The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s deputy managing director Jacqueline Loh says the central bank has three priorities to support the local workforce in the country’s financial sector.

Highlighting the priorities in her keynote speech at the SGUnited Financial Sector Jobs & Skills Fair earlier today (Aug 12), the priorities are, “protecting livelihoods”, “creating opportunities”, and “strengthening the Singapore Core”.

Loh says these priorities come amid a “challenging” economic environment, and that we have to expect that new job creation in the financial sector will be “slow”. She adds that retrenchments are also “likely to pick up”.

Protecting livelihoods

Diving deeper into these priorities, Loh says that MAS is urging more financial institutions (FIs) to do their part to support their workers, and take a longer-term view in investing in their employees’ capabilities.

“We are heartened that some FIs, including large employers like Bank of China, Bank of Singapore, DBS, Great Eastern Life, Maybank, NTUC Income and OCBC are committed to avoid any redundancy exercises where they can,” she noted in her speech.

The Singapore central bank will also support workers to reskill in roles that are becoming more digitalised due to the rapidly evolving nature of jobs, and the increasingly pervasive use of technology in the financial services sector.

Loh adds that MAS and the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore (IBF) have been working with Workforce Singapore, along with their tripartite partners to reskill and redeploy workers into new or expanded jobs.

“Thus far, 25 local and foreign FIs have committed to support close to 5,000 employees, of whom 3,000 have embarked on this journey. Of these, 900 have completed their training and are in their new roles,” she notes, saying that the efforts have helped to avoid staff retrenchment as far as possible.

“However, given the accelerated pace of digitalisation, we need to do more, and at scale. We are now experimenting an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform with 13 FI partners to automate the process of identifying adjacencies in jobs and skills, so that more workers can benefit from reskilling and pivot into suitable roles. We hope to share more about the platform early next year,” she adds.

Creating opportunities

Touching on employees aspiring to enter or re-enter the financial sector workforce, Loh says that MAS’s second priority is to expand opportunities by mobilising its tripartite partners’ resources amid the weak labour hiring conditions.

Close to 60 FIs have offered some 1,300 SGUnited Traineeship positions for fresh and recent graduates in this “challenging job market”. Around 50 FIs have committed to hiring an estimated 900 Singaporeans over the next three years to be groomed for future leadership and specialist roles under talent development programmes supported by MAS.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, Loh says the IBF will progressively hold more career fairs to help job seekers source for jobs and skills in the financial sector.

At the same time, she notes that financial institutions should not let up on training as we “may not emerge from Covid-19 soon”.

To this end, Loh highlighted in particular, the need to “expand and deepen the Singapore workforce’s capabilities in technology areas”.

“The demand for digital services is becoming stronger,” she says.

“This is why financial institutions continue to invest in digitalisation even with the current strong head-winds,” she adds.

Loh also encouraged individuals to continue to build and upgrade their skills on their own, to “seize” the new opportunities created.

Strengthening the Singapore Core

As Singapore serves as a key financial hub in Asia and is well placed to benefit from the region’s growth and economic transformation post-Covid-19, Loh says that one of the key prongs of MAS’s developmental strategy is to attract more global and regional headquarter functions of the FIs to the country to serve the broader Asian region.

The strategy will lead to more possibilities for further growth, jobs, and opportunities for Singaporeans, and possibilities for citizens to gain overseas exposure through these roles.

However, Loh adds that Singaporeans have to “remain open and welcome global talent” that complement the country’s workforce. Employers, on the other hand, should hire in a “responsible manner and commit to growing the local talent pool,” she stresses.

FIs should also commit to good HR practices that consider Singaporeans fairly.

“Where an FI is suspected to have discriminatory hiring practices due to their workforce profiles, the FI will be subject to additional scrutiny in its employment pass applications, as has happened to firms put on the Fair Consideration Framework Watchlist,” she warns.

Financial institutions to review hiring practices

Ensuring that Singaporeans have opportunities to grow and take on bigger roles in their careers, Loh says that the MAS has urged FIs to step up in three ways.

These include ensuring their hiring practices remain in compliance with the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) requirements under the Fair Consideration Framework, actively identify and groom Singaporeans with high potential for leadership roles, and strengthening their companies’ HR capability.