MOM x Shentonista: Human Intelligence
Banking & Finance
Modern-day efficiency can be a double-edged sword: while advancements in technology may have benefited the economy by upgrading many sectors, some might find that jobs they used to hold can now be automated. To stay relevant in her career, Christina tapped on various training programmes including the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) (Redeployment) to acquire new skills and take on new roles in her two-decade-long career. Skillsets such as design thinking and problem solving helped Christina to perform better at her job, which led to her promotion to an Assistant Branch Manager. Today, she oversees a team of 24 people at the UOB Wealth Banking Centre, Orchard Branch and ensures that UOB’s high standards of service excellence at the branch are met.
In the third part of our series for the Ministry of Manpower, we speak to Christina about how she brings the irreplaceable human touch to guide her customers through the world of digital banking while protecting them from cybercrime and missteps.
You mentioned that banking wasn’t initially your dream career choice. How did you enter this industry?
I studied in an arts school, specialising in fashion design, but as time went by, I realised that this career path wasn’t for me. I’ve always liked math since young, so finance was an industry I wanted to look into. I decided to go for an interview with UOB, and that’s how my journey in banking started. Today, I manage a team at the branch and help customers with their wealth management needs.
As you joined the industry and started in your role, what did you like about it that made you want to continue?
I started as a bank teller, and in those days, one of our main responsibilities was to facilitate cash deposits or withdrawals, and many of the processes were still manual. I remember telling my father that I’d learnt how to count money really fast (laughs). Along the way, the bank gave me a lot of opportunities to continually develop myself by gaining new skills and knowledge, which allowed me to progress over the past 21 years.
What was something that you were surprised to learn about your job or the industry?
When I first joined as a teller, I was surprised by the amount of knowledge I needed. Rather than a cashier-like role, where you just receive and count money, I realised it involved much more, and that I needed to equip myself with knowledge about UOB’s products and services, common banking terminologies and market sentiments.
You’ve been with the bank for more than 20 years—how have things changed during your time here?
The world of banking has transformed, with services moving to the digital realm. Manual work can now be done digitally and can be processed faster.
Customer behaviour, be it for individuals or businesses, has changed noticeably due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with increased use of our digital banking services. As customers are more attuned to technology, they also have higher expectations of us.
Can you share about your experiences transitioning from a bank teller to an Assistant Branch Manager who manages a team of over 20 members?
During my time with the bank, I’ve had the chance to experience many roles. I went from a teller, to a Special Grade Clerk, to a Class II Officer, where I was helping customers to manage a wider range of day-to-day financial transactions such as cheque clearing. Then, as a Senior Officer, and a Branch Service Manager, I took on more responsibilities and finally I’m in my current role as an Assistant Branch Manager who helps to lead the team in this branch. Going for training, like PCP, helps me stay relevant because I pick up new skills that can be used in different roles.
Can you share more about your current role at UOB?
As an Assistant Branch Manager, I lead a team of 24 colleagues to help customers with their banking and wealth management needs, while ensuring smooth operations at the branch. Many of my customers are digitally-savvy young professionals, who visit the branch to seek advice on investment opportunities and complex financial needs. My role is to advise them about the available services and products or direct them to my colleagues, such as the wealth advisers.
What would you say is the most rewarding about being an Assistant Branch Manager?
It’s very rewarding to me whenever I can help customers meet their financial goals. In fact, there are some customers who’ve journeyed with me through the years. For example, I first met one of our customers when he came to our branch to set up an account for his company. Over the years, I have assisted him personally with his various financial needs, like applying for a home loan or insurance plans when he became a parent. As his business partner was in Malaysia, I helped them set up an account through our Kuala Lumpur branch. There’s a sense of fulfilment in journeying with the customer and seeing them through important milestones.
What were some key takeaways from the PCP (Redeployment), both personally and professionally?
Being able to collaborate with colleagues from different departments was an eye-opening experience. I was able to come back to this role and share the new information I learnt during the PCP. The PCP broadened my knowledge in areas such as using a customer matrix to understand the needs of different customer segments, managing a diverse team and applying design thinking to solve challenges. The training strengthened my confidence, brought clarity to my vision, and it proved to be very relevant for me.
We also learnt to be adept at using UOB’s mobile banking apps. Through hands-on courses, we familiarised ourselves with the different apps available. I gained a deeper understanding of how innovations in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity help to make our banking services safer and simpler for customers.
Can you share any interesting experiences where you were able to put your new skills acquired during the PCP to work to help a customer?
Let’s take design thinking as an example—by understanding customers’ challenges better, I’m able to guide them through different apps and tools—such as the affordability calculator—in a manner that’s easy to grasp. By applying what I have learnt to guide my customers, they feel more comfortable to try out these apps for themselves.
My interactions with my colleagues have also changed with the new role. As the Assistant Branch Manager, I’m required to lead and I put into practice the skills I learnt during PCP to guide my colleagues by taking into account their working styles, personalities, and motivations.
We all have little habits we carry over from work—what’s a habit from work that you find yourself doing outside of work too?
Due to the nature of my work, I practise more due diligence when it comes to personal fund transfers, such as setting up transaction alerts. Being more aware of cybercrime, I’ve taught my mother about practising cyber hygiene to protect herself from scams. I also check through my transactions at least twice a week.
Is there anything you would like to share with other individuals who find themselves transiting to new roles as their old jobs are being transformed?
It’s important to remain open-minded and be updated on the ways technology can enhance our work, while complementing the all-important human touch. Transitioning into a new role can be daunting, but you wouldn’t know what you’re capable of until you try. Instead of having the fear of being replaced, it’s important to adopt a growth mindset and engage in lifelong learning to remain relevant.
This is a feature for the Ministry of Manpower. There are around 100 Career Conversion Programmes, which include PCPs, covering in-demand jobs across 30 sectors to help locals acquire skills to switch into new careers. Find out more at go.gov.sg/ccpforindividuals.
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