programmes for its staff, the PCP allows UOB to tap on outside expertise.

"For example, we are collaborating with (training consultancy) Rohei, which has trainers who are specialised in providing learning in the digital world. We need to tap on the ecosystem to ensure we are more effective in delivering areas traditionally not covered by the bank."

Credit Suisse economist Michael Wan noted that such programmes will become ever more important as the financial services sector faces disruption.

"We've already seen disruption in sectors that tend to be more visible, like retail, but in finance this will accelerate, partly driven by global regulatory changes and partly because of the efficiencies gained from improving systems," he said.

"So it's important to make sure that the domestic labour market remains relevant and that Singaporean workers are able to shift between different segments of the finance sector."

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