UOB will be hiring a range of technology professionals in Singapore this year – including in emerging fields like AI and blockchain – as it continues to invest in its digital capabilities, says Susan Hwee, the bank’s head of group technology and operations.
“Around 60% of our IT investments are allocated into change-the-bank initiatives, which includes deepening our technology capabilities in areas such as data, mobility and connectivity, regulatory technology, and cyber security,” says Hwee. “We want to stay at this level for the next three years as we continue to invest and to prepare for the post-Covid world,” she adds.
UOB is also getting ready to take on the four virtual banks that have received licences to operate in Singapore. “We welcome the entrance of new digital players as they could bring digital innovations that would ultimately benefit customers. That said, we won’t rest on our laurels but instead speed up the pace of innovation as we continue to learn from the experience of operating our digital bank, TMRW,” she says.
Among other roles, UOB is hiring product and programme managers who can help it accelerate its innovation drive. Architects, designers, and senior business analysts are also in demand at UOB. “We need talent in product engineering who can build vertical stacks throughout the bank. And we need those with engineering and domain expertise to pull it all together and ensure the continued safety and soundness of our technology and banking infrastructure,” says Hwee, whose bank will be attending the eFinancialCareers HK and SG Women in Technology virtual careers event on March 1.
Like most financial institutions in Singapore, UOB is looking for cyber security, and data and analytics experts. “AI and machine learning are at the forefront of our minds. We’re already using AI in traditional areas like credit scoring, but are now looking to expand into how we can make the best use of non-traditional data to improve customer experiences. Distributed ledger technologies such as crypto and blockchain is also an area that will drive change in both business and operating models, especially because central banks and exchanges are now coming in,” says Hwee.
Given the depth and breadth of UOB’s tech hiring, the bank is looking globally for talent, especially in specialist fields such as distributed ledger and cyber security, which are suffering from talent shortages. “Singapore has always been an attractive destination for global talent. The fact that UOB is headquartered here makes us a unique and attractive place for talent,” says Hwee.
UOB is the only Singapore bank that has standardised its regional tech platform across ASEAN. “While our digital bank TMRW was first launched in Thailand followed by Indonesia, we designed and built it out of our global tech centre in Singapore. The technology team behind TMRW is a diverse one – whether in terms of culture, gender and experience – which helped us to understand the nuances of the markets we operate in and the consumers we serve,” says Hwee.
Hwee, who manages more than 5,000 staff, describes her team as multinational and also stresses the importance of gender diversity within her ranks. “Both men and women bring different ideas to the table. Having these different viewpoints helps to solve problems more effectively,” she adds.
Hwee’s first job was as a management trainee at IBM in the 1980s, a time of huge demand for technologists in Singapore, which allowed more woman of her generation to enter the sector. “Major industries were going through a period of transformation, so there was an emphasis on STEM subjects at universities. My choice of degree and career was a pragmatic one because there were many job opportunities in tech. IBM was an opportunity to learn systems engineering from the ground up,” she explains.
At Citibank in the mid-80s to early 90s, Hwee says she had many female peers and seniors to network with. “It was liberating. While I’ve also had great male role models during my career, it’s helpful to be able to talk to other women leaders, discuss important issues such as organisational change, and hear different perspectives,” she adds.
From the late 90s to early 2000s, however, demand for tech professionals fell in Singapore as tech became “more of a commodity” and companies built large software teams in India and China, says Hwee. “During that period, with most companies preferring to outsource, tech jobs in Singapore became less attractive to Singaporeans in general,” she adds.
Today, there is a relatively good mix of men and women across all tech job functions, says Hwee. While roles such as systems engineering are more dominated by men, there’s an even gender mix in most areas of tech such as in business and system analysis.
Hwee is hopeful that women will become more prominent in Singapore-based tech leadership teams over the next five years. “We’re already seeing this at firms such as Google and Facebook, where there are many female leaders. In Singapore, tech skills are in demand today at a level that is similar to the 80s. And from what I can see, universities are attracting the best talents, both male and female, into computing schools again.”
To chat with recruitment representatives from UOB and other leading employers, sign up for the eFinancialCareers HK and SG Women in Technology virtual careers event on March 1.