Tharman outlines plan for more Singaporeans as finance chiefs
There will also be programmes to help them gain global working experience
[SINGAPORE] The government is committed to grooming a larger pool of Singaporeans for leadership positions and specialist roles in the banking and finance industry here, in a move that may distinctly change the face of the sector.
There will be new programmes to help Singaporeans gain international working experience. The government will also raise employment pass standards to manage the entry of foreigners if necessary.
“We have to build and sustain a strong Singapore core in finance, even as we stay open to global talent and expertise,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the FICS annual conference organised by the Institute of Banking and Finance yesterday.
Singapore’s banking and finance industry is a magnet for foreign talent given its rapid pace of development within Asia – a bright spot compared with struggling Western markets today. There are also several major foreign banks operating here that bring in staff from abroad.
The government has been taking steps to reduce Singapore’s dependence on foreign labour and recently introduced a stricter employment pass framework. The pass lets foreign professionals take up managerial, executive or specialised jobs here.
“We have tightened up on standards for employment passes, so as to manage the growth of the foreign workforce even among professionals and ensure that Singaporeans continue to have opportunities for good jobs and careers,” said Mr Tharman, who is also Minister for Finance and Manpower and chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). “We will continue to keep watch on this, and raise standards further if we have to.”
Higher standards do not mean Singapore is turning inward and it has to remain open to diverse talent in financial services, he stressed. But what is also important is proactive people management – recognising Singaporeans for their capabilities and potential and giving them opportunities for greater exposure.
In that context, the government will be rolling out initiatives to expand the pool of Singaporean talent. MAS will work with financial institutions to co-fund programmes that groom young Singaporeans for leadership roles in various sectors. They will learn about different aspects of a financial institution’s global operations, and there will be opportunities for mentorship by senior leaders.
MAS will also work with key financial institutions here to help Singaporeans gain international exposure. It will partner other government agencies to help these professionals with problems that often come with overseas postings, such as finding work abroad for their spouse.
MAS will also provide more scholarships under an expanded Financial Scholarship Programme to help early-career Singaporeans develop in specialist tracks such as quantitative finance and risk management.
Industry leaders who spoke to the press supported the government’s plans.
“Over the next decade, Asia’s financing needs are so huge that no amount of talent that exists today will be enough to be able to meet those needs,” said DBS Group CEO Piyush Gupta. “In that context, there’s no question that we can actually develop a lot more Singapore talent.”
There are a number of Singaporeans on his shortlist of potential successors but more has to be done to groom them, he said.
Stanchart Singapore CEO Ray Ferguson said: “For financial institutions like Standard Chartered, being able to have key global talent come to Singapore is a key component of what we do.
“Having said that, we would rather develop our Singaporean core. We make a very careful judgement about what foreigners we ask for employment passes for, only after we’ve gone through a process of making sure that Singaporeans are not available.”
Michael Zink, Citi’s head of Asean and country officer for Singapore, said that Citi is committed to developing local talent. Of the staff strength of about 9,500 here, Singaporeans make up 59 per cent and permanent residents, 24 per cent.
At the conference, Mr Tharman also spoke about the importance of training for the industry as demands on the profession intensify. IBF plans to launch revamped foundational programmes for new entrants in high-growth segments such as compliance and corporate banking, and it will start looking at training for professionals in financial services IT.
MAS will also be working with the industry to come up with programmes that help financial sector professionals acquire and update their knowledge of Asian financial markets and regulations to sharpen their Asian advantage.
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