SINGAPORE – Grooming local talent remains a vital part of the country’s economic strategy but it must also remain open to attracting not only skills from overseas but ideas and investment as well, noted Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (Nov 17).

Mr Wong told an event to celebrate UBS’s 50th anniversary in Singapore that the Swiss bank has “contributed immensely to the development of our financial services industry”.

Mr Wong also noted UBS efforts in enhancing training opportunities for Singaporeans: “People are our only resource. So we have been focused on people development, almost obsessively, for a very long time.

“To do this well, the Government has to work with corporate partners. We are putting in more funding, setting up training frameworks … but it is very hard for the government to tell people what areas they should train for.

“Employers are in a much better position to identify the market and technology, and the areas of training needs.”

One of the bank’s training initiatives involved setting its Asia Pacific university in 2007 to build employee capacity. The facility is now at the new Penang Road premises that UBS officially opened on Wednesday as part of its anniversary celebrations.

The centre near Dhoby Ghaut – its largest in the Asia Pacific – accommodates the bank’s 3,000 or so employees and provides client lounges across its 400,000 sq ft.

The bank also channelled funding it received from the Jobs Support Scheme during the Covid-19 pandemic to launch a Singapore University Programme for Employability and Resilience, which takes on job-seekers as trainees and puts them through a year-long structured programme.

For the first cohort of around 90 trainees, around 95 per cent have been hired by UBS and the industry, some even before their training period ended, Mr Wong added.

“We applaud UBS for your emphasis on developing Singaporeans so that they can expand their skills, and contribute and compete on their merits in this high-quality organisation,” he said.

He added that there are many Singaporeans who progressed in their careers to take on senior leadership roles in the bank.

But even as Singapore does more to develop and grow its talent, it will continue to stay open to talent, ideas and investments, Mr Wong noted.

“This is important for us. In fact it is not just essential, it is existential, and that’s why we are committed to this path.

“Then we can continue to attract the best from overseas, to complement the strong core of Singaporeans in the workforce. And we can continue to compete and excel as one team… to take Singapore forward as a leading financial centre.”

Other guests sent in well wishes to mark the bank’s 50th year in Singapore, including Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon and even Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton.

UBS group chief executive Ralph Hamers said: “In the last half a century, Singapore has grown to be one of our top wealth management centres in Asia Pacific and our investment bank’s South-east Asian headquarters.

“I’m confident that UBS Singapore will continue to play a key role in helping us achieve our ambitious growth and sustainability goals, such as achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions across all our operations by 2050.”

He added that half of the international environmental, social and governance (ESG) bonds in Asia are listed on the Singapore Exchange.

UBS Asia Pacific president Edmund Koh said: “The growth of UBS in Singapore is a reflection of the country’s success as an international finance hub. Singapore is the bank’s gateway to this region, bringing together people and ideas across the global UBS network.

“With the rise of Asian wealth, UBS has been the bank for Asian entrepreneurs, family offices and fast-growing tech firms.”

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