Response to “Workforce composition in banks needs to be examined” – The Straits Times, 15 August 2020

Dear Editor,

Growing the Singaporean Core in our Financial Sector

I thank Mr Raymond Koh for his thoughtful letter (“Workforce composition in banks needs to be examined”, 15 August). I have asked my team to reach out to him for further views and suggestions.

Protecting and growing Singaporean jobs, especially in current economic conditions, is a top priority. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) established a $125 million package earlier this year to encourage financial institutions (FIs) to retain, train, and hire Singaporeans.

We want to see a strong Singaporean core complemented by high-quality and diverse foreign talents in every major FI. MAS closely monitors these FIs’ workforce profile by locals (citizens and PRs separately) and foreigners, broken down by seniority, business function, qualifications, etc. MAS engages FIs’ senior management on their workforce profiles and plans to grow the Singaporean core. We will intensify these engagements.

While not yet where we want to be for every FI, the picture across the sector as a whole is better than often portrayed. MAS estimates that citizens make up 70 per cent of the sector’s workforce, with PRs making up another 14 per cent. Singaporeans are well represented across business functions, but we need to improve the local proportion in areas like technology and risk management.

MAS estimates Singapore citizens account for about 70 per cent of senior management roles in retail banks’ local functions. Across the entire sector, the proportion is about 43 per cent, reflecting Singapore’s role as an international financial centre. As our financial sector attracts more regional and global HQ functions, it creates more good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans. But it also means a higher proportion of foreigners in senior management in these functions as FIs understandably draw from a global talent pool to fill these positions.

Even so, a good number of Singaporeans have assumed regional leadership roles. More Singaporeans are taking on overseas positions, typically a prerequisite for these leadership roles. MAS has been working with FIs to develop a strong local leadership pipeline, and the industry is making progress.

My colleagues and I are committed to growing the Singaporean core in the financial sector. We do this by working with our FIs to develop Singaporeans: building critical skills, broadening capabilities, gaining international exposure, and ensuring equal opportunity to take on the many good jobs and leadership roles that our financial centre will continue to create.

Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore