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Banks commit to reskill, redeploy staff amid tech changes

HR tripartite advisory set up to build 'strong Singapore core' of talent in financial sector and help banks assess impact of technology on workforce

With the government signalling late last year that banks should take up the responsibility of retraining their staff amid technological changes, a new tripartite advisory has been set up to align expectations for banks.


WITH the government signalling late last year that banks should take up the responsibility of retraining their staff amid technological changes, a new tripartite advisory has been set up to align expectations for banks.

Some 160 member banks under the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) will adhere to a new set of human resources (HR) practices that calls for banks to actively assess the impact of technology on their workforce.

Banks here are to reskill and redeploy their staff to areas of job growth through professional conversion programmes, according to the HR tripartite advisory launched on Wednesday.

The banks are also called upon to be inclusive in their hiring choices, meaning that they should hire based on the skills required to perform the job, rather than set a strict minimum number of years of experience or hire on paper qualifications alone.

Banks must conduct any retrenchment exercise "responsibly", and work with tripartite partners to support affected employees as well, the advisory said. The HR tripartite advisory was developed jointly by ABS, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress, and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

The aim of the HR tripartite advisory is also to build a "strong Singapore core" of talent in the financial sector, with MAS now working to tap overseas Singapore finance professionals, in hopes that they will return home.

About 4,000 Singaporeans overseas are in the financial sector, with the most - 1,100 of them - in Greater China, according to a presentation at the launch. Some 950 Singaporeans are in the US, 700 are in the UK, 600 in Australia, and the rest based in other locations. To boost the networking opportunities for those overseas, MAS has set up a LinkedIn community, and will host a networking session with Singaporean finance professionals in London this month.

The moves come as the government aims to create 3,000 net jobs every year in financial services alone. Another 1,000 net jobs per annum are targeted to be created in the fintech sector. The jobs creation target was set last year under the Financial Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM).

The sector's ITM expects financial services' GDP to grow at 4.3 per cent per annum on a real value-added basis over the medium term, nearly twice as fast as the overall economy. Over half, or 2.4 per cent of the growth, will be driven by productivity.

"Difficult as it may be, business as usual is not an option," said Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah at the launch.

"As things stand, we are seeing two very contrasting phenomena - in 'hot' areas such as IT, there is a shortage of skilled talent, for instance, in data analytics and cybersecurity. On the other hand, we also know that firms could end up with surplus staff as they look to digitise and automate various aspects of their businesses."

As it is, the major consumer banks in Singapore have already committed to train more than 3,000 existing consumer banking employees over the next two years, she said.

The Institute of Banking and Finance will also set up a dedicated career centre to provide advisory and job placement services for the financial sector by August this year.

Speaking at a panel session at the launch on Wednesday, OCBC chief executive officer Samuel Tsien noted the responsibility of banks to help staff prepare for an evolution in jobs, saying that banks should commit to "not take advantage of our workforce" amid sea change.

"I've never liked the word 'disruption', because I think 'disruption' has got that antagonistic feel about it," he said. "It is a transformation that is imposed upon the bank by the change in our market environment, and we need to look at it that way."

Mr Tsien said that as machines can perform certain tasks with more speed and accuracy, there needs to be more emphasis on analytical skills.

In a statement, Piyush Gupta, chairman of ABS and CEO of DBS, said: "As global competition intensifies and technological disruption reshapes our industry, we must do more to sharpen our competitiveness."

Ms Indranee said there are no quick fixes in building talent, and in tackling jobs that are at risk of being displaced.

"We must systematically plan ahead to equip our workforce for the future, and give professionals the best chance of securing meaningful roles in the new financial landscape."