Singapore banks embark on hiring spree in fight against dirty money

SINGAPORE: Making the digital shift welcomed many opportunities for banks but have also paved way for fraud-related activities to expand their scope. Singapore banks have acknowledged that they need to rev up their talent pool through hiring more professionals as well as upskilling their existing workforce.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has warned the public about phishing schemes that pretended to be banks through disguising websites or scams made through text messages that were purportedly from DBS or OCBC.

“The phishing attacks come by way of SMSes or emails purportedly from banks to request the recipient to update personal particulars to get access to bank account details, banking user names and passwords,” said Joanne Wong, Senior Regional Director for Asia Pacific & Japan at security intelligence firm LogRhythm. “Once successfully obtained, these personal information can be used to access the victim’s bank accounts for theft or conduct fraudulent activity.”

Other security threats faced by banks include money laundering, terrorist financing, and credit card fraud, Scott McCormick, Security Compliance Manager at bug bounty platform HackerOne said. “Singapore being a Free Trade Zone attracts criminals of all types, some of which allows goods and currency to flow in and out with very little regulatory oversight,” he explained.

With this, the cty’s big three players have dived into AI and data analytics as part of their crusade to detect illicit flows within the system. “Whilst we are in early days and making marginal improvements, there is promise,” Lam Chee Kin, DBS’s head of legal, compliance and secretariat said in an interview.

Meanwhile, OCBC revealed that it is in an extended proof of concept and pre-implementation phase with fintech firm Theta Ray in its crusade to improve transaction monitoring and to fight financial crime through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). “Financial crimes are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, with new trends and patterns emerging frequently,” an OCBC spokesperson told Singapore Business Review. “Coupled with a mounting volume of transactions that banks have to monitor, a more accurate and efficient system of anti-money laundering (AML) monitoring would help us tremendously in preventing financial crime.”

OCBC tells that the new fintech solution they are vying for looks at individual transactions as a standalone and its algorithm can detect anomalies in transaction behaviour by assessing broad parameters, including products, customers and risks. “Through diverse data sources, it arrives at a holistic and contextual data analysis,” the bank’s spokesperson explained. “As the algorithm is dynamic and adjusts to changes in transaction patterns over time, the system can flag suspicious transactions more precisely over time.”

On its part, UOB tied up with regtech firm Tookitaki Holding to roll out a machine learning solution that would help detect and prevent money laundering activities in the bank’s systems. “The use of RegTech such as Tookitaki’s AMLS enables us to augment our ability to identify actionable alerts and to minimise false positives. These sharpen the accuracy and effectiveness of our AML risk management,” Victor Ngo, head of group compliance, UOB, said in a statement.

The advent of these new developments ultimately leads to an increase in demand for professionals who could work in the cybersecurity domain particularly security operations management, vulnerability assessment management, and research and development, according to Michael Page Singapore associate director Shinjika Shukla.

“Whilst the first two jobs are to counteract the cyber threats and attacks, the latter is a futuristic approach by banks to invest in technology to counteract or reduce the risks of cyber threats to their business,” she noted.

As of current, a salary guide by Robert Half Singapore found that IT security consultants working in the financial services sector earn around $75,000 to $180,000 a year depending on their experience, qualifications, and relevant industry experiences.

“Current market conditions are also placing mounting pressure on companies to offer higher salaries to attract in-demand and scarce IT security professionals,” commented Robert Half Singapore managing director Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard.

Amidst a growing demand for their pack, cybersecurity professionals are able to command up to 30% hike on their last drawn salaries, Shukla said.

“Within fraud detection, the hires are experienced data analytics and artificial intelligence professionals who are in demand not just for fraud detection but multiple other industries and processes,” she explained. “Job seekers with such niche skillsets are also able to get a premium for their experience and skillsets.” Should the bank’s eye for foreign talents, Imbert-Bouchard noted that they should offer attractive incentives, which include lifestyle and family benefits, financial relocation packages and housing subsidies. “This also means keeping incentives up-to-date and relevant, making sure they are in line with competitor offerings and benchmarking salaries against industry standards,” he explained.