I am a Singaporean working in China with a large International Bank

By September 9, 2020Current

TL;DR – “I do find it amusing yet disturbing that suddenly everyone in Parliament is trying to speak for (more like, “on”) me and my profile of Singaporeans. So now, here’s my story.”

I’m a little late reading this Facebook post from a Singaporean in Banking and working in China with a large international bank.

By the time I chanced upon this post, I was already three days and 600 shares late.

But still, I know in my heart this is a useful post.

There’s so much chatter on the topic of Singaporean Core, on foreign talents, or foreign trash taking over our jobs, etc etc etc, that I think it’s good to hear from someone in one of the industries that have been accused of over-hiring foreigners over Singaporeans, and also to hear from someone who has worked with foreigners and who also has hiring responsibility.

So, I reached out to Benjamin Chan, the man behind the post. He’s readily agreed to let us republish his post in full.

Thanks, Benjamin!

<A Singaporean in Banking>

I am a Singaporean working in China with a large International Bank. I do find it amusing yet disturbing that suddenly everyone in Parliament is trying to speak for (more like, “on”) me and my profile of Singaporeans.

Friends who knew me well, know that I do champion the Singapore agenda within my Bank (when I was based in Singapore). In fact, I dare say that no one championed more than me in trying to have more Singaporeans in senior roles. However, in recent years, I had an epiphany that such efforts may be counter-productive. Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is important to have Singaporeans in top jobs, but only by his/her own merits rather than their birthrights.

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Meritocracy is probably a word used more often by late Lee Kuan Yew than any other words. This single word has a profound meaning that our entire system, our government, our politics and our country is built upon. Regardless of his/her gender, the colour of skin, race, religion and family association, can and will be successful if he/she proves his/her capabilities, talents and diligence. The idea was to create all the social enablers such as our education system, the job opportunities, the transparent legal system and the foreign investments for Singaporeans to succeed but only if he/she wants it and willing to fight for it. No one is guaranteed an iron rice bowl.

We are the nation most-favoured by MNCs and global Financial Institutions not because we have a large hinterland to tap but a competitive market with the depth of talent pool to match and a sound system that would withstand the test of time and tide. If our design is to have a financial market stuffed full of Singaporeans, we wouldn’t open up the banking sector in the 90s. Competition made us stronger and made us world beaters.

I fully agree that the government is voted in by Singaporeans and they need to place Singaporeans at the heart of every policy. This is why I hope that Singaporeans and our elected MPs are sensible enough to thread the fine balance of promoting the Singaporean agenda and not lose our real competitive edge by eroding the meritocracy-based system we had created. Such xenophobic and stirring the emotions a deemed-privilege of a Singaporean is myopic and will lull us into a false sense of complacency in this unforgiving world.

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My 14 years in banking had taught me that the real competition for banking jobs is not in Raffles Place, but it is in Hong Kong, in Shanghai, in Dubai, in Mumbai, in New York, in London; the real arena is the world stage. There will be a tsunami of 8+ million university graduates in China released into the market this year; imagine the competition at the world stage!

I had the privilege of meeting some of these Chinese graduates through interviews and trust me, they are very impressive and speaks good English as well. Side note, the junior staff helping me account opening has a degree in Quantitative Finance from one of the top universities in USA! These youths are well-educated, hungry and diligent. So we need to be aware of the true competition at our doors and if we tighten too much, we may preserve jobs for Singaporeans but lose more in the long run.

The real question that we should consider is workplace fairness and ensure that there is no biasness of hiring.

I had seen my fair share of ill-qualified “foreign talents” (which I often question the value of their existence) and you can’t help but feel that such people have a “Godfather” up in the hierarchy that got them the job. But enforcing fairness is always difficult and how can Parliament legislate more oversight to penalise firms that practicing bias hiring? There is no foolproof legislature.

Also, the last thing we want is to shoo-in a Singaporean into a top role where he/she is set up for failure. I am sure we all had seen a fair share of less capable Singaporeans taking a role too big for themselves.

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Enough ranting… just a couple of liners for my fellow Singaporeans:

To the millennial Singaporeans – don’t assume it is your birth-rights to get a job in Singapore. Fight for it and polish up your CVs.

To the MPs – don’t take the easy route of socialism and protectionism just to win votes. Preserve what made us an economic miracle but enforce fairness in the workplace so that qualified Singaporeans don’t get sidelined.

To the “other Singaporeans” – don’t just complain why other foreigners are ahead of you. Venture out and get some overseas experiences as well. Life is not always fair, deal with it!

#SharingaGrowingPie #DividingaShrunkenPie

Benjamin Chan

I worked with “foreign talents” in a tech company. Here’s my experience

(Featured image via)


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Qiqi Wong

Author Qiqi Wong

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