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Singapore—An article online entitled Are Singapore firms sidelining local talent? contains an explanation from Ong Ye Kung, the country’s Transport Minister and a board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), as to the high number of non-Singaporeans in senior management positions in banks.

He pointed out in a speech at the Debate of the President’s Address in Parliament last week that for retail banks, Singaporeans occupy about 70 of senior management roles. For non-retail banks, the figure is at around 40 percent.

Mr Ong said, “The reason for the higher share of foreigners in senior roles is mainly due to the large international component of the activities here.”

According to the article, only 44 percent of senior management roles in the country’s financial services are held by locals, even though locals make up 70 percent of the total workforce in this sector.

The issue was brought to the country’s attention on August 14, with a letter from a retired banker to the straitstimes.com.

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Raymond Koh Bock Swi 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 the 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.”

In response to Mr Koh’s letter, MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon said that MAS will “intensify” engagements concerning workplace profiles with financial institutions.

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He said, “We want to see a strong Singaporean core complemented by high-quality and diverse foreign talents in every major financial institution.”

In his speech, Mr Ong said that while the number Singaporeans in senior roles has stayed steady, with regards to the absolute number of positions, there have been more locals. He said that the number of senior positions occupied by Singaporeans grew by at least 50 percent from 1,700 to 2,600 between 2014 and 2019.

Additionally, according to an estimate from MAS, there are 2,000 overseas Singaporeans in the financial sector, which means that more Singaporeans are currently employed abroad in this sector than before. Among them, 750 holding at least director or vice president positions, said the Minister.

He added, “Singapore has grown as a global financial centre as more financial institutions set up regional or global functions here. They have made us the hub for expertise, networking and oversight of operations in other markets.

There is no doubt that being a global financial hub has benefitted Singapore. I also think that by and large Singaporeans are not uncomfortable with this approach. Why then has foreign manpower raised concerns amongst Singaporeans?”

Later in his speech, he added, “We should focus our minds on the essential issue, which is how we can provide the best opportunities for Singaporeans. We do this by staying open to the expertise that we need to grow as a global financial centre, investing in Singaporeans’ capabilities at every level and by ensuring fair employment practices amongst financial institutions.” —/TISG

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Read also: Temasek says it hires mostly-Singaporean staff

Temasek says it hires mostly-Singaporean staff


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