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UOB has been doing some huge hiring. But it's not that simple

UOB, Singapore’s third largest bank by assets, has been taking on a surprising number of new staff over the past 12 months. Its headcount reached 26,867 at the end of June, a rise of 1,443 (6%) year-on-year, according to its half-year financial results. That’s 800 more than OCBC and 80 more than DBS hired over the same period.

The bank’s recruitment wasn’t spread evenly across all functions – it was instead partly spearheaded by digital and technology jobs. UOB’s report partly attributes a 10% year-on-year rise in total H2 costs (to S$2.2bn) on “IT-related expenses” as it remained “committed to investing in talent and technology”.

UOB’s earnings results don’t provide details of its tech hiring, but headhunters say the firm is among the most active IT recruiters in Singapore. This is supported by UOB’s careers site – more than a third (37%) of UOB’s current Singapore-based vacancies are for technology or digital-banking roles.

The Singaporean firm is hiring, for example, for its new stand-alone digital bank, TMRW, which announced last October that it was taking on 60 new people, predominately in specialist jobs such as user experience and user interface design, behavioural science, data analytics, and design thinking. During the results presentation, Wee Ee Cheong, UOB’s chief executive officer, emphasised the importance of TMRW – which launched in Thailand in March and is being rolled out across Southeast Asia – to UOB’s business plans.

The majority of UOB’s current technology jobs, however, are in the main bank and sit in its Alexandra office rather than at Raffles Place, according to its careers site. What kind of tech development has UOB been focused on this year? Wee’s presentation pointed to UOB increasingly using “data analytics and machine learning across customer touch points”, and launching its Mighty 2 payments app during the first half.

UOB spent about S$1.6bn in the five years through 2018 on technology, mainly on enhancing various platforms from wealth to cash management, according to a May presentation. Prior to the launch of the digital bank, UOB spent 14 months putting all of its operations onto a single system, reports Euromoney.

Recent senior hires in tech include Kristina Curtis, the former chief digital officer of BT Financial Group, who moved to UOB in March as regional head of engagement for group digital.

What does it take to get a technology job at UOB? For starters, you don’t necessarily need to come from a rival bank. “I look at your skills more than what industry you’re from. While I might hire a business analyst from a bank, a data scientist could come from another sector,” Dr Dennis Khoo, head of digital banking at UOB, told us earlier this year. “The team uses tech such as chat bots and machine learning, but we don’t come at things from a tech perspective initially – we see the customer need, devise a business case, and then apply the relevant tech solutions.”

Image credit: RomanBabakin, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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