Singapore finance sector sees boom in tech jobs, even as industry growth slows

A student with a laptop doing coding for a website.
A student with a laptop doing coding for a website.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE -Never mind numeracy skills. To work in a bank these days, a jobseeker is better off being a designer, digital data analyst or tech developers.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in its annual report last week noted a net increase of 2,800 financial sector jobs last year, despite the slowdown in financial sector growth.

The sector as a whole grew just 0.7 per cent last year, down from 5.7 per cent in 2015.

MAS managing director Ravi Menon noted that with digitisation and automation gathering pace, many global financial institutions have been downsizing and restructuring their operations.

"The Singapore operations of these global banks have retrenched some staff, mainly in back office functions such as operations, IT and technical support," he said.

However, he added, while some financial institutions have laid off staff, others have continued to hire, especially in growth areas such as technology, compliance, risk management, insurance, and asset and wealth management.

Indeed, banks and human resource experts said the rise of technology has led to an increase in demand of many new positions in the banking sector which did not previously exist, such as UX/UI designers, digital data analysts and app developers.

Management consultancy Kelly Services estimates that IT on the whole will require between 15,000 and 30,000 more workers by 2020.

OCBC Bank's head of human resource planning, Ma Jacinta Low, said: "As technology continues to change the banking landscape, it is important for us to continue to build a strong team with the relevant skill set and experience so we are looking to recruit more talent with expertise in cyber security, digital and web development and data analytics."

Similarly, DBS Bank has been looking for data scientists, UX/UI designers, app developers and people familiar with cloud computing, agile development, development operations and information security to support its digital initiatives.

United Overseas Bank, meanwhile, has been growing its team of experts in areas such as enterprise architecture, programming, data analysis and cybersecurity.

However, its head of group human resources, Ms Jenny Wong, added that on top of these technical skills, the bank also wants people who "can be creative and make practical sense of technology".

"This is all with the aim of providing customers with efficient and convenient solutions wrapped in the human touch."

A DBS spokesman noted, however, that in the financial sector, hiring for specialised and niche positions continues to be a challenge because of the comparatively smaller talent pool, and it usually takes a slightly longer time to hire for these positions.

Kelly Services Singapore managing director Foo See Yang said that as a result, and in order to stay nimble and competitive, many employers have embraced an "agile workforce" made up of both permanent and contract workers.

"While it remains a tight talent market, the more pressing matter is talent retention which is not limited to the finance sector," he added.

The 2017 Kelly Services and Capita Salary Guide found that many companies in Singapore may find it increasingly difficult to engage and retain their workforce.

A hefty 64 per cent of workers said they are in a good position to secure a similar or better role, and 74 per cent of workers believed that their skill set and experience allow them to compete effectively with other job seekers in the market.

Singapore workers however, are not complacent as the research also suggests that the top concern of 72 per cent of workers was of their knowledge and skills becoming obsolete.

"In this climate of disruption to traditional business models, it remains crucial that Singapore's workforce continues to re-skill, upskill and adopt an agile mindset in order to remain relevant in Singapore's future economy," Mr Foo said.

"Those who are exploring job opportunities in IT or fintech (financial technology) may therefore enrol in courses related to programming or coding to grow their skills."