Amidst the cutting-edge innovations and disruptive dialogues that defined the Singapore FinTech Festival 2023, the Talent Stage emerged as a beacon of profound insights, shedding light on the critical facets of shaping a future-proof and equitable workforce.
Here are our top nine insights from the luminaries that graced the Talent Stage.
On diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI):
#1 Gender quotas can be damaging and counter-productive.
“Diversity is still treated as a numeric problem by organisations and they forget the intention behind it” said Nupur Mehta, Senior Vice President, HR and Global Head of Talent at NIUM. Jennifer Ho, Partner, Integra Partners further cautioned that “such quotas undermine the achievements that these women would go on to achieve.”
This view was echoed by Patricia Tan, Executive Director, Technology & FinTech Practice, Russell Reynolds Associates who warned that appointing female board members as a matter of compliance can leave women feeling patronised.
Meritocracy should not be abandoned in lieu of diversity. Rather, firms should provide support and a clear path for advancement for junior women on their teams.
#2 Ambition has no gender
Women represented less than 20% of company executives and held only 11% of all FinTech board seats in 2021, according to research by Findexable.
Nupur Mehta, Senior Vice President, HR and Global Head of Talent at NIUM Pte Ltd observed, “Organisations often make assumptions that women are not willing to take on larger roles, not willing to get into confrontational situations and not being able to take critical feedback well.”
Such assumptions contribute to an inherent discomfort for critical feedback to be given to women, which results in men getting more constructive feedback. Providing constructive feedback and supporting women in building mentoring relationships will support more females in rising up to leadership positions.
#3 Bring the men to the table
Osman Ershad Faiz, Founder, Asia FiiT highlighted the importance of male allyship in conversations on women empowerment, a sentiment echoed by other speakers during the three-day festival. Such interactions will help men shift their mindsets and reshape their psyches to enable them to become better leadership advocates for women.
In 2017, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that among companies where men are actively involved in gender diversity, 96% report progress. Conversely, among companies where men are not involved, only 30% show progress.
On the future of jobs and skills:
#4 There is no future-proof skillset
LinkedIn predicts that skills required in today’s economy will change by a whopping 65% by 2030. Noting this shift, Chua Pei Ying, APAC Head Economist at LinkedIn declared, “There is no futureproof skillset.”
However, there is a set of fundamental skills that can be considered to be evergreen. These are skills that support or enhance the individual’s capacity to learn, including flexibility, agility, communication, critical thinking and decision-making. These skills are unlikely to be replaced by technology like GenAI and can even augment the way people interact with technologies as tools to increase productivity.
#5 Upskilling and reskilling is a joint responsibility
Effective upskilling and reskilling requires a multi-stakeholder approach, according to speakers on the panel, Skills for success: Bridging the upskilling gap. Singapore’s tripartite partnership between industry, academia and government is a useful case study of this.
At the industry level, employers participate in the development of skills frameworks alongside the government, providing key information on the skills required for occupations and job roles. Meanwhile, academia develops training programmes aligned to those frameworks to ensure that they are industry-relevant. Finally, these programmes are made flexible and accessible with government support.
#6 AI is a net positive on society
Research by NTUC finds that there will be no net losses of jobs caused by AI, as the technology will lead to the creation of new types of jobs and the redesign of existing ones.
Nicole Sandler, Head of Digital Policy at Barclays, recommended viewing AI as a copilot which will assist employees with their jobs by taking on mundane tasks, increasing productivity.
For example, GenAI can help working professionals generate a deck of slides from a text document, leaving employees with the tasks of fact-checking and synthesis. The task remains the same, but the approach and process becomes more effective with the help of AI.
On talent attraction and retention:
#7 Embrace attrition
It can be difficult to retain teams of high-performing employees, as they will rightfully expect increments, larger bonuses and promotions for their effort, acknowledged Samuel Rhee, Co-founder and Chairman, Endowus.
When employees do leave, Samuel said, “Employers do not have to be vindictive. [Employees] are not betraying us by leaving us. Some may go on to upskill and return to the company.”
Such employees who leave and subsequently return, known as boomerang employees, tend to be more familiar with the company’s culture. They are therefore quicker to onboard and may be less expensive to retrain. They also bring with them fresh perspectives that can benefit the business.
#8 The war for talent can be averted if we know where to look
The FinTech workforce today resembles a diamond-shape, with a bulk of the workforce comprising individuals with 5 to 10 years of experience, according to the FinTech Talent Report 2023. And it is within this middle layer that organisations can find talent in abundance, said Nesan Govender, Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Southeast Asia, Accenture.
One way organisations can sidestep the talent crunch is by looking into relevant adjacent skills to the current skill sets that employees possess.
For instance, Raghwa Gopal, Chief Executive Officer, M Square Media (MSM), observed that companies in the IT sector have tackled the shortage of sales talent by reskilling customer service employees who already have deep knowledge of the company’s products.
#9 Attitude trumps experience
It can be limiting for organisations to hire primarily based on experience. Instead, Tarinni Khattar, Director, Talent & Organization, Accenture advises organisations to focus on ensuring their hires have attitudes and mindsets that are suitable for the role.
Organisations should also take note of the individuals’ potential for the future in terms of their willingness to reinvent themselves and their budding leadership ability.
Adam Reynolds, Asia Pacific Chief Executive Officer, Saxo echoed Tarinni’s views, pointing out that he would focus on the candidate’s coachability and whether they possess skills which may help the organisation further its goals.
More about the Author
Yong Liang Mun connects Singapore's Finance and FinTech ecosystem with the world through learning and mentoring initiatives at Elevandi, an independent non-profit organisation responsible for the Singapore FinTech Festival and Point Zero Forum.
Previously, Yong Liang championed the growth and expansion of Singapore's EdTech ecosystem in his role at Enterprise Singapore. In those 4 years, he oversaw the growth of Singapore's first EdTech accelerator, Eduspaze, the digital transformation of the Education sector and supported the export of Singapore brands.
Passionate about mountain biking, Yong Liang competes for local club, Team TRAIL+, as well as the Singapore National Cycling Team. Crowned National Mountain Bike Champion (Cross-Country Olympic) in 2015.