Grooming Singaporean finance leaders

Grooming Singaporean finance leaders
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the 42nd annual dinner of the Association of Banks in Singapore.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Fresh initiatives have been rolled out to help Singaporeans in the financial sector cope with changes brought about by new technology.

The drive by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) aims to help these workers learn continuously and develop new expertise.

As part of the national SkillsFuture effort, the programmes also aim to develop Singaporean leaders in finance, who are able to take on responsibilities regionally and globally, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Speaking at the 42nd annual dinner of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) last night, Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister and MAS chairman, outlined four key initiatives for finance professionals at different career stages.

This is to "ensure a strong Singaporean core across the range of activities in the financial sector".

MAS will offer early-career workers 30 scholarships a year to help them develop specialist capabilities through post-graduate studies.

Workers in the early to middle stages of their careers can tap on some 70 SkillsFuture study awards to develop and deepen skills through different courses, especially in areas where industry expertise remains in short supply.

All Singaporean finance professionals will still enjoy MAS funding for up to 70 per cent of financial sector training courses. Subsidies for all Singaporeans aged 40 and above will be at least 90 per cent of training costs for approved courses.

Recent graduates of local polytechnics will be able to tap the new Financial Sector Earn and Learn Programme to gain a headstart.

Major banks in Singapore have committed to provide at least 200 places for polytechnic graduates in the next year, said Mr Tharman

To equip local finance practitioners who aspire to take on regional or global leadership positions, he also unveiled the Asian Financial Leaders Programme. Slated to start in November, the programme will span 22 days over eight months, with modules in Singapore, China, Indonesia, Switzerland and the United States.

Mr Tharman also said banks will no longer be required to segregate domestic and offshore operations. Banks have been required to register domestic banking units (DBUs) and Asian currency units (ACUs) as separate accounting entities.

Created in 1968, the divide aimed to safeguard Singapore's domestic market without unduly impinging on regional activities of banks here.

It came in when Singapore introduced the Asian dollar market, in which US dollars and other foreign currencies are transacted. Banks were required to set up ACUs to book Asian dollar and other foreign currency transactions.

Banks book their domestically focused operations, primarily denominated in Singdollars, in the DBUs.

The divide has served Singapore well for decades but has been losing its relevance, said Mr Tharman.

Major regulatory developments in the past five years have meant banks' offshore activities are subject to rules broadly similar to those governing domestic banking here.

These global reforms have put all banks on a sounder footing, he said.

MAS will consult the industry on implementation issues, Mr Tharman added. Details will be released in a consultation paper by August.

The ABS dinner at Raffles City Convention Centre was attended by about 800 guests.

Outgoing ABS chairman Samuel Tsien, OCBC chief executive, handed the baton to United Overseas Bank deputy chairman and chief executive Wee Ee Cheong.

This article was first published on July 1, 2015.
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