Retired Singaporean banker Raymond Koh Bock Swi wrote to ST Forum urging the government to examine the workforce composition in banks operating in Singapore. His letter was published in ST today (‘Forum: Workforce composition in banks needs to be examined‘, 15 Aug).
He wrote to ST Forum in the midst of a public uproar over a recent finding by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) that 30 of the 47 companies put on watchlist for suspected discriminatory hiring practices, came from the financial and professional services sectors. The 30 were found to have a “high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities” (‘SG banker: My trading floor full of staff from “a particular Asian country” with family members too‘).
In one financial institution, almost three-quarters of their PMETs are of the same nationality and in another bank, almost two-thirds of the PMETs are also of the same nationality, MOM revealed. It’s not known why MOM decided to issue so many work passes to these foreigners of the same nationality working in those banks in the first place.
Retired banker: Misleading to combine the Singaporeans and PRs
Retired banker Mr Koh wrote, “As a retired senior banker, I can say categorically that in the past two decades, many foreigners hired in Singapore’s finance sector have been for upper-middle to senior management positions.”
“Once hired, these foreign staff can easily and in a short time secure their permanent resident (PR) status in Singapore. Therefore, when analysing the actual makeup of local staff, it is misleading to combine the Singaporeans and PRs.”
Mr Koh was refuting what the banks told the media recently that they do maintain a strong local core in their workforce (‘Banks say large majority of their employees are “locals”‘).
Mr Koh went on to make several proposals in his letter:
- Banks should provide the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Manpower Ministry with their workforce composition, detailing local hires (Singapore citizens only) versus others (foreign hires and PRs).
- The percentage of Singaporeans making up the “senior” staff should also be provided.
- A minimum percentage of hired locals against the total workforce should be considered, like 90 per cent for Singapore banks and 85 per cent for non-Singapore banks.
- Certain key positions, like human resource head, operations head and compliance roles, should be held only by locals (unless exceptionally justified). Where foreign expertise is needed, there should be clear transition plans to train Singaporeans to assume the said responsibilities in the coming years.
- Any exception to the workforce composition should require special approval from the regulatory or government authorities.
“The financial sector is an important one for Singapore but we need to constantly train, upgrade and protect these jobs for Singaporeans, while concurrently welcoming foreign investments,” he said.
“It has been common market knowledge that certain big, long established foreign banks have been sidelining Singaporean talent in favour of foreign hires, and I strongly urge the authorities to more closely scrutinise the situation in our finance industry.”
Mr Koh is a retired Singaporean banker with many years of experience in the banking industry. According to the information in Reuters, Mr Koh began his career as a consumer lending officer at OCBC. He also worked in Bank of Montreal and Bank of America. He was the Assistant General Manager & Head of Corporate Banking in Rabobank Nederland. His last position before his retirement was Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Credit Committee in Arab Bank.
Mr Koh himself is a living proof that Singapore does have its own talents and that Singaporean talents are more than capable to hold senior positions in banks.