Students get an inside look at banking, finance

Student Robyn Tan had an interest in finance from a young age as her father works in the industry, but she also had her doubts about following in his footsteps.

"I thought the banking and finance industry would be very cut-throat and tough. And I was worried that women would have limited opportunities," said Ms Tan, 19.

But a three-day programme she attended two weeks ago that was organised by Swiss bank UBS in partnership with GIC, the Institute of Banking and Finance and Bloomberg changed her mind.

Started last year, the yearly UBS Youth Finance Academy programme introduces pre-tertiary students to the world of finance and business through talks, interactive sessions, games and networking opportunities. Around 50 students from 20 institutions attended the programme, which aims to increase awareness and deepen understanding of banking and finance careers.

Singapore's financial sector forms 12.6 per cent of its gross domestic product, with over 1,200 financial institutions here employing more than 200,000 people.

"We hope to spark (the students') interest and encourage them to regard this sector as a potential career opportunity, with the hope of developing a pipeline of future bankers," said Mr Gan Seow Ann, divisional vice-chairman at UBS Wealth Management.

Ms Tan, who is doing a diploma programme in fund management and administration at Nanyang Polytechnic, said interacting with UBS staff allayed her fears of an "over-competitive environment".

"Everyone is supportive of each other. There's a lot of diversity and inclusion, with a good proportion of women in senior levels," she added.

Meanwhile, a talk by a foreign exchange expert sparked fellow participant Divagaran Kalaivanan's interest in the industry.

Mr Divagaran, who is doing a higher Nitec (national ITE certificate) in accounting at ITE College East, said that he had only a "slight interest" in banking and finance before the programme.

"Now, it's my second choice after accounting," he said.

"I like that foreign exchange involves calculating and managing risk. You need to know what's going on all the time, and keep up with developments. Anything can happen, and that's exciting."

GIC head of communications Jennifer Lewis said GIC's participation in the programme this year is "part of continual youth engagement efforts".

"By understanding key concepts such as long-term value investing, which is the work we do in GIC, these students will be more confident in applying such principles in their lives."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2016, with the headline 'Students get an inside look at banking, finance'. Print Edition | Subscribe