JP Morgan is trying to expand its Singapore technology headcount this year, while facing growing competition from a plethora of other employers. “These days we’re competing not just against foreign banks but also against local banks and the fintech startups,” says Tina Wyer, head of Asia Pacific corporate technology at JP Morgan.
Then there’s the threat from big tech – both Amazon and Facebook have poached technologists from banks to fuel their recent growth in the Republic. Facebook, which is building a S$1.4bn local data centre, is also “active in the same job market” as JP Morgan, says Wyer.
But Wyer doesn’t see this as a negative trend. Echoing the thoughts of Soh Siew Choo, DBS’s head of consumer banking tech, Wyer says the recent local growth of tech firms has helped to turn Singapore into an “innovation hub” – a centre for the development of emerging technologies. “For each competitor that takes talent from us, we get it back around two-fold when we hire. Recruitment can be difficult at times, but overall we feel good about the talent pool in Singapore,” says Wyer.
And while tech firms have their charms – Google’s Singapore office features a gym, nap room and gelato stand – Wyer says banks also have clear selling points. “A bank like JP Morgan has significant scale and global reach – and that appeals to technologists as much as it does to our other employees,” she says.
JP Morgan plans to add to its tech workforce in Singapore in 2019, says Wyer, without providing numbers. “We continue to invest based on long-term strategic needs, and are making hires because of natural attrition and also because of additional investment in areas such as cloud, blockchain, AI, data and robotics,” says Wyer, who holds the role of senior technology officer for Singapore concurrently with her APAC-wide job.
More specifically, JP Morgan expects to grow the team working on Project Ubin, an initiative driven by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which involves 11 financial institutions, and which promotes distributed ledger technology for clearing and settlement of payments and securities. “We originally grew the Ubin team organically because our existing developers were learning blockchain rapidly. Now, as a second step, we’re actively hiring people,” says Wyer.
Wyer also has challenges beyond Singapore, particularly in China, where JP Morgan won regulatory approval in March to set up a securities joint venture with a controlling 51% stake. Wyer is now tasked with helping JPM develop its technology strategy for the JV. “We’re looking at tech jobs in China, but we’ll also leverage our global workforce of 50,000+ technologists. It will be a hybrid approach,” she says.
Wyer’s own career is proof that you don’t necessarily need a coding background to get a management position in tech at a global bank – it’s possible to make a mid-career change. Wyer is a Bachelor of Commerce graduate and Chartered Accountant who started her career at KPMG in the 1990s in her native Australia. She then spent 10 years working in senior finance jobs for JPM in New York and Sydney, before becoming the US firm’s chief data officer, her first tech-related role, in 2014.
“If you’re going into a new part of a bank like I did, you can’t just rely on your experience to succeed. You need to keep on learning; you can’t be lazy,” says Wyer. “You have to educate yourself in new areas – in my case, for example, Python. That could be via formal training programmes at your bank as well as doing your own reading or listening to podcasts.”
Image credit: Tsuji, Getty
Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: email@example.com or Telegram: @simonmortlock
We are on Telegram! Join us now