Keeping up with Singapore's evolving financial services technology market

In the first of this two-part series, Sam Randall, Senior Manager, Technology, Financial Services, Robert Walters Singapore, explores how exactly the technology market in the financial services landscape is changing and its effects on businesses.

Singapore is evolving, and so are workforce demands.

Having gradually established itself as a leader in the global financial services and technology industries, Singapore is an ideal location for global financial institutions to base themselves in Asia. Despite global economic uncertainties, a challenging market and widespread news of contraction of the labour market in Singapore, demand for talent in the technology market in financial services remains relatively high.

Historically, Singapore has been used as a low-mid cost location for businesses to house commoditised and less skilled roles in financial services technology and operations. However, costs of doing business in Singapore have risen significantly in recent years and it has not made sense for these roles to be based here for some time.

With a blossoming financial services technology scene and strong support from the government in the ICT and innovation spaces, the demand for technology professionals stays robust. However, these businesses are now looking at Singapore as an Asia centric alternative to traditional business hubs like London and New York to host key business functions.

They also expect to pay talent comparable salaries to these locations. This expectation to pay more for candidates also comes with an expectation of higher quality candidates.

Demand for talent is high – but only in key areas

This changing of the landscape means that demand for talent in Singapore in the financial services technology industry is still relatively buoyant. However, it is very much centered around three main themes, and we predict almost every business in Singapore will be looking to bolster these areas over the forseeable future. These areas are:

1. Positive Disruptors - The future of banking is digital

Digital transformation is a term which is used to define a businesses attempt to modernise their go-to market. The advent of the digital age means that consumers expect to be able to conduct the majority of their business dealings via their phone or computer. Consumers are increasingly tech savvy and businesses are investing large amounts of money to make sure that they are able to engage their clients through these channels.

Examples of how the financial industry is doing this are: internet and mobile banking – allowing people to pay bills and remit money without visiting a branch or bill payment station; Near Field Communication (NFC) and using Smart Wallets (i.e. your phone) in place of credit cards; one Singapore bank has recently enabled their Facebook page to allow people to pass instructions on banking; and the analysis of big data for banking, be it Robo-advisory on investments, or showing people how spending habits compare with their peers in a given area are just a couple of examples. 

2. Negative Disruptors – Cops & Robbers 

Two huge areas of change and disruption to the financial services industry are regulations and cyber security

    Regulations: Since the financial crisis in 2008, regulators across the world have been attempting to reduce the risk of a second crisis by imposing regulations on the behaviour of banks. This is an attempt to discourage and control the risky, unscrupulous or just poor banking practices which lead to the crash initially. This has seen a big rise in Compliance, Regulatory specialists, people with an understanding in areas such as Financial Crime Compliance, Anti-Money Laundering, Know your client (KYC) and Due Diligence.

    Cyber security: the digitisation of the banking industry has seen an explosion in cyber crime targeted at the financial services. Many financial institutions have historically underspent on their technology and cyber security services, which has lead to some fairly high profile and recent cyber attacks – including a successful attack on the SWIFT system on a bank in Bangladesh which yielded over USD$100m. 

3. Transformation 

Change in any organisation is challenging. Delivering projects in large, complex, matrixed organisations is especially challenging. With the rise of many new areas of disruption, the financial institutions that face these disruptors are working over-time to meet regulatory requirements, address cyber security issues or implement new channels and means to interact with their customer base.

This means that projects, transformation and change professionals with subject matter knowledge in this space are valuable to the businesses and highly sought after.

Want to know how you can stay up-to-date and relevant in the financial services technology industry amid all these changes? Watch out for Part Two of this series, which will be published shortly.  

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