The employment outlook for the financial sector in 2021 “remains positive,” with financial institutions offering 6,500 newly-created positions in the same year, says Ravi Menon, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) managing director, in his speech at the “Growing Timber” MAS-IBF Webinar Series on May 4.

About 6,000 of the 6,500 newly created positions are permanent jobs. Half of these jobs are in technology and consumer banking, with the remaining jobs spread across business lines and functions.

The figure came from a survey conducted by MAS and the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) among close to 800 financial institutions in late 2020. The survey was on the institutions’ projected hiring from January to December 2021.

Of the 6,500 jobs, 44% of them are open to mid-careerists with adjacent or no-experience. According to Menon, financial institutions have indicated that they are willing to train mid-careerists for these new jobs.

Mid-career jobseekers should also make time for the opportunity to be trained in these new roles.

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There are some 4,800 hiring opportunities among the 6,500 jobs, for non-tech roles such as relationship management, product sales, compliance and risk management.

Relationship managers alone account for 1,300 or 28% of the hiring opportunities in the non-tech roles.

“This is underpinned by the strong growth in wealth management activities in Singapore,” says Menon, who cited examples including Citibank and DBS Bank. The former opened its world’s largest wealth advisory hub in Orchard Road, and plans to hire 1,500 more employees by 2025. The latter aims to hire over 650 wealth planning managers and insurance consultants in 2021.

He adds that demand for financial planners and relationship managers likely to be “sustained” as Singaporeans become increasingly conscious on the need for proper financial planning, including insuring against health risks, as well as saving and investing for retirement.

Technology to continue to lead hiring demand in 2021

There are 1,700 hiring opportunities for tech jobs in the financial sector in 2021, with software engineers accounting for around 30% of these jobs.

Business analysts and jobs in digital transformation account for another 25%.

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As technology is key to how financial services are produced, distributed and consumed, the financial sector’s strong demand for technology talent will persist.

“The Singapore financial sector has harnessed technology across a wide range of functions – from risk management, business analytics to customer service. We are now among the most tech-enabled financial centres in the world, supported by a vibrant FinTech ecosystem and strong foundational digital infrastructures,” says Menon.

He adds that Singaporeans have also benefitted “significantly” from digital financial services such as making purchases via their mobile phone, as well as payment services such as PayNow and iFAST.

“Many of these digital finance services would not have been possible without the strong technology workforce in the financial sector,” he says.

According to Menon, MAS estimates that some 2,500 to 3,500 tech jobs will be created in the financial sector each year over the medium term.

He has also revealed that the technology workforce in the financial sector stands at an estimated 25,000, 30% more than that in 2014.

“Singaporeans make up just over one-third of this workforce,” he says, although he adds that “many of the tech skills required to do the jobs I have described earlier are in short supply locally”.

The surge in demand for tech jobs has benefitted Singaporean workers, with the share of Singaporeans in tech jobs remaining ‘stable’ at about 35% over the years.

That said, the proportion of Singaporeans taking on tech jobs is “uneven” across different roles; over 70% are cybersecurity engineers or UX/UI designers, while slightly over 20% are software engineers or business analysts.

“These jobs require strong programming skills and in-depth business domain and system knowledge. There are not enough Singaporeans applying for these jobs in the first place, let alone qualifying for them,” says Menon.

As more sectors embark on digitalisation, the competition for tech talent is economy-wide, he adds.

The mismatch between the demand and supply of technology workers means we have to continue to depend on foreigners to fill the growing vacancies of tech jobs, and that “we need to build a strong local tech talent pipeline – as a collective effort involving individuals, financial institutions, and the government”, he says.

Singaporeans looking to pursue tech jobs in the financial sector should possess a degree or diploma in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) if they’re seeking a “good head start”.

Financial institutions are also open to training mid-career switchers with STEM backgrounds from other sectors as well, says Menon.

Fundamental programming skills, as well as having business domain knowledge, are important, as well.

Overseas exposure, which means taking up overseas postings in countries such as India and China, are valued, especially for those seeking to take up senior roles in technology within the sector.

A look back at the financial sector in 2020

The financial sector added 2,200 net jobs in 2020, during the same period where the economy shed 180,000 net jobs on the whole,

In the financial sector, some 2,800 new Singaporeans were hired, while 600 non-Singaporeans saw job losses within the sector.

The 100% of Singaporean share of net job growth is “unusual”, according to Menon, but it reflects the impact that the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) has on local employment.

The border control measures that took place at the time, with the Covid-19 pandemic, also made employment of foreigners “difficult”.

That said, the financial sector has seen “consistently strong” job growth over the past five years. A total of 21,000 net jobs were created during 2016 to 2020, of which, 16,000 of them were held by Singaporeans.

As more international financial institutions are setting up their regional and global hubs in Sinagpore, 40% of financial sector jobs are primarily international-facing, says Menon.

Of the 40% of these jobs – which include private bankers serving regional clients and application developers developing digital products for overseas markets – half of them are filled by Singaporeans.