Ms Gan Zhen Yin, 25, never planned for a career in technology. Today, as a senior officer focusing on cyber-security, her background in history is, well, history.

How did that happen? “After I graduated earlier this year, I was searching for roles that were more related to my field of study in university,” says the history graduate, adding that many of her friends who also majored in humanities tend to work in the civil service.

A video on social media changed her career aspirations. “It was a short clip by a cyber-security forensics specialist,” says Ms Gan. “I was intrigued.”

Another pivotal moment: Discovering UOB’s Technology Development Programme (TDP); It altered her career path.

Ms Gan is one of 75 participants in the first batch of the bank’s TDP, focusing on the cyber-security track. Launched in July 2022, TDP is a 12-month entry level programme aimed at helping fresh graduates and young professionals kick-start a technology career in banking. They do not need prior experience in technology.

TDP focuses on practical training, with a learn-and-apply format. Participants rotate between classroom courses and on-the-job training. “During the first month, we attended various courses to gain knowledge on basic IT infrastructure. Then, I was posted to UOB’s technology department,” Ms Gan says.

She is part of a team that organises activities to foster and maintain a healthy cyber-security culture within the bank. Activities range from organisation-wide awareness campaigns to smaller-scale plans that inform her colleagues of updates to the IT system relevant to their department, she says.

Says Mr Dean Tong, 49, head of Group Human Resources, UOB: “Our people are our greatest asset. We have put in place a wide range of training programmes geared towards future trends and skill sets so that they will thrive in the new banking landscape.”

Mr Bryan Lim, head of Talent & Development at UOB, shares that the bank has seen “a huge degree of success” by adopting a hands-on approach for all its employee training programmes.

“Rather than just providing them with pure training and then posting them to various job roles, our experience is that the employees actually pick up skill sets faster when they’re given on-the-job exposure, and of course guidance from the managers,” says Mr Lim, 51.


Supporting employees

Before the TDP, UOB had introduced a Career Conversion Programme (CCP) to reskill employees in ever-changing roles. It was developed in collaboration with Workforce Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Institute of Banking and Finance.

“In a more digitalised world, customer preferences are changing and many prefer to bank online,” observes Mr Lim. “This means that the scope of work for our branch employees is evolving. We first launched CCP in 2017 to help these colleagues to pick up relevant digital skills that can help them transition into new roles.”

Since then, the programme has been extended to other business units including group finance, operations, human resources, and talent and development. The programmes can last from six to 18 months.

For some employees, change can be uncomfortable.

Ms Sherlyn Yong, who joined UOB in 2015, was working in a service role at one of the bank’s branches before her manager encouraged her to join the CCP a year ago.

She was at first hesitant; Stepping out of her comfort zone can be hard, says Ms Yong, 26.

“I’ve been working in a customer-facing role for close to seven years, so moving to backend operations is a huge change for me.”

In her current role as a special grade clerk, she conducts know-your-customer checks, which includes identifying and verifying customers’ identities.

“It’s actually somewhat similar to my previous role where I would sit down with clients in person, talk to them, and understand their backgrounds,” she says. “Now, I am leveraging data to do the same – by looking through their account information and credit card transactions to profile them, and determine whether there are any suspicious activities that need to be flagged.”

She’s grateful for the encouragement from her manager and the human resource department throughout the journey. “They’ve been very approachable and helpful with my queries. This really helps to ease some of my worries, such as not being able to meet the expectations of my new role,” she shares.

By the numbers

  • Over 1,400
    Nearly 1,430 employees have participated in the bank's career conversion programme, which aims to strengthen digital capabilities
  • 17,000
    Over 17,000 employees in markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia took part in UOB's Better U learning and development programme
  • 96%
    Majority (96 per cent) of employees who completed the Better U programme say they are more motivated to continue upskilling, says the bank


As an extension to the conversion programme, UOB launched the Career Pivot Programme in October 2021 to support employees who are interested in exploring new career paths.

Says Mr Lim: “We want to offer a more flexible and adaptive way in which employees can evolve in their career because, as people mature, they may want to do different things. UOB values this growth, and we want to help them in their journey.”

The Career Pivot Programme comprises two six-month long phases. The first is the exploratory stage, where participating employees undergo structured training and on-the-job stints. The second is the internship stage, where they officially transition to new job roles and continue to be reskilled in required technical skills.


Enriching careers

The bank believes that, in developing talent, lifelong learning is key. It provides employees with not just meaningful, but also sustainable careers, says Mr Lim.

In 2019, the bank rolled out a learning and development programme called “Better U” to help its more than 26,000 employees across the organisation build successful careers in the digital age. Better U was launched as a 12-week foundation course comprising modules in both soft skills, such as human-centred design and complex problem solving, and technical skills such as data and digital innovation.

Since then, UOB has expanded the Better U programme to offer more specialised training in data analytics and project management. The bank plans to expand the specialised tracks in other areas such as cyber-security, human-centred user experience and user interface design by next year.

The world is constantly changing, notes Mr Lim, and in the banking industry, the trend has been equally pronounced. “We want to help employees stay continuously relevant,” he says.

He explains that a growth mindset in particular is what would equip employees to anticipate opportunities and thrive in the rapidly changing digital world.

“At UOB, talent development is more than just skills – we believe that at the heart of it, it’s about helping each individual fulfil their potential in the careers that they want to have,” Mr Lim says.

The Future of Finance series explores how digital solutions and insights can empower individuals and businesses in a rapidly changing world, to create a more sustainable future.

This article was originally published on The Straits Times and was written by Kareyst Lin, Content STudio.


Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction