SINGAPORE: The employment outlook for the finance sector remains positive, with about 6,500 positions projected to be created in 2021, said Mr Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Tuesday (May 4).
Mr Menon was speaking at a webinar organised by MAS and the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore (IBF) on "A Tech-Enabled Financial Sector - Is our workforce ready?".
Sharing the results of an MAS-IBF employment outlook survey, he said that 91 per cent, or 6,000, of these jobs are permanent positions.
Job growth in the finance sector has been strong over the past five years and the industry continued to add jobs last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, while the economy as a whole shed 180,000 jobs, the sector saw a net gain of 2,200 positions, said Mr Menon.
"The employment outlook for the financial sector in 2021 remains positive," he said, adding that close to 800 financial institutions responded to the survey conducted late last year.
"It is heartening that 44 per cent of the 6,500 newly created jobs are open to mid-careerists with adjacent or no experience," he said.
STRONG DEMAND FOR RELATIONSHIP MANAGERS
Besides a demand for technology roles, there is strong demand for relationship managers, with 1,300 positions available, said Mr Menon.
Citibank, which recently opened a wealth advisory hub here, plans to hire 1,500 more employees by 2025 including 300 relationship managers while DBS Bank plans to hire more than 650 wealth planning managers and insurance consultants this year, he added.
"Financial planning and relationship management is not an easy job, but it is meaningful," said Mr Menon.
Turning to technology jobs in finance, Mr Menon said that technology has become central to how financial services are produced, distributed and consumed.
"Can we imagine what life would have been like during last year’s 'circuit breaker' lockdown if we did not have PayNow or FAST?" he said.
"Many of these digital finance services would not have been possible without the strong technology workforce in the financial sector."
Listing the job functions required to develop financial apps, including business analysts, system and security architects and software developers, Mr Menon said that many of the tech skills required are in short supply in Singapore.
TECH SKILLS IN SHORT SUPPLY
The technology workforce in Singapore's financial sector is estimated to be 25,000 - 30 per cent more than in 2014.
Mr Menon said that the surge in demand for technology jobs has benefitted Singaporean workers.
"The share of Singaporeans in tech jobs has remained stable at about 35 per cent over the years," he said.
"But with the rapid expansion of the technology workforce, it meant 2,200 more tech jobs for Singaporeans. This is a more than 30 per cent increase in five years, from 6,700 jobs in 2014 to 8,900 jobs in 2019."
The proportion of Singaporeans taking on tech jobs is also uneven across different specialisations. Singaporeans account for 70 per cent of the net job growth for cybersecurity engineers and UX/UI designers, and 50 per cent of the net job growth for data analysts and data scientists.
"This is encouraging, given that these are in-demand roles. But these are also niche roles where hiring numbers are relatively small," said Mr Menon.
"In 2019, net job growth in software engineers was 200, 10 times more than that for UX/UI designers. Less than 20 per cent of these 200 software engineer jobs went to Singaporeans."
DEMAND FOR TECH TALENT WILL PERSIST
He predicted that the financial sector's demand for tech talent will persist, with 2,500 to 3,500 such jobs created each year over the medium term. With 19,000 unfilled jobs in tech across the economy, the pipeline of graduates in relevant fields is not enough to meet the demand, he said.
"This large mismatch between demand and supply of technology workers means two things. One, we have to continue to depend on foreigners to fill the growing vacancies for technology jobs over the next few years.
"If we tighten this inflow excessively, it will impair not just the competitiveness of our financial centre but dampen the prospects for creating good jobs in the future, especially for Singaporeans."
Secondly, Singapore needs to build a strong local tech talent pipeline, Mr Menon said. Financial institutions are collaborating with schools, and training people from different backgrounds, he said.
When financial institutions set up new technology functions in Singapore, MAS also works with them to facilitate capability transfer from foreigners to the local workforce. It also trains and places professionals into tech roles.
Mr Menon highlighted that technology has created more jobs than it has displaced, but Singaporeans need to pick up the skills required to take on these jobs.
Of the 21,000 net jobs created in the last five years, one in four were in technology. While Singaporeans took up 75 per cent of the total net jobs, they accounted for only 35 per cent of the tech jobs.
"There are simply not enough Singaporeans applying for tech roles," he said. "The financial sector is on track to create many good jobs in technology over the next few years. They present a great opportunity for Singaporeans – provided we acquire the skills necessary to take on these jobs."