Inside OCBC’s new Singapore hiring drive

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OCBC is joining a growing list of banks ramping up their digital banking teams in Singapore, but it’s facing local skill shortages as it tries to hire.

“We’re boosting our digital banking headcount,” says Pranav Seth, head of e-business, business transformation and the fintech and innovation group at OCBC.

Most of the new jobs will be based in Singapore, but OCBC is also hiring overseas, especially in Malaysia. “I want a mix of people, with experiences across various sectors and job functions, to apply,” says Seth, without providing headcount numbers.

“My team is already diverse. I have someone with a PhD in environmental science, for example, as well as people from software companies and start-ups,” he adds. “But I also like to hire people with banking backgrounds, who already understand wealth and payments, and appreciate the compliance issues in our industry.”

This kind of hiring can be “challenging”, admits Seth. “It can take a long time, sometimes months, to recruit the kind of people we want – they’re in short supply in Singapore. We’re competing for digital talent with consulting firms, technology companies and other banks.”

Singaporean rivals DBS and UOB are both hiring in digital banking, as is HSBC. But Seth is undeterred and is setting a high bar when it comes to recruiting designers, project managers and other digital banking specialists.

You won’t be able to rely on your technical skills alone to get a job at OCBC.

“If you don’t have empathy for customers, this isn’t for you. You need the ambition to change the way people bank, and the diplomacy to adapt to working within a large, complex organisation,” says Seth. “We need people who are good at building partnerships, and people who understand digital payments and how payments are happening outside of banking.”

You also need to prove to Seth that you’re a “rebel”. “I want to hire people who are going to introduce new ideas into the bank in a risk-mitigated manner,” he explains. “I want people who are willing to challenge the status quo. We have designers, for example, who focus just on playing devil’s advocate – questioning everything from customers’ viewpoints.”

What kind of projects might you find yourself working on at OCBC if you do fit the bill?

“We believe in experimenting and have pilots running in multiple fields – from robo and bionic advisory, to artificial intelligence and distributed ledgers,” says Seth. “We like people who can dream up applications to relevant opportunities and problems, and then rapidly apply these.”

OCBC is currently applying AI and machine learning to improve the quality and speed of core processes such as AML and KYC. “And we’re leveraging APIs through our Connect2OCBC API store and data sandbox to extend banking services outside of the bank channel,” says Seth.

His team has also built an integrated wealth management app which provides customers with bite-sized investment advice. “Our goal is to democratise wealth, to provide good investment advice to people who've never invested before.”

Seth says he enjoys working in digital banking because “you can see an immediate impact of your work”. “I take great pride when I see someone walking down the street using one of our apps,” he adds.

“My pitch to candidates is that you're in the driver’s seat – if you have an idea, you should convince stakeholders and then go out and get it done,” says Seth. “You're not just a small cog in the wheel here. You're working in headquarters and you’re in a key part of the firm.”

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