If you’re working in investment banking or corporate banking in Singapore and think your job is safe from the onslaught of new technology, a major new report may prompt you to think again. Over the next three to five years, a third of job functions in the Singapore finance sector will be merged, changed or cut because of data analytics and automation, according to the report commissioned by the Institute of Banking and Finance and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
But don’t we already know that branch tellers, mortgage specialists and call-centre workers are a dying breed? Well, yes – but the more interesting/worrying aspect of the 294-page report, which was written by EY, is that it identifies several at-risk jobs beyond retail banking.
Which ones? The report classifies some jobs into a ‘high’ category, meaning they are at serious risk of convergence (several roles combined into one) or displacement by technology. Within the report’s investment banking chapter, two front-office functions meet this definition: remisiers (stockbroking and trading agents who carry out trade execution for clients), and traders of liquid assets (i.e. most debt, currencies, commodities and equities traders). The report warns that traders are “susceptible to the impact of automation due to the ease of trade, availability of data and standardisation”.
This is cold comfort for traders hoping for an end to the job cuts that have ravaged Asian equities teams over the past three years at banks such as Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche. If you’re a trader in Singapore hoping to remain in your role, the report recommends being equipped “to trade more complex financial assets and/or diversify across asset classes”, and acquiring additional technology skills to support the continued rollout of electronic trading platforms.
In the back and middle-office of investment banks in Singapore, three jobs are in the most jeopardy: post trade specialists, trade support specialists, and product controllers. Until the beginning of this decade, Singapore had a thriving job market in IBD product control, but some roles have since been offshored to less costly locations such as India and the Philippines.
Now technology poses the greatest threat if you still work in product control in the Republic. The rise of real-time “cloud-based solutions provided by external service providers” means banks are moving away from manual (i.e. human) PC processes, according to the report. All is not lost, however. Singaporean product controllers of the (near) future must be “proficient” in leading outsourced teams, and have “strong business and financial acumen” to uncover hidden insights in data that computers may miss. If all else fails, the report recommends trying to move into a risk management job.
The Singapore corporate banking sector can’t escape automation either. In the front office, relationship managers and product sales people both fall into the high-risk group. This is perhaps surprising in the case of RMs, given continued high demand for these candidates in recent years. To survive the rise of digital self-service platforms for clients, RMs need to learn how to better use software and analytics tools to identify cross-selling opportunities, the report recommends. There’s bad news in the corporate banking back-office, too: technology is threatening credit operations and transaction banking operations jobs.
In total, 40 of the 121 job functions in Singapore’s finance sector are placed at high risk, including many in retail banking and insurance. But the outlook is not entirely gloomy – automation may not ultimately cause the overall financial workforce to shrink, according to the report. That’s because (as we’ve frequently reported) tech advancements are also expected to continue to create new jobs in technology, and data and analytics.
Meanwhile, in his opening remarks at the launch of the report earlier this week, MAS managing director and IBF chairman Ravi Menon urged banks to abandon their traditional “hire-and-fire strategy” of recruiting people with the skills for emerging jobs and cutting those in less relevant roles. “The combination of deep domain skills, broad lateral skills and the digital skills of the future does not often come in a package,” he said. “The superior strategy is to continually train, upskill and transform the existing workforce.”
Image credit: Clearphoto, Getty
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