Banking union now open to all in finance

Singapore FinTech Association president Chia Hock Lai (centre left) and Banking and Financial Services Union president Sim Cheng Huat after signing a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations yesterday.
Singapore FinTech Association president Chia Hock Lai (centre left) and Banking and Financial Services Union president Sim Cheng Huat after signing a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Union renamed to reflect change; fintech body joins NTUC scheme

A union representing administrative and managerial staff of banks here has now opened its doors to all other workers in the financial services industry, including higher-level professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs).

Previously called the Singapore Bank Officers' Association, the group renamed itself the Banking and Financial Services Union (BFSU) on Wednesday, and now represents workers such as relationship managers and asset managers.

Separately, the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) announced yesterday its new affiliation to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), meaning workers who join as members will receive the same benefits as NTUC members and have an added outlet to channel ground feedback to policymakers.

The SFA previously only had corporate members, including fintech companies and banks, numbering around 320. It is the first partner of NTUC's U Associate initiative, which pools together guilds and communities to support professionals, to form such an affiliation.

These latest moves come more than a year after NTUC updated its constitution to serve all workers, including managers and freelancers.

Announcing the changes yesterday at NTUC Centre, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said: "Technological and digital breakthroughs are really changing consumer behaviour... (as well as professions), including the banking and financing industry."

He added: "This disruption by technologies will not cease anytime soon... Blockchain, artificial intelligence will hit our shores and provide opportunities, even as they create new challenges."

The Banking and Financial Services Union, which aims to help professionals stay relevant and competitive amid technological advancement and changes in the industry, wants to double its current membership of 6,200 in the next four years.

Companies and workers must stay relevant or risk falling behind, he said, noting that transformation is tough as it requires employers to understand where opportunities lie, the Government to be generous in providing funding to change industries, and for unions and workers to be on board with changes.

The BFSU, which aims to help professionals stay relevant and competitive amid technological advancement and changes in the industry, wants to double its current membership of 6,200 in the next four years.

Ministry of Manpower statistics show there are 155,000 workers in the financial services industry.

The BFSU also plans to organise more roadshows and networking sessions this year to reach out to professionals. The goal is to improve wages, welfare and job prospects of those it represents.

Mr Wee Soon Guan, general secretary of the BFSU, called its change "the first step in the right direction" to make the union more representative of workers in the growing banking and financial sector.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said: "Majority of the new entrants to this financial sector in the last three to five years are PMEs (professionals, managers and executives), so it's imperative that we rename and serve the needs of this group." He added that many may not be aware that the union can represent them.

Yesterday, the BFSU signed a memorandum of understanding with the SFA, recognising it as a partner of the union's Finance Industry Professionals Chapter.

SFA president Chia Hock Lai said: "As one of the top financial centres and leading fintech hubs, we see a growing workforce... performing fintech roles."

"Being part of the professionals chapter... we can help to re-skill some of our members," he said. "By working closely with NTUC, we can also channel ground feedback to the labour MPs, who look after the welfare and benefits of workers - acting as a voice for those working in fintech companies."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 'Banking union now open to all in finance'. Print Edition | Subscribe