Continuous upskilling vital as new roles emerge: Panellists

Former flight stewardess Brinda Cheng, a wealth planning manager at DBS' Bishan branch, is among over 2,000 people the bank hired this year.
Former flight stewardess Brinda Cheng, a wealth planning manager at DBS' Bishan branch, is among over 2,000 people the bank hired this year.PHOTO: DBS

Continuous upskilling is vital to ensure financial industry staff stay relevant as new jobs emerge while others vanish, a panel of executives said yesterday.

They were discussing employment prospects in the first of a series of webinars organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF).

DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta said: "Irrespective of how old you are or how young you are, we can learn and acquire new skills.

"This is the course of human history, that jobs disappear when technology changes, and jobs get created. The reality is more jobs get created in this period of time than ever existed in the past. So, we need to have the faith and confidence that other jobs will come."

He noted that multiple new roles have been created in DBS that did not exist five years ago. This includes a department of more than 100 staff who design the online and offline customer experience. Other new roles include those in data and digital marketing.

Prudential chief executive Dennis Tan agreed that continuous learning is vital for both the insurer's corporate staff and agency workforce. He added that training hours for corporate staff have more than doubled this year compared with last year.

"We have been focusing a lot on upskilling and reskilling our employees to meet the ever-changing expectations of our customers, who are seeking greater speed and convenience," he noted.

A machine learning online course was offered to all staff this year. The firm also launched a new certification programme for agents, which aims to benefit 5,000 consultants by June.

The programme will be expanded to all new financial consultants who join the insurer this year, Mr Tan said.

Training also starts right in school, with Standard Chartered's work-study programme allowing students from the Singapore University of Social Sciences to spend one or two days in class and three to four days at work each week. The programme is in its fourth year and has benefited 37 students.

Singapore chief executive Patrick Lee noted that the firm has been mapping out roles that will be affected by technology in the future and the areas that require new skills.

IBF chief executive Ng Nam Sin said his organisation wants to create training pathways so that even if a job seeker is not the perfect match for a role, the person can be trained to eventually take on the job. It also hopes to work with banks to reskill and redeploy workers where needed.

"At regular intervals, ask yourself how many of these tasks can be done by machine, and if it is more than 50 per cent, you should reskill," he said.

Mr Gupta said that skills have become more transferable, as technology cuts across sectors and breaks down boundaries, providing the opportunity for people to move from one sector to another.

DBS has hired more than 2,000 people this year, mostly experienced staff and mid-career workers from a variety of sectors.

One is former flight stewardess Brinda Cheng, 30, who is now a wealth planning manager at the bank's Bishan branch.

She said: "I appreciate the financial planning and problem-solving skills that I have picked up in the course of my training.

"Such knowledge, coupled with the (customer service) skills I picked up during my time with Singapore Airlines... equip me with the tools I need to help my customers achieve their financial planning objectives."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2020, with the headline 'Continuous upskilling vital as new roles emerge: Panellists'. Print Edition | Subscribe