International Banking Facility

DPM Heng Swee Keat at UOB Better U Festival

Mr. Wee Ee Cheong, Vice President and CEO, UOB

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am happy to join you for the launch of UOB’s Better U Festival 2022.

UOB introduced this annual conference in 2019, to rally your colleagues to drive the workforce transformation agenda forward, and to showcase and discuss new ways of working and prepare for future trends in the financial industry .

I’m glad that after two years of virtual operation due to COVID-19, you can finally hold a physical festival this year.

“Better You”

The financial services sector has been a beacon of hope in the economy despite the pandemic.

The sector is a key driver of growth and employment, creating more than 20,000 jobs between 2016 and 2020.

We are optimistic about the future of the sector. The recently updated financial services industry transformation map has outlined strategies to seize growth opportunities and further develop Singapore as an international financial center.

It will create many good jobs. The MAS predicts that the sector will create 3,000 to 4,000 additional jobs per year between 2021 and 2025.

But while we work with industry to build a vibrant financial sector, we know it ultimately comes down to people.

The theme of your festival is appropriate – “Better You”. Let me break this down – “Better” and “You”.

First, “Better”. How do you help workers learn the right skills, so they can become “better” contributors?

Second, “You”. How do you foster a supportive work culture that is people-centered and cares about “you” as a person?

Allow me to share my thoughts.

“Best” Contributor

Let me start with how we can help everyone become a “better” contributor.

The starting point is that it takes effort for any worker to keep up with the relentless pace of innovation in the sector. Sometimes it feels like swimming against the tide.

Take, for example, the digital wave in finance.

Technology has transformed the traditional banking experience. Today, anyone carrying a smartphone can already perform a wide range of financial services, without setting foot in the physical branch.

FinTech start-ups are also disrupting well-established business models, in areas such as payments, loans and investments.

Technological advances such as high-speed internet, ubiquitous computing, and improvements in human-computer interactions can facilitate more efficient financial transactions, enhance financial inclusion, and unlock economic value.

The pace of change – which the pandemic has accelerated – would have been hard to imagine ten years ago when I was still at MAS.

Beyond the digital wave, the next disruption could very well come from the green wave. This green wave is only just taking off, but I believe it will transform the banking industry in the same unimaginable ways the digital wave has over the past decade.

McKinsey estimates that reaching net zero by 2050 would require around US$9.2 trillion of investment per year, but only around US$5.7 trillion per year is being invested today.

Singapore would like to help bridge this significant funding gap. We are currently the largest market in ASEAN for issuing sustainability bonds.

In 2021, Singapore’s green, social and sustainable issues totaled $25.3 billion, nearly half of ASEAN’s total issuance volume.

With a diverse ecosystem of global financial institutions and real economy players in Singapore and the region, there are immense opportunities to use finance to support and accelerate the transition to net zero.

The digital wave and the green wave will transform jobs and operations. And our people will need new skills to ride those waves.

For the digital wave, we need skills such as software engineering, data analytics, blockchain, and cybersecurity.

For the green wave, capabilities will be needed in structuring financing instruments, developing sustainability stewardship, and managing sustainability risks, to name a few.

It is not just deep domain expertise that will be needed in these specific areas. In the future, almost all jobs will have shades of green or digital, from account managers to back office.

And even for those with the right skills, if they don’t constantly improve, the skills will soon become useless.

Self-improvement begins within the organization.

In this regard, I am glad that UOB has put in place many useful programs for your workers to upgrade and retrain their skills.

Like the new Technology and Operations Academy you’re launching today, which will help more of your workers learn new technology and operational skills.

We can all do even better if we work together as an industry to develop our talents.

This collective approach is not new in the financial sector. We started the Banking and Financial Institute, or IBF, in 1974 for this purpose.

Over the years, IBF has played an important role in partnering with financial institutions to transform their workforce and develop local talent to meet the ever-changing skills needs of the industry.

We now also have other training institutes, such as the Wealth Management Institute, to help deepen skills in strategic growth areas.

I am pleased to see that the IBF, MAS and industry have continued to work closely together to address skills gaps. For example, through career transition programs, more than 4,400 consumer banking, operations and insurance professionals have been or are being transitioned into new and enhanced professional roles.

I am also delighted that UOB is today signing a Memorandum of Understanding with IBF, NUS, SIT and SIM, to collaborate on the further development of skills, including not only technical skills, but also soft skills and in leadership.

A workplace that watches over “you”

I talked about helping every worker become a better, more skilled worker.

But each of us represents much more than the professional skills we possess.

Equally important, it’s about fostering a culture of support. Every worker should feel that this is a workplace that watches over “you”.

This is what ultimately allows everyone to contribute and flourish.

We know Singaporean families are under pressure on many fronts.

Many give their best at work, but it can be difficult to balance this with other responsibilities at home, whether caring for children or aging parents.

The government is committed to helping Singaporean families better cope with their responsibilities

But a big part of the solution lies in the workplace.

There are several aspects to this. First, to ensure the physical and mental well-being of every worker in the workplace.

It might be asking too much of every worker to look forward to coming to work, especially on Mondays!

But I think we all recognize that employee wellbeing and mental health are now key priorities for workers, not just here, but around the world.

Younger generations entering the labor market may also have different aspirations and priorities. A recent Deloitte survey of millennials and Gen Zers around the world found that when choosing a new job, the top priority was not salary, but rather work-life balance. private.

And when people quit their jobs, pay is often not the main reason they do. MIT research found that a toxic work culture is more than 10 times more predictive of attrition than insufficient compensation.

The government is working closely with business and the labor movement to support the mental wellbeing of employees.

The Tripartite Mental Wellbeing Council was rolled out in 2020 and sets out practical guidance on what employers can do.

I’m glad UOB is doing your part to help. For example, you have developed wellness programs for your employees and increased support for those who need advice or guidance.

Beyond immediate well-being, it is also important to give employees meaning and meaning in their work.

This is particularly striking for young people, as the aspirations of each generation continue to evolve.

The most successful companies will be those that are able to support the aspirations and dreams of their workers.

In turn, these workers will be the keystone to your future success.

A second aspect of a supportive work culture is to provide space for each of us to pursue our interests and responsibilities.

Flexible working hours are one of them.

COVID has shown the possibilities of remote working.

This may not be possible for all companies and all workers, especially those with frontline duties. It’s also sometimes harder to learn and build camaraderie when you’re just interacting virtually.

But some form of flexible working arrangement is here to stay – many employees expect it, and it’s an important tool for attracting and retaining.

The challenge is to find the right balance, and we will have to grope to move forward in this regard.

I’m glad we got a head start exploring this in Singapore.

The Tripartite Flexible Working Arrangements Standard was introduced in 2017, even before COVID.

It provides best practices for employers and recognizes progressive employers who implement them.

I welcome UOB’s efforts in this regard.

You gave the majority of your workforce the choice to work remotely two days a week, even after COVID.

You’ve also designed flexible options for site employees, such as retired UOB employees who can return for short-term or project-based opportunities.

I am also pleased that for the first time this year, UOB is organizing a career fair for those who wish to explore a career in finance, including on a flexible or gig basis.

Ultimately, a flexible and supportive work culture will not only benefit workers, but also companies and the sector as a whole.


Allow me to conclude. This Festival is most timely.

I hope that all companies, whether in the financial sector or other sectors, can continue to put your people at the forefront of your strategies.

If we are able to help every worker become a “Better You”, I am convinced that our financial center and our economy will continue to prosper.