SINGAPORE: When Ms Audrey Gan joined United Overseas Bank (UOB) as a service associate 41 years ago, the bank was still in the initial phase of moving towards computerisation.
She recalled how transactions at the banks' branches were manually recorded and at the end of each month, Ms Gan and her colleagues would have to go through stacks of customer ledger cards.
"I remember how the whole team would stay behind just to do the calculations. Sometimes, we stayed back until midnight when we can't balance (the accounts)," she said. "It was a chore really."
Fast forward to 2017 and the bank's employees no longer have to do this at the end of each month, Ms Gan has moved on from taking computer classes to more advanced digital training modules, such as design thinking.
From Monday (Nov 27), the 61-year-old will also be participating in UOB's Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) that will help to further strengthen her digital skills.
Including Ms Gan, about 900 customer-facing staff from UOB's network of branches in Singapore will be the first batch to be re-skilled over the next three to 12 months through classes, workshops and on-the-job training.
The PCP will cover areas like digital marketing, social media engagement and data analytics. Other areas such as risk management and wealth management will be included in the coming months.
UOB’s head of group human resources Jenny Wong said the PCP complements the bank’s existing programmes to ramp up its employees’ digital capabilities.
"Given the influence of technology in shaping the lives and preferences of our customers, we must ensure our people are equipped with the relevant skill sets and agile mindsets for the future," said Ms Wong, adding that UOB has invested S$20 million in training and development programmes last year.
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The PCP was jointly developed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Workforce Singapore and the Institute of Banking and Finance. It is part of Workforce Singapore’s Adapt and Grow initiative to support mid-career professionals, managers, executives and technicians amid the nation’s digitalisation push.
For its programme, UOB will receive partial funding from Workforce Singapore, while the remainder of the re-skilling costs will be borne by the bank.
UOB’s move follows the launch of the Industry Transformation Map last month that aims to create more jobs in the sector, and encourage retraining of workers affected by technological disruptions.
Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said Singapore has to be at the forefront of technological developments in the financial sector.
For that, employers will have a role to play to help their staff meet these changes, while workers must have an open mindset, she added.
"If there was one message I would like to get out for those working in the financial sector, especially the older employees, it is: don't be afraid of technology. Think of it as something that would enable you to access new opportunities," said Ms Indranee.
Also speaking at the event on Monday, Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said the PCP has been "gaining good momentum" over the past year with 87 PCPs being carried out in 34 sectors.
She added that major consumer banks in Singapore have committed to re-train around 3,500 existing employees over the next two years.
This will help bank employees to minimise the risks of being displaced as traditional job roles in consumer banking give way to newer tasks like digital marketing and data analytics, Ms Teo said.
This also helps banks to succeed in their transformation plans, she added.
With UOB rolling out digital initiatives such as mobile apps for its customers and implementing "robot employees" to help with time-consuming tasks, Ms Gan said it is only natural for her to pick up relevant skills to keep up to pace with these changes.
"There are so many changes with increased technology ... but I don't have this so-called fear because you realise that you just have to go forward.
"If a small kid can do it, then we can do it also, right?"