New $400 million grant to develop local workforce for financial services

DPM Lawrence Wong at the launch event for the refreshed Financial Services Industry Transformation Map on Sept 15, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Efforts to develop local talent for financial services will get a shot in the arm from a new $400 million grant, announced Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

Speaking at the launch of Financial Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM) 2025, aimed at maintaining Singapore's lead as a global financial hub, Mr Wong said the most important prerequisite to achieve that goal is to foster a future-ready workforce.

"To be a leading international financial centre in Asia, we will need the best talent, local and global," he said on Thursday at the launch ceremony held at the MAS Building. Mr Wong is also the deputy chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

The refreshed ITM will push forward with the earlier road map - ITM 2020 - and is supported by five pillars. They are to enhance asset class strengths, digitalise financial infrastructure, catalyse Asia's net-zero transition, shape the future of financial networks, and foster a skilled and adaptable workforce.

Mr Wong said the talent strategy is two-pronged.

"We know that we cannot build a regional and global financial centre with our local financial manpower alone. Hence, we must continue to attract and retain top talent from abroad to form the best teams in Singapore."

He said the Ministry of Manpower's recent changes to the work pass framework, including the introduction of ONE Pass, will enable Singapore to do so.

Still, local workforce development will remain a cornerstone of the development strategy and the Government will invest heavily in human capital in Singapore.

"We want to build a skilled and adaptable Singaporean workforce in finance. That means investing significantly in our finance professionals throughout their careers," Mr Wong noted.

A new Talent and Leaders in Finance programme will be rolled out, he added, which will invest more in skills training with a focus on developing more Singaporean finance specialists and leaders. It will be run by the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF).

The Financial Sector Development Fund under MAS will channel an estimated $400m to support this programme for ITM 2025. The programme will help build competencies in key growth areas, and make training support available for Singaporean finance professionals at different stages of their careers, Mr Wong said.

He cited Mr Brian Chiong, a cloud engineer from DBS Bank, as an example of how one should upskill and stay relevant to evolving industry needs.

Mr Chiong was laid off from a payments firm when Covid-19 struck in 2020. Realising how things have changed in the financial industry, he decided that it was time for him to upskill and specialise.

With the aim to specialise in cloud computing, he registered for a technology-related finance programme run by the IBF, which includes an attachment to DBS. After completing the programme, he joined DBS in 2021 as a trainee and became a permanent staff member earlier this year.

"When one door closes, another opens," Mr Chiong, 32, told The Straits Times.

" While I was initially disappointed at being laid off from my previous job, I saw that as an opportunity to reinvent myself. I had been reading about the potential of cloud computing for a while, so I decided to double down to become a cloud specialist."

Mr Chiong said he believes his approach is particularly helpful for someone new to a technology role, as the programme and attachment to DBS accelerated his learning by immediately putting theory into practice.

Mr Wong said the updated ITM is an ambitious one and delivering it will not be easy.

"While our financial sector has done well, the external environment has become more complex and challenging," he said, referring to elevated macroeconomic and geopolitical risks, technology and digitalisation that can disrupt markets, and the ongoing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The road ahead will be a bumpy one that throws up both risks and opportunities. But we can draw confidence from what we have achieved so far together. Even in a complex and volatile world, Singapore can remain a bastion of stability, opportunity and innovation," he said.

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