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Three in four jobs in financial sector go to locals: MAS

Senior MAS official says the sector will do creditably, but it cannot be complacent under challenging circumstances

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Singapore's financial sector created 22,000 net jobs between 2015 and 2019, and of these, three out of four jobs went to locals, said a top official from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Wednesday.

Singapore

SINGAPORE'S financial sector created 22,000 net jobs between 2015 and 2019, and of these, three out of four jobs went to locals, said a top official from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Wednesday.

In the first half of this year, employment rose by about 1,500 as well, based on MAS' estimates, said Jacqueline Loh, deputy managing director at the MAS, in a speech at a virtual job fair organised by the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF).

And there too, Singapore citizens and permanent residents bagged at least 75 per cent of the jobs created.

To add, 15,000 local jobs created between 2015 and 2019 were at salaries within the top 40 per cent of 2016 salaries. The median income of locals in the sector last year was S$7,600, well above the national median of S$4,600.

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All in, Singapore's financial sector, which accounted for 13.3 per cent of the Republic's GDP last year, employed more than 170,000 workers last year.

Retrenchments in the sector so far this year have been modest, she added, citing data from the Ministry of Manpower that showed retrenchment in Q1 2020 for the finance and insurance services was similar to the average quarterly retrenchment in 2019. About 310 workers were retrenched in the first quarter of this year, down from the quarterly average of 325 last year.

"As the sector has grown and strengthened its competitiveness as a global financial centre in Asia, it has created good jobs for locals," she said.

She added that Singapore has to remain open and "will continue to welcome global talent that complements our workforce".

"Employers must, however, hire in a responsible manner and commit to growing the local talent pool."

Ms Loh noted that one key prong of Singapore's developmental strategy remains to attract more global and regional headquarter functions of the financial institutions here to serve the broader Asian region. When a "diversity of talent from the global workforce" is brought to Singapore to build up these new functions, the proportion of Singaporeans in these financial institutions may come under pressure.

But having more global and regional functions in the Republic should also mean more growth, good jobs and openings for Singaporeans. It should enable them to tap the international footprint of these global financial institutions to gain overseas exposure; some may take up leadership positions abroad, she said.

This comes as more global and regional functions are anchored in Singapore. As the financial sector dials up on digitalisation and fires up new growth engines, financial institutions might need to bring in foreigners with the experience and skills that are not yet available locally.

"Most do so responsibly, by ensuring that they concurrently build the local talent pipeline in specialist expertise and groom locals for leadership positions - even as they bring in foreigners to plug immediate capability gaps."

To be sure, the job creation seen in the financial sector thus far comes as Singapore plunges into its sharpest recession since its independence. Against this backdrop, new job creation in the financial sector will slow, and retrenchments are likely to pick up, said Ms Loh.

"The performance of financial services and the sector's employment situation could continue to be creditable under current challenging circumstances, but we cannot be complacent. We must press on with the sector's transformation, in investing in the workforce for the future."

She said efforts to reskill and redeploy workers into new or expanded jobs have helped stave off retrenchments. This contributed to the steady decline in retrenchments in the financial sector, from the peak of 2,300 in 2016 to 1,300 last year.

The MAS and IBF are looking into extending training subsidies into next year, to provide "longer-term certainty and support for business and workers". The IBF Credit and training allowance support are slated to expire end of this year.

In April, MAS raised the level of IBF course fee subsidies for all locals from between 50 and 70 per cent to 90 per cent. It further provides a 5 per cent course fee credit, making the total course fee support 95 per cent.

Financial institutions have also tapped a training allowance grant.

The MAS and the IBF are now looking to build an artificial intelligence platform with 13 financial institutions, to automate the process of identifying adjacencies in jobs and skills, so that more workers can be reskilled and prepared for a pivot into suitable roles.

"Given the accelerated pace of digitalisation, we need to do more - and at scale," said Ms Loh.

Close to 60 financial institutions have offered about 1,300 SGUnited Traineeship positions for fresh and recent graduates in this challenging job market. As at end-July, 50 financial institutions have committed to hiring 900 Singaporeans over the next three years, and to groom them for future leadership and specialist roles under structured talent-development programmes supported by MAS.

Several large financial institutions in Singapore have also pledged to avoid job cuts, including Bank of China, DBS, Maybank, OCBC and UOB.

Standard Chartered was highlighted as a financial institution that has stepped up training for employees to deepen expertise and acquire new skills.

In a statement, the bank said it has committed S$8 million to help its Singapore workforce with reskilling and training through their career.

The bank, which has a workforce of about 10,000 here, focuses on training and developing local talent in areas that require specialised skills sets, such as specialist financial markets roles, data science, risk modelling, cyber security, cloud and artificial intelligence.

Singapore citizens form 70 per cent of the bank's Singapore subsidiary, as well as 70 per cent of the Singapore management team, said StanChart. Some 83 per cent of its Singapore subsidiary and 90 per cent of its Singapore management team consist of locals, added StanChart. The bank said it remains committed to ensure a "robust Singaporean Core pipeline". It was recently named as the country's first "Significantly Rooted Foreign Bank" by MAS.

OCBC said that as at July 2020, nine in 10 of its workers in Singapore are locals.

Over at DBS, more than 90 per cent are locals. All Singapore-based group management committee members, including group chief executive Piyush Gupta and heads of key business and support functions, are Singaporeans and PRs. More than 90 per cent of its managing directors are also locals, said Singapore's largest bank.

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