Inside Singapore’s new 4,000-jobs-a-year financial hiring boom

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Inside Singapore’s new 4,000-jobs-a-year financial hiring boom

The Singapore government’s new target of adding 4,000 extra financial services jobs a year until 2020 is achievable if talent shortages – particularly in the technology sector – can be overcome, say industry experts.

Earlier this week the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) unveiled a new Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the finance sector, aimed at boosting productivity and creating 3,000 net new jobs annually for the next three years, with an additional 1,000 roles in financial technology. There are current about 200,000 people working in the industry in Singapore.

The ITM also seeks to mitigate job losses in banking caused by rapid advances in technology (machines taking over roles in functions such as trading and operations) and encourages more Singaporeans to become technologists themselves.

“This is a well-planned, systematic act to cushion against the risks associated with major tech adoption,” says Raghav Kapoor, a former Religare Capital Markets MD, now CEO of research website Smartkarma. “I'm confident that Singapore can transform its workforce and deliver on these numbers. Now clear goals have been set, execution will follow,” adds Markus Gnirck, co-founder of tryb Group, a Singapore-based financial infrastructure firm.

Opening 1,000 new technology vacancies a year (at both large firms and start-ups) is a realistic ambition, according to recruiters. DBS alone plans to hire 200 people, mainly based in Singapore, into its technology team in the year to end-May 2018. “Skills like cloud engineering, DevOps, full stack development, data science, digitisation and automation are in demand,” says Gurj Sandhu, a director at recruiters Morgan McKinley.

The problem, however, is sourcing candidates to fill these roles. “As technology continues to evolve and grow in Singapore, the challenge is often finding the niche skills – there’s simply not enough of this talent based in Singapore,” says Sandhu. “Tech talent shortages, unless deliberately addressed, are about to get worse for financial institutions, which face strong competition from the internet and tech companies that are setting up on the island,” adds Kapoor.

The ITM does attempt to tackle this issue. It encourages collaboration between employers and tertiary institutions to “build a strong local pipeline of specialised talent, particularly in information technology” for both graduate and mid-career job seekers.

The MAS plan also suggests where you might find one of the 3,000 non-technology jobs over the coming year. Wealth management and asset management are, predictably, high on MAS' list of priorities, but more FX jobs could also be coming to the city state. MAS expects Asia to attract a larger share of global investment flows and is encouraging “key FX players to anchor their matching and pricing engines” in Singapore.

The regulator is working with the financial industry to develop Singapore in the following areas, too: capital raising and enterprise financing; Asian infrastructure financing; Asian fixed income; and global capital for Asian insurance and risk transfer.

What if you are not working in one of the fields earmarked for growth? “The best advice I could give to finance professionals in Singapore over the next couple of years is to diversify your background and expand your skills,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group. “For example, take on projects outside your normal job scope. This will naturally open ‘retool’ your skillsets.”

Alternatively, your bank may provide formal training to help you change careers. As part of the ITM, MAS will work with finance sector companies to provide “professional conversion programmes” that help to retrain employees into more sought-after jobs in areas like technology and compliance.

“When an existing activity is disrupted and jobs become at risk, the tendency is to lay off staff,” said MAS board member and government Minister Ong Ye Kung at the launch of the ITM. “But this cannot be the solution of first resort. For professionals who have honed their craft over many years, a large part of what they already know can be reapplied within the financial services sector or in adjacent sectors.”

Ong also wants more Singaporeans to compete for regional and global leadership roles in finance and said MAS has supported financial institutions in sending promising Singaporeans for overseas postings.

“Singaporeans are under-represented in leadership positions in international banks,” says Aldridge from recruiters Black Swan. “Overseas experience is very valuable on a CV, even more so for a Singaporean who can prove they can operate successfully across US, APAC and EMEA markets.”

Image credit: akephotograph, Getty

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