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Young Asian finance professionals become specialists too soon, says top Singapore banker

Young Asian finance professionals becoming specialists too soon, says senior Singapore ANZ banker

Don't get too focused

Young banking professionals in Asia are moving into specialist jobs at an early stage in their careers and this risks their skills becoming too narrow in the near future, says a senior Singapore-based banker.

“I think these days there are fewer graduates and young finance professionals in Asia whose skills are sufficiently wide – people become specialists early in their careers,” says Sreeram Iyer, COO of ANZ Bank’s institutional business.

“In the past you would become a generalist banking professional about three or four years after graduating, but now many expect to become specialists in one area and to rise up the ranks more quickly,” he adds.

“But you must remember that there’s no such thing as a permanent job in a permanent function in banking these days. If your skills are too narrow, it’s very challenging to change functions or coverage areas because technology and banking are changing fast.”

“You can’t predict how the banking industry will evolve and you risk being left out and compartmentalised early on in your career as to the roles you can do,” says Iyer. “You also make a more appealing leader later on if you’ve been exposed to a wider variety of jobs and functions and have a broader skill set.”

At ANZ, some of the skills needed to succeed are already evolving.

“One of the key objectives over the next few years is to digitally transform the bank – and as a result we will need to reskill and upgrade some of our roles in various locations,” explains Iyer.

This “digital drive” is being led from the top. “For example, some of our executives recently participated in a digital education programme run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

Operational risk management is also a “key priority” for the bank. “Any candidate aspiring to join ANZ will be expected to learn operational risk as well as have the right technical skills. Risk is an issue for everyone.”

Iyer believes that banking remains a good career option for young professionals in Singapore. “It’s a sector with a large profile and which plays a big part in the economy. And on a regional level, Singapore is becoming even more important to banking in Southeast Asia.”

He says graduates in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia should consider jobs at ANZ because it provides a “solid platform to learn and build your career”. “ANZ is one of the few banks in the world to be AA-rated and is also the top institutional bank in Australia.”

Like many banks, ANZ has scaled back some of its Asian operations this year.

“We’ve resized some of our businesses in the Asian markets to make it simpler to manage our institutional business, while keeping our core strategy the same” says Iyer.

ANZ also has a new CEO, Shayne Elliott, who joined in January to replace Mike Smith, a pioneer of the firm’s Asian strategy.

“There’s not a significant shift to the fundamentals of our Asian strategy – Asia remains a hugely important part of our business,” says Iyer. “ANZ in Asia is well positioned to take advantage of trade and capital flow between Asia and Australia and New Zealand.”


Image credit: Tihis, Getty

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