An experience issue with millennials

After working in insurance sales for more than six years, Mr Shawn Rowan, 34, wanted to switch to a corporate role in the finance industry and pursued a Master of Science in Applied Finance at the Singapore Management University.

Armed with his master's, he sent more than 100 job applications over the past year for a compliance or operational job, but he has received only a couple of calls for an interview.

Mr Rowan, a Singaporean who used to earn between $3,000 to $8,000 a month and is willing to take a pay cut, believes his lack of suitable working experience is the main reason behind the rejections.

A study released yesterday by recruitment consultancy firm Robert Half backed his suspicions - more than half of the financial services firms surveyed say that the lack of necessary experience is the key reason why it is hard to find skilled professionals here.

The annual study, which surveyed 100 chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance directors in Singapore, also revealed that 66 per cent think that millennial finance professionals (aged between 22 and 40) are the most challenging to recruit and are partnering with universities to combat the generational skills shortage as the baby boomer generation gradually exits the workforce.

To address the demand for various financial services skill sets, Mr Patrick Tay, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), announced the launch of a new Professional Conversion Programme (PCP). (See report on page 4.)

OCBC Bank is the first financial institution piloting the company-initiated PCP. It will train and convert new hires into compliance-related roles.


"This is key given the general shortage of compliance talent in Singapore, especially in anti-money laundering and sanctions," said Ms Jacinta Low, head of HR planning, OCBC Bank.

The PCP is one of the programmes rolled out by the Government under the Adapt and Grow initiative, which aims to help Singaporeans adjust to changing job demands and grow their skills.

In a blog post on Monday, NTUC's Mr Tay pointed out that although the financial and insurance sector saw 2,310 redundancies last year, there were approximately 2,800 vacancies in the financial industry.

He wrote: "The sector appears to be experiencing a churn (rather) than a literal declining plateau.

"Old jobs are gone but new ones are created at digital speed."

Associate Professor Trevor Yu from Nanyang Business School's (NBS) division of strategy, management and organisation thinks that skills involving the application of computing and mathematics within the realm of finance are also highly sought after but are in short supply.

He said: "There are not many higher level educational institutions offering such courses.

"NBS is one of the few around. It is also hard to find people with the ability and aptitude to pursue training in such areas.

"Typically, it takes a lot of investment in terms of time and lost income (especially for finance professionals who tend to be already highly paid) to be upskilled in these latest skills."

Mr Rowan is not giving up on his job search and has been going for Chinese classes, as well as reading widely on related topics such as fintech and blockchain (technology underpinning the digital currency bitcoin).

This article was first published on Mar 29, 2017.
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