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Singapore’s Finance Jobs and Industry Outlook, and Why Sustainable Finance is On the Rise

Skills and sustainability will be the key buzzwords for workers and jobseekers in Singapore’s banking and finance sectors for the decade and beyond. Learn why here.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF), supported by Workforce Singapore (WSG), recently launched a Sustainable Finance Jobs Transformation Map (JTM). This map lays out the sustainability trends in jobs in Singapore’s financial services sector, as well as the emerging skills that the workforce will require to meet the demand in the region.

Explaining why sustainable finance matters after the launch of the JTM in April 2024, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng shared in a Facebook post: “Sustainability is a rapidly growing sector, driven by the increasing global focus on environmental and social responsibility.

“Initiatives like green bonds, renewable energy financing, and impact investing are gaining momentum, offering both financial returns and positive societal and environmental impact.

“As the demand for sustainable financing continues to rise, professionals in the financial sector have an exciting opportunity to contribute to this growth while making a meaningful difference!”

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Understanding sustainable finance

The JTM study, conducted by KPMG in Singapore, projects that the sustainable finance market in ASEAN will amount to S$4 to 5 trillion over the next decade.

Some other key findings to note include:

More than 50,000 professionals in the financial services sector will see new sustainable finance-related tasks added to their jobs to a moderate to high degree.

This applies to several career tracks in the industry, especially:

• Risk
• Compliance and Legal
• Product Solutioning and Management
• Sales
• After Sales
• Distribution
• Relationship Management

Examples of these new tasks include incorporating sustainability risks into enterprise risk management frameworks and structuring specialised products to meet sustainable finance demands.

Reskilling and upskilling for sustainable finance

MAS has set aside S$35m in the Financial Sector Development Fund to support upskilling and reskilling and develop specialists in sustainable finance over the next three years.

In addition, 20 unique job roles have been earmarked as high-priority roles for upskilling. These include:

  • Relationship managers in corporate banking will need knowledge of sectoral decarbonisation pathways and sustainable finance instruments to identify and explain related service offerings to clients.
  • Portfolio managers will need skills in sustainable investment management and the ability to construct appropriate investment portfolios based on investors’ sustainability strategies and preferences.

New job roles will emerge in areas such as sustainability risk and sustainability strategy.

These new roles will become more prevalent as financial institutions increasingly prioritise sustainability as a core business strategy for their organisations.

Specialised and deep sustainable finance skillsets will be required to perform these new roles.

For example, the Sustainability Strategy role must design enterprise-level sustainable finance strategies and implement sustainability risk management policies.

Chun Wee Chiew, the regional policy and insights lead for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in Asia Pacific, said to MyCareersFuture: “The Sustainable Finance Jobs Transformation Map (JTM) is proof that sustainability is no longer a niche concern, but a core competency for the future of Singapore’s financial sector.

“By embracing sustainability, financial professionals can future-proof their careers, contribute more strategically to their organisations, and unlock exciting new opportunities in this rapidly growing field.

“As sustainability becomes a core focus for organisations, finance professionals will play a critical role in helping them adapt to the practices required to prevent resource depletion, facilitate long-term success, and build a more sustainable future.”

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What’s the outlook for Singapore’s banking and finance sector?

Chun Wee also shared that the ACCA had recently released a Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS), which found that finance professionals are slightly more confident in the global economy than they have been since the second quarter of 2023.

He believes that there are several factors contributing to this cautious optimism for the global economy.

“Firstly, there are signs of improved business activity. Indices for new orders and employment have ticked upwards, suggesting a potential pick-up in economic momentum.

“Secondly, the increased confidence levels across most regions, particularly in Asia Pacific, may be linked to improved economic data from China and the US.

“Finally, the confidence in the North American and Western Europe region also rose after the huge gain in Q4 2023, and for the first time in four quarters respectively.”

However, despite these positive indicators, the report urges caution against complacency, Chun Wee cautioned.

“Persistent cost pressures, especially outside developed economies, pose a significant threat.

“Rising input costs could squeeze profit margins and hinder future growth. Additionally, businesses remain hesitant to invest significantly.” Furthermore, the GECS highlights ongoing geopolitical tensions and talent shortages as potential disruptors to economic stability.

Why upskilling and reskilling matters for those in the banking and finance sector and those looking to join it

Several initiatives to help Singaporeans raise their game in the banking and finance sector were launched as part of the JTM, including the below:

Expanding the suite of sustainable finance courses for individuals

  1. Two undergraduate programmes focusing on sustainable finance will be developed. The Nanyang Technological University Bachelor of Accounting in Sustainability Management will be available for enrolment from August 2024, and the National University of Singapore is working towards introducing a new specialisation in sustainable finance within its business school in the near future.
  2. More than 65 new executive courses and new executive masters in sustainable finance will be launched by institutes of higher learning, training providers such as the Singapore College of Insurance and Wealth Management Institute, and centres of excellence such as the Singapore Green Finance Centre (SGFC) and the Sustainable and Green Finance Institute (SGFIN). This builds on the wide base of more than 100 IBF-accredited and recognised sustainable finance courses available today, covering areas such as sustainability risk management and sustainable investment management.

Implementing an IBF Skills Badge to recognise industry professionals’ acquisition of sustainable finance skills

The skills badge will serve as an industry benchmark, recognising an individual’s skills mastery and supporting skills-first hiring and promotion by employers.

These initiatives build on existing support for both finance and non-finance professionals in reskilling for sustainable finance job roles, in particular, through WSG’s Career Conversion Programme (CCP) for Financial Services.

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And what about mid-careerists?

Ms Dilys Boey, Chief Executive, WSG, shared: “Through WSG’s collaboration with MAS and IBF, the Sustainable Finance JTM marks a significant step towards building a skilled workforce to serve the growing sustainable finance market in Singapore and ASEAN.

“It underscores our commitment to equip Singaporeans with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the evolving landscape of sustainable finance, while contributing to the nation’s sustainability goals.

“Financial institutions can tap on WSG’s CCP for Financial Services to equip mid-career new hires and existing financial services professionals with the emerging skills like sustainable finance instruments or sustainability risks, necessary to support the financial sector in achieving its sustainable finance goals.”

Here’s a quick look at some of the CCPs to consider:

Chun Wee agreed that such CCPs are important to help those looking into the sector.

“Career Conversion Programmes play a vital role for several reasons,” he said. “Firstly, they equip individuals from diverse backgrounds with the knowledge and practical skills needed to flourish in the financial industry. This injects fresh perspectives and enriches the overall financial ecosystem.

“Secondly, CCPs are designed with agility, focusing on the most sought-after skills in the current market. This ensures a seamless integration into teams for career changers, allowing them to contribute meaningfully right away.

“Finally, supportive learning environments fostered by CCPs build confidence and propel those making a career shift forward.”

Chun Wee shared that in addition to CCPs, there are other options for middle managers and future leaders to retool for the banking and finance sector, such as ACCA’s Certification in Sustainability for Finance (CertSF), which equips finance teams with the skills and knowledge to confidently lead sustainability-focused initiatives in their organisations.

He concluded: “The beauty of finance lies in its vastness. Explore diverse areas like wealth management, forensic accounting, or sustainability reporting, and discover what ignites your passion!”

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