DBS wants to hire more Singapore-based technologists this year, but it’s not looking to poach all of them from rival banks in the Republic. The firm wants to take on more developers from outside the finance sector, in a bid to overcome local talent shortages and make its tech team more innovative.
“For hiring in tech, we usually look for candidates outside the financial industry, as this creates greater diversity within our teams. We’ve been very successful in attracting candidates from tech companies and from other tech-intensive industries such as media, gaming, and telecommunications,” says DBS managing director Soh Siew Choo, head of consumer banking and big data analytics technology. DBS did not provide hiring numbers.
In big data and machine learning, for example, Soh says the telecoms sector is “way ahead” of banking. “In general, people from other industries provide different perspectives to problem solving,” says Soh, who is responsible for about half the technologists at DBS.
Hiring from outside of banking has already changed the culture of DBS’s tech team, says Soh. The bank has introduced a smart-casual dress code and cut down on meetings, following feedback from new recruits.
Most of Soh’s job descriptions make it clear that a non-banking background is desirable or even mandatory. “We recently used external recruiters for two senior vacancies, but they failed to find suitable candidates with the right mix of skills,” says Soh. “However, the actual challenge is their willingness to source outside of the financial industry, and to be comfortable that banking experience is not a pre-requisite to being successful in tech roles in banks today.”
Like all banks, DBS has not escaped the recent trend of tech firms poaching from the finance sector. Carl Bachman Kharazmi, DBS's former APAC head of cloud engineering, is now working for Google, for example. “There’s a shortage of engineers with the latest tech skills in Singapore, so it’s an employee-led job market,” says Soh. “There’s now a lot of movement among technologists from banks to non-banks, and vice versa.”
Why the talent shortage? Soh says it’s mainly because Singapore has transformed from a tech-support hub to an engineering hub in the space of just three years. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Alibaba, for example, have built big development teams in the Republic. “While all employers are finding it hard to recruit, this rapid growth is positive overall, because there are now more high-quality tech jobs based in Singapore, even if the candidate supply hasn’t caught up yet,” says Soh.
Tackling the talent shortage isn’t just about hiring people from different industries – Soh also wants to bring more women on board. About 20% of the job offers made to technologists following DBS’s annual recruitment hackathon earlier this month went to women. That may not sound like much, but it’s an increase over the past two years thanks to a campaign by the bank to attract more female applicants.
But recruiting young women is one thing, keeping them on board as they become more senior is more difficult. “Technology, including financial technology, is a sector that’s lagging behind in gender diversity. The higher you go up the ladder, the lonelier it can be for a woman,” says Soh. “Because there’s a small pool of female mentors in banking tech, I lobby male technologists to act as mentors as well. To be effective, we must engage the other 80% of the tech cohort – our male counterparts – and make them an ally in gender diversity.”
DBS is recruiting across the board this year for its new tech jobs. Senior people are needed to work on projects “transforming” DBS’s platform, such as introducing new agile working practices and developing relationships with fintech partners. DBS is also hiring senior engineers to lead its in-house development of AI, deep-data engineering, APIs, mobile applications and other emerging technologies. There are openings across different job ranks for data engineers and scientists (working on the bank’s new enterprise data platform) and for cloud-native developers (to help DBS move its platforms to the cloud).
As well as hiring new technologists, DBS is retraining current staff who’ve been focused on legacy systems up until now. The bank runs bootcamps, typically lasting six to eight weeks, for people who want to move into new jobs focused on emerging technologies such as cloud native platforms and data engineering.
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