From PayNow, PayLah and GrabPay to debit cards, credit cards and the good old cash, it is easier than ever for Singaporeans to pay for purchases these days — and this is only the beginning. We are seeing but the start of Singapore’s fintech boom and, to capitalise on the relatively recent phenomenon, it is critical for candidates to possess the right skills in order to be part of the action. 

The rise of fintech

Singapore’s fintech growth makes sense, considering its position as a leading financial hub, as well as the number of fintech firms setting up shop here to access its well-educated workforce and other markets in the region. 

Furthermore, the Singapore government has for years been championing so-called ‘Smart Nation Initiatives’, including the development of fintech and adjacent businesses. And while trade financing used to be the primary growth area for fintech, the field now encompasses business management, wealth management, investment management, as well as robo-advisory. 

Efforts so far have proved successful. To date, there are about 600 fintech firms currently operating in the city state, which collectively added about 7,800 jobs between 2016 and 2017. As of 2019, the industry as a whole hired upwards of 10,000 employees. With that said, Singapore continues to face ‘acute talent shortage’ according to The Straits Times

In order to overcome the shortfall, Singapore’s fintech companies will likely increase hiring activities in 2020 to compete for a limited pool of fintech talent, foreign and domestic alike. To get in on the action, candidates with the following skill sets will have a distinct advantage over the rest. 

1. Cybersecurity Specialists

In the realm of fintech, cybersecurity is arguably the No. 1 priority for banks and financial services. According to a recent report, the cybercrime industry brought in US$1.5 trillion in revenue in 2018 — that’s just shy of South Korea’s entire GDP in the same year. As for the top industries targeted, the same report states that more than a quarter of malware attacks targeted banks and financial services, or 25.7% to be exact. 

As cybercrimes become more sophisticated, the demand for specialist cybersecurity professionals is only going to increase in 2020. This includes roles that ensure financial services and transactions take place in a safe and secure environment, such as those in IT security and vulnerability management. 

2. UX/UI Designer

Meanwhile, since fintech is largely driven by digital transformation, it also involves a lot of interfacing with computers and mobile apps. As such, the frontend of apps is particularly important — that is, how the app look like for users, the workflow processes needed to use them, the user experience (UX), as well as the user journey. 

In terms of roles, UX designers, user interface (UI) designers, digital project managers and digital product managers will likely be in high demand in Singapore’s fintech space. 

3. Software Developers

As we take care of the frontend, fintech companies are shoring up on backend roles as well. Developer roles, such as those who specialise in algorithmic programming and full-stack developers who work with data, servers and systems engineering, are going to be highly sought after. 

Our Associate Director, Shinjika Shukla added that expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and other deep techs will be advantageous for candidates. “That is especially the case for payment processing, which is an integral part of fintech,” Shinjika said. “As businesses become more regional or even international, cross-border payment processing in particular will grow exponentially.” 

The tide of transformation

The fintech industry is a hotbed of opportunities for those already operating in the technology space — but what about those whose jobs are at risk of being phased out? 

According to Shinjika, re-skilling, upskilling and training existing staff to meet future technological requirement is the only permanent solution to meet the rapidly evolving technology landscape. In order to keep up with the times, candidates must engage in digital transformations of their own by upgrading and re-skilling for jobs that are higher up on the value chain. 

For example, transactional finance is an area that’s ripe for disruption by fintech. However, instead of being displaced by automation, opportunities are abound for those with transactional finance roles. “The best people for the job are often the very people you are trying to replace, because they have done the job before, and thus are the best people to facilitate the digital transformation you are looking for. They help make sure that everything is working right.” 

Beyond transactional finance, there are opportunities to be had for project managers, systems-based finance, transformation leads, as well as transformation managers. Shinjika added, “In the rush to automate processes at the workplace, a lot of businesses focus on hiring talent rather than hiring the right talent. Sometimes, it’s important to remember that up-skilling your own staff might perhaps be faster and even more cost effective.” 

Looking ahead, Singapore’s fintech boom is expected to continue well into 2020 and beyond. Already, some 94% of fintech firms in the city state intend to expand their current workforce within the next 12 months. The same report also quoted Chia Hock Lai, President of Singapore FinTech Association, as saying, “As (Singapore is) a leading regional financial centre and home to 40 per cent of fintech firms in Asean, job prospects in fintech remain strong in the coming years, with demand coming from both local firms and international firms that use Singapore as their gateway into Asean regions.”