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Singapore needs to groom local banking chiefs: DPM Tharman

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam says financial sector leadership development will define Singapore's continued success as a financial centre.

SINGAPORE: The Government wants to groom Singaporeans for leadership positions in the financial industry.  Speaking at the 40th anniversary dinner of the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) on Tuesday (June 10), Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said financial sector skills and leadership development are key priorities for the industry, as they will define Singapore's continued success as a financial centre.

"We must ensure we are well prepared with the skills, depth of expertise and innovative capabilities to stay relevant and competitive. We have to continue to build globally competitive teams in Singapore, by proactively developing our Singaporean core while remaining open to foreign professionals with needed specialised experience and skill-sets," he said.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will launch a new Asian Financial Leaders Programme later this year, for Singaporeans who aspire to global leadership positions. Mr Tharman emphasised the need to develop Singaporeans for positions of leadership in tomorrow's financial world. He added that this will require both depth and breadth, and will increasingly require local and global experience and know-how. 

Mr Tharman's remarks come amid decelerating job growth in the Singapore financial sector. He warned that the deceleration is not a "temporary happening", but is a reflection of the slowdown in Singapore's labour force growth, as well as major forces that are reshaping global finance. This will require a focus on developing the right industry skills and expertise. 

The Finance Minister promised that MAS will continue to invest in developing Singaporeans who are committed to a career in the financial sector. MAS has set aside $60 million for funding support for manpower and leadership development in 2014 alone. 

Foreign banks in Singapore have expressed their commitment to developing local talent as well. Standard Chartered Bank says it has organised focus group sessions with high potential Singaporean staff to understand what other skills and training they would need to be the future leaders.

"We started to try and understand, what are some of the developmental gaps that they need to address. So, some of the feedback that we have been gathering is that they need some training in the softer skills - be it in having difficult conversations, negotiation skills, dealing with broader difficult issues," said Mr Gary Tan, Head of Financial Markets for Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore.

Citibank said it wants to provide local talent with opportunities to build a career with them. 82% of its 10,000 strong workforce here is Singaporean or PR. However, the bank noted that it is equally important to have some foreign talent with the global perspectives, expertise and skills to complement the overall development of Singapore as an international financial hub.

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