Excelling in the new world of finance

Singapore’s finance industry is undergoing transformation. To excel in the new world of finance, industry professionals must develop the skills needed to stay relevant.

The confluence of global uncertainties, regulatory reform and technological advancement have led to changes in the business models of financial institutions and the nature of jobs in the industry.

These changes have fuelled demand for new skillsets and created new jobs, but at the same time have led to job losses due to various factors including automation and offshoring.

To keep pace with these changes, finance professionals must develop deeper skills and future-ready capabilities to enhance the value that they bring to their organisations.

Humphrey Poon and Teng Tai Poh are examples of Singaporean finance practitioners who have been navigating the challenges of an industry in flux. They both turned to training courses accredited by The Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) to develop the knowledge and skills needed to stay relevant as well as build their status as employees of choice in an increasingly tight – and competitive – employment market.

Bridging the finance knowledge gap

Poon is a ScrumMaster/Product Manager for loans origination at DBS Bank with an SMU Executive Certificate in Corporate Banking (IBF Level 1). He entered the finance industry by chance as his first application development project was with a life-insurance company.

“My interest in the business domain led me to continue working in the industry, and I moved progressively into financial and regulatory reporting, followed by Cash and Trade, and most recently into loans origination,” Poon recounts.

He pursued further study at the Singapore Management University (SMU) to improve his understanding of the loans origination process. He says the course helped him develop foundational knowledge of corporate banking that he could tap, “when working with business users to understand new requirements and processes in credit risk management”.

Poon says he was motivated to complete the training to help him “improve the credit assessment and approval processes and systems” and has been able to apply his new skills to products offered to DBS’s counterparties and the process by which credit is extended and monitored.

He highlights the knowledge gap facing finance professionals today. On-going challenges include the “lack of business domain knowledge, as well as the lack of structured learning opportunities”. Much has been lost due to outsourcing and employee churn, he adds.

Poon believes that learning must be continuous. As such, upskilling and training will continue to be important in his professional development.

Staying relevant in a transforming industry

Teng currently leads the Client Due Diligence Assurance group at UBS and recently completed the ICA Diploma in Anti Money Laundering (AML)/Counter Financing Terrorism (CFT).

UBS is his first employer, and choosing to work in the finance industry was almost a natural decision for Teng after his accountancy degree.

“The environment in the finance industry is dynamic and challenging. There is never a dull day,” he says.

Teng decided on further education because he felt there was a need to stay abreast of developments in the AML/CFT space.

The course covered industry knowledge and awareness, regulatory advisory, compliance risk management and monitoring, and the inculcation of the compliance mindset. It also served as a good platform to exchange experiences and bring together knowledge and practice.

“The training course provided me with a comprehensive guide of what I should be aware of, a broad view of perspectives as well as the knowledge and expertise to perform my role confidently,” he explains.

Teng sees lifelong learning as a must for finance professionals “to keep oneself relevant as the industry transforms itself in the face of disruptions”. He also plans to attend more training courses as part of self-enrichment.

“It is important for me to remain relevant (by having) the appropriate skillsets, as well as to instil confidence amongst my peers and stakeholders by sharing the necessary technical competence that I have learnt,” he says.

While the industry faces uncertain times and adapts to meet the needs of a changing market, finance professionals must invest in career-long learning and skills development to enhance their employability.