SINGAPORE - More Singaporeans working in financial services need to step out of their comfort zones to take up overseas postings as the sector continues to grow, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Friday (Sept 3).
Professionals here are sometimes reluctant to go abroad for reasons such as their children's education, parents' health or spouse's career, he added.
Dr Tan, who is also Second Minister for Trade and Industry, noted that the market here is small with limited growth in "domestic-facing roles".
"As our financial sector continues to grow, more international-facing jobs and opportunities will be created," he said at a webinar that is part of Growing Timber.
The series of events on the jobs and skills agenda for the financial services sector is jointly organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Institute of Banking and Finance.
Regional and global roles make up 40 per cent of jobs in the financial sector.
Dr Tan added that Singaporeans will need to compete with a diverse global workforce for these international-facing jobs, especially at senior levels.
"Singaporeans aiming for these roles should be prepared to be posted overseas to gain exposure and expand (their) worldview."
Overseas experience also bolsters a worker's credentials and helps them benefit from a wealth of global perspectives, ideas and cultures, he added.
Those who may not have the opportunity to go abroad can also grow their cultural understanding by taking up projects or roles that allow them to interact with their overseas counterparts.
MAS will expand the International Postings Programme - which incentivises financial institutions to send local workers overseas - by defraying salary costs for postings to Asia, said Dr Tan.
The programme covers airfare, accommodation and allowances.
Support will also be extended beyond those in mid- to senior-level positions who take on bigger managerial and leadership roles to younger and specialist talents.
"Asia is an important market for many financial institutions, and we want to more aggressively grow our pool of talent with Asian acumen," said Dr Tan.
MAS also supports financial institutions sending young Singaporeans for overseas rotations through the Finance Associate Management Scheme.
Financial institutions receive $5,000 a month to defray costs for sending each Singaporean overseas under the programme. From next year, MAS will extend the funding duration of the overseas component from three months to six months.
Dr Tan added that Singapore needs to tap global talent to meet skill shortages, especially in areas such as cyber security and portfolio management - a process that will in turn enhance the skills of local workers.
"An open and globalised labour market like ours can mean stiffer competition for Singaporeans... We have been (equipping) our workforce and future generations with in-demand skills as well as future-ready capabilities, so that they can compete strongly," he said.
The webinar was held at UBS's office near Dhoby Ghaut. Dr Tan also toured the Swiss bank's first global cyber-fusion centre, a facility that brings together information security technology to mitigate online risks, at the premises.
Ms Yeoh Choo Guan, head of UBS's South-east Asia global markets team, is one Singaporean in financial services who has ventured abroad.
She led the bank's sales trading execution team in Hong Kong from 2007 to 2010 after her boss realised she could speak Cantonese well.
She was also part of a team that spearheaded UBS's roll-out of A-share trading in China - a first for an international broker - while she was there.
"As a manager, I was able to navigate different regulatory environments and foster a collaborative work environment with our diverse talent. These overseas stints have also deepened my knowledge of how international capital markets operate," said Ms Yeoh, who has been with UBS since 2001.
Mr Wong Kee Joo, chief executive of HSBC Singapore, said in a panel discussion at the webinar that overseas clients are using Singapore as a base to expand.
He added: "They are looking for people in the financial services industry that have the ability to serve them not just in a Singaporean context, but from an international perspective."
Mr Leong Sing Chiong, deputy managing director (markets and development) at MAS, said small and medium-sized enterprises are increasingly expanding overseas.
"You have to offer solutions that will help them go regional or international," he added.
The panel also featured UBS Asia-Pacific president Edmund Koh - the first Singaporean to be appointed to the role - and Ms Sherene Ban, chief executive of JP Morgan Asset Management for Singapore and South-east Asia.