United Overseas Bank modifies office environment to give autistic employees more opportunities

(From left) UOB Group head of technology and operations Susan Hwee, Autism Resource Centre president Denise Phua and UOB Scan Hub clerical assistant Feng Zhi Hua. People with autism account for about one-third of the 53 employees at the Scan Hub, whe
(From left) UOB Group head of technology and operations Susan Hwee, Autism Resource Centre president Denise Phua and UOB Scan Hub clerical assistant Feng Zhi Hua. People with autism account for about one-third of the 53 employees at the Scan Hub, where customer documents such as credit card application forms are scanned, classified and archived. -- PHOTO: UOB 

SINGAPORE - People with autism have been given more job opportunities at the United Overseas Bank (UOB) Group's Scan Hub. They account for about one-third of the 53 employees at the Scan Hub, where customer documents such as credit card application forms are scanned, classified and archived.

Since October 2013, UOB has worked together with the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to redesign work processes, modifying its office environment by having posters with clear step-by-step instructions, and training other staff to understand the special needs of people with autism, a developmental disorder that affects the brain and can make communicating and interacting with other people difficult.

Representatives from the bank and the ARC gave a tour of the Scan Hub on Tuesday, and an update on the initiative, which has resulted in the staff turnover rate going down, and higher productivity.

Ms Susan Hwee, head of group technology and operations at UOB Group, explained that employees at the Scan Hub must have a sharp eye for detail and a methodical approach to work - qualities which match the abilities of people with autism.

Other staff without special needs have also benefited.

Said senior grade clerk Mary Tan: "It has been an eye-opening experience working with my colleagues with autism, and they have also influenced me to pay more attention to details at work."

ARC president Denise Phua commended UOB's initiative.

"The systematic and structured way in which UOB trains, places and coaches employees with special needs promises a sustainable and scalable employment model for other employers," she said.

UOB said it will continue to invest in developing training and career progression plans to help employees with special needs take on more responsibilities at the Scan Hub.