Little chance of developing Singaporean core in industries as companies continue to hire FTs

An Indian national, Debayan Mukherjee, wrote on Quora early this month (Dec 2018) revealing how happy he was with his former employer, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for enabling him to go to Singapore and work for Citibank in Singapore.

He first got into TCS in Jul 2014 through a walk-in interview at Kolkata, Debayan explained. “I was the first person to appear for the interview for Data-warehousing with Big data and cleared it without much of a hassle. Got the offer letter same day,” he recalled.

He revealed that he was assigned to a project team working on an Anti-Money Laundering program for Citibank AsiaPac based in Singapore. “First two weeks I was on bench, since my new team members were meeting clients in Bangalore. I spent two weeks at home, met my team after two weeks and started working on the project. It was a pilot project for Asia Pac for Citibank North America, and we were to do a POC (Proof of Concept),” he said.

“POC went successful and we started to work on a Anti-Money Laundering program from Sept 15, 2014. Fast forward to 30th Nov, 2014, I was sent to Singapore for co-ordination, data access and delivery.”

He later recalled being in a “living hell” working almost 16–18 hours a day everyday on the project for next 8 months. Upon completion of the project in 2015, he got a 15% pay raise from his employer TCS.

Then in Aug 2015, Citibank decided to offer him a position in the bank so that he could continue working on the same project as the team lead. And TCS was quite happy to let him go to Citibank. TCS, persumably, thought that it would help TCS further with regard to the project as well as future business relationship with Citibank.

“I discussed this with my (TCS’) account manager and project lead and they were both fine to let me go. Despite this I was promoted in Sept, 2015 and got another 17% raise. Dec 30, 2015 I left TCS to join my current organization (Citibank in Singapore),” he said.

Debayan was full of praise for TCS, talking about the “unending support” from his TCS’ project lead. He said, “Despite having least experience, he thought that I’d be the right fit for onsite position.”

When he wanted to take his leave before leaving TCS, TCS even flew someone from Kolkata to Singapore to take his place supporting the project. “I was never asked to cancel my leaves although the work pressure was too much,” he shared.

“Everyone in the project (at one point almost 20 people) including the global account manager, offshore account manager and my lead used to call me personally and thank me for supporting the project. I was part of design discussions which was way above my pay grade.”

“I felt special, each day, everyday. As I said, despite knowing that I’d leave the organization, I was promoted, supported with housing allowance during notice period,” he continued. “I was beyond lucky to have such people as my peers and seniors. It’s been almost three years, I still miss my days in TCS.”

Indeed, according to his LinkedIn information, he joined CitiBank in Singapore from Dec 2015. He was even recently promoted to become the Assistant Vice President in Jan this year.

And according to his profile on Quora, he graduated from the Guru Nanak Institute of Technology in Kolkata.

Developing a Singaporean core

In a Parliamentary speech in 2013, then Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin talked about “developing the Singaporean Core” in the workforce.

“One important aspect of this approach is to take a firm stand against discriminatory employment practices,” he told the House at the time.

In fact, Mr Tan revealed that there had been companies practising “Hiring-own-Kind” in their company thereby weakening the process of developing a Singaporean core in the industries.

He said, “For example, DPM Tharman and I have met up with the senior management of a number of financial institutions on a few occasions to stress the point that financial industry players should make a more concerted effort to develop a local talent pipeline.”

“The management have been quite honest to reflect that they will be more mindful of the need to ensure that discriminatory hiring practices are not entrenched in their industry. Some were quite candid – they honestly said they recognised that they had not paid enough attention to how hiring was done and that unhealthy enclaves had been formed. Others acknowledged that they would need to be conscious of diversity and clustering in their make-up,” Mr Tan added.

And at an ABS Annual Dinner in 2015, DPM Tharman also talked about introducing manpower development initiatives to “ensure a strong Singaporean core across the range of activities in the financial sector”.

“Our vision is to be a financial centre that is among the leaders globally in workforce skills and expertise, and one with a strong core of Singaporeans at every level,” he said.

However, as can be seen in Debayan case, there would be little chance of developing a strong core of Singaporeans in IT if companies continue to outsource IT projects to India, and later on hiring the staff from those vendor companies back into their own companies.

This is especially critical as more financial institutions are embarking on Fintech to improve their internal bank processes like automatically spotting money laundering activities.

Furthermore, with Mr Tan now out of the Cabinet assuming the Speaker of Parliament position and DPM Tharman retiring with 4G younger PAP leaders replacing him, it’s not known if there would still be Cabinet ministers left helping to develop a Singaporean core and looking after the interests of Singaporeans.