• Perspectives
  • 24 November 2020

Upskilling for the 'new normal' and beyond

Experts have been warning companies that as automation, artificial intelligence and digitalisation grow at an unforeseen pace, millions of people worldwide will need to upgrade their skills to stay relevant.

This became even more evident as more digital workforce roles were created, along with the adoption of digital tools and solutions, during the global pandemic.

Today, those who have taken that step to upgrade and delve into the digital world of machine learning, data analytics and coding are already reaping the rewards of their efforts.

They say that they can more easily uncover customer insights and leverage opportunities, while confidently managing and navigating sophisticated tech tools.

We speak to three Bank of Singapore colleagues who have found upskilling in digital skills to be to their advantage. Meet Harsh Vardhan Rungta, a senior relationship manager with our Global South-Asia & Middle East team; Kerry Leow, who is an investment counsellor; and marketing associate Choo Yongshun; who say that their new skills are giving them unexpected insights. 

Upping the ante and expanding his network

Harsh has an enthusiasm for knowledge and keeping his finger on the pulse of current trends.

In 2017, he was one of the 25,000 attendees at the Singapore Fintech Festival which played host to 160 leaders from global central banks and regulatory agencies, financial institutions, venture capital firms, and fintech companies.

“The sheer scale of the event, as well as Singapore's own clear stance towards fintech, was a huge indication that the world was embracing fintech; and that Singapore was at the centre of it for the region,” says Harsh, who is based in Singapore. He jumped right in, enrolling in a fintech course at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School to learn the basics.

Hungry for more, he delved deeper into the fintech space when Bank of Singapore’s Learning & Development arm put word out of courses available through the Singapore’s Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CFTE). In 2018, Harsh participated in the CFTFE’s AI In Finance course and the following year, he took up a highly-sought after Extrapreneurship programme through the centre, where he had the opportunity to work part-time with a high growth start-up based in London.

“The courses gave me exposure and insights to the fintech world and helped me to build a network in the fintech and start-up ecosystem,” Harsh says today. “Bouncing ideas off those contacts today can help with strategies and ideas within my field of work.”

He adds: “I have also been able to connect my clients to those in the fintech world when the need has arisen. My knowledge of the space has also helped me be more pre-emptive to the changing environment.”

Asked if he has any advice for those thinking of upskilling, and he says to not deliberate or hesitate.

“Do not ask yourself whether you have time for it, just go for it,” he adds. “Anything worth doing will take time but can lead to you building your skills as a thought leader.” 

Shaping systems of the future

Kerry Leow, who is an investment counsellor for our Indonesia team, also enrolled in the CFTE’s AI in Finance course last year. This year, she is participating in our parent company OCBC’s Data Certification Pathway (DCP), a year-long programme that aims to groom more data scientists and analysts.

Kerry selected the data scientist track which builds the skills for analysing large, complex, multi-dimensional sets of data using scientific methods and data discovery tools. She is currently undergoing the  comprising 13 academic modules conducted by lecturers from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of InfoComm Technology as well as other industry practitioners.

A fire is lit in Kerry to assist in building and improving upon Bank of Singapore’s tech infrastructure.

“The adoption of technology in the financial sphere has been exponential,” says Kerry, who notes that digital revolutions everywhere are underway and the more adept an institution’s people are in using digital tools, the better they can refine the platforms they adopt.

“Understanding data tools provides us with a base to build upon when it comes to seeing how we can better serve clients,” says Kerry, who adds that her understanding of the fast pace in the fintech space is what clients have come to expect from every financial institution.

Kerry also notes that technology is used today to help those who are subject to inequality and social divides. “Companies that keep Environmental, Social and Governance and sustainability issues in mind will be the ones that have longevity and be at the forefront,” she says.

“Understanding technology and knowing how to apply it gives us the power to help make an impact for people – no matter who or where they are.”

 Uncovering insights for clients

Progress is impossible without change, said famous playwright, George Bernard Shaw.

Marketing associate Choo Yongshun took this to heart and despite having no prior experience in coding or data analytics, enrolled for the DCP earlier this year.

He has chosen the data analyst track which teaches participants how to derive insights from data by accurately validating and transforming data from multiple data sources to prepare them for analysis.

Those trained in the skills will be able to generate analysis reports which meet the needs of business users and have the ability to develop projections on the outcome of business strategies.

“Our HR colleagues regularly encourage us to attend Agile and data-related short courses but the DCP is a level up,” he says.

Through his upskilling journey, he has delved into topics from data visualisation, to building a scalable artificial learning model. Importantly, his learnings have given him skills which he can apply in his current role.

“I understand how to read data better through the sheer understanding of how it is computed and displayed. Being proficient in data and data tools can help me identify opportunities for clients and explain their options in an extremely accurate way,” he says.

This is especially so as clients are increasingly tech-savvy and often wish to engage in self-serve methods of investing using available platforms from financial institutions.

Yet often, they will still require in-depth understanding of data presented digitally. Yongshun notes that in such situations, his knowledge helps him build even more meaningful relationships with clients.

As he intuited in the beginning of his learning journey, Yongshun says that the skills he is learning in the DCP are expanding his world in more philosophical ways.

“The learning material is inspiring because it reminds me that there are a hundred different ways to look at problems and solutions,” he says. “And for every problem, there is always a solution.”

He adds that the learning journey may seem long, especially when he must juggle work and his personal life with training courses and assignments.

However, he is mindful of the goal he set out to achieve - to find new ways to serve clients better.

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Version: July 2020