Thursday 25 September 2014

More Singaporeans in top posts at foreign banks

Better talent and city's growing role as financial hub spur appointments
By Rachael Boon, The Straits Times, 24 Sep 2014

MORE Singaporeans are securing top jobs at foreign banks, with a string of senior appointments in recent years.

An educated workforce and Singapore's growing role as a financial centre have allowed more to climb the banking ladder.

In June, for instance, Mr Shee Tse Koon, 44, was appointed Standard Chartered's chief executive for Indonesia. The same month, Mr Tan Kock Kheng, 54, was appointed Citi's global head of local markets risk treasury.

But senior bank executives say that while such appointments are encouraging, more can be done to help nurture a more globally competitive workforce here.

Despite the growing number of Singaporeans taking on regional roles at international banks both here and abroad, not all go on to clinch top global roles.

The issue has been in the spotlight since Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in June that Singapore needs to develop more local talent for "positions of leadership in tomorrow's financial world".

At Citi, Singaporeans make up over 30 per cent of its Asean Management Committee. Another Singaporean in a global role is Mr Money K, global head for next generation at Citi Private Bank.

A StanChart spokesman said the bank has about 7,000 staff based in Singapore, and these include both country roles and global roles, as the global business operates from the Republic.

Of its 7,000 staff, about 6 per cent hold senior management positions and of those, more than a fifth are Singaporeans, he said.

Another recent senior appointment was at ABN Amro Bank Singapore which appointed Mr Daniel Teo, 53, as deputy country executive. He was already the bank's chief operating officer for both Singapore and private banking for Asia and Middle East.

In Singapore, 60 per cent of ABN Amro's senior management team are Singaporeans.

"Singapore, being an established financial hub in the region, has given Singaporeans plenty of opportunities to accumulate extensive experience in the finance sector," said Mr Teo.

Women are making their mark too. Singaporean Pollie Sim took over as Maybank International chief executive in October last year. She said more Singaporeans have reached management level and put that down to better education, more international exposure and government support.

The Financial Scholarship Programme (FSP), for instance, aims to develop a pipeline of specialist leaders, and supports postgraduate programmes in specialised areas, including actuarial science. About 170 scholarships have been awarded since it was launched by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 2006.

Banks also note various training and development programmes they have in place.

Mr Shee said Singaporeans are now more willing to travel and work abroad. Their work ethic is "highly respected by many".

He has had various regional and overseas appointments, and said that in meeting colleagues, clients, government or central bank officials overseas, "they often expressed interest in understanding how Singapore has become so successful as a nation".

He thinks getting that top job is about the "ability and attitude" in various ways. "Singaporeans are often under-rated, perhaps because culturally, we are relatively modest, and sometimes over-modest... We must believe that we are as good, if not better, and find an elegant way to better 'market' ourselves."

Singaporeans should also be prepared to take the plunge, "to put up our hands for the top job", and those who have made it must be confident enough to be champions of talented Singaporeans.

Banker tuned in to world affairs as a boy
By Rachael Boon, The Straits Times, 24 Sep 2014

MR TAN Kock Kheng, one of a new breed of global bankers from Singapore, traces his interest in the wider world to a small transistor radio he listened to as a boy.

Mr Tan, 54, believes his voracious appetite for global affairs has given him an edge over the years, as he advanced to his latest role, where international events play a key role.

He was appointed Citi's global head of local markets risk treasury in June - the first Singaporean to hold this position.

"As a boy, I remember growing up during the North and South Vietnam war, " said Mr Tan. He followed the news every night at 9pm on his small radio.

Part of his new responsibilities are managing liquidity and funding for the bank under all market conditions. To achieve these goals, he stressed, accurately interpreting "world affairs, global economic developments, geopolitics and investment trends" was important. "This ability to incorporate culture diversity and a comfort in understanding these events will have a large impact on my decisions of investments and the balance sheet."

The senior executive believes such qualities have the potential to play an even greater role in a banking career, than a person's financial background or training.

He came from a non-finance background, graduating from National University of Singapore's then Faculty of Architecture, Building and Estate Management in 1985.

He has been with Citi for 21 years. He began as a trader and moved up to senior treasury positions in Asia. "Having a financial background is good... but I really think if there are young graduates who want to manage a global business, they need to be able to make investments in currencies all around the world, read global events and investment trends."


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