For decades, banking jobs – particularly those in the area of technology – have seldom been the career choice in the minds of creatives. The general impression that creatives have of technology roles in the banking industry is of being overwhelmed by spreadsheets, interest rate calculations and endless charts. What is also assumed is that there is even less human interaction nowadays as banking becomes increasingly digital.

But creatives may be surprised to learn that today, imagination, creative thinking and problem solving are core skills required to be successful in banking and tech.

Stories, not lists of product features, drive customer outreach in banking

Delon Sandhu, Senior Vice President at UOB’s Group Technology and Operations (GTO) Delon Sandhu, Senior Vice President at UOB’s Group Technology and Operations (GTO) On the surface, Delon Sandhu may seem an unlikely candidate for a banking career. He has a passion for scriptwriting, is a lead singer in a band and is a consultant for a creative coding school for children.

But Delon also heads the production support team for UOB’s Global Markets and Private Bank businesses within the Bank’s Group Technology and Operations (GTO) function. In fact, he’s been working in major financial institutions for 17 years.

When Delon speaks about the role of technology within UOB, the focus is not technology for technology’s sake or product features, but on how to connect with customers:

“Our focus is on engaging people by creating solutions relevant to their lifestyles or business needs. Bringing our solutions to life through stories is the way we do this. Our stories speak about how values and integrity drive what we do. For customers, it’s a story about how we’ve always got their interests at heart.”

UOB’s storytelling is done through a variety of channels, from social and mainstream media through to advertisements and digital screens at branches.

In UOB’s Newspaper Boy advertisement for example, the titular character comes to the aid of an elderly lady to whom he delivers newspapers daily. This story reflects UOB’s commitment to build long-term relationships with customers by doing what is right for them and by them. Through such relatable stories, the Bank is able to connect with a broad set of audiences.

UOB’s story-driven approach reflects how financial institutions are seeking to develop a new kind of relationship with customers, for which a different sort of talent is needed.

“It’s always been there,” Delon says, referring to a general understanding of the need for storytelling, “But digital channels are also changing the way we tell our stories."

“On social media, it’s all about sharing stories to which people can relate. There’s a story arc, with characters, goals and a narrative about where they came from and how they progress.”

Getting started as a creative in the banking / tech business

Entering the banking industry is both a challenge and opportunity for creatives; there’s no university course that fully prepares one for the dual creative and banking role that Delon has chosen.

It’s one of the reasons why organisations such as UOB look beyond simple paper qualifications. Mr. Dean Tong, Head of Group Human Resources at UOB, says:

“In addition to skillsets and values, we have also observed similar traits among our high-performing colleagues. These are a constant focus on how to enhance the customer experience, determination and discipline, as well as a thirst for continuous learning.”

UOB’s focus beyond paper qualifications opens the door for creatives whose skills overlap with tech. However, creatives must also work well with their more technically-minded counterparts; and those with the ability to do so are highly valued:

“At UOB, we also encourage agile working styles, where people across functions and expertise come together to innovate and to solve problems,” Dean says, “As such, strong interpersonal skills will serve prospective employees well at UOB as it will enable them to contribute to the collective skills and strengths of a multi-disciplinary agile team. Knowledge in Scrum and Agility will help employees in this regard.”

(Scrum is a system of teamwork that uses various methods to coordinate between co-workers with varied backgrounds. Agility refers to a management structure that optimises adaptability, to help teams of employees react fast to changing situations).

For those who seek to work in a role that combines creative and technology skills, Delon has some advice: “Start with something small,” he says, “Be creative with the small stuff and don’t make it so complicated that you give up. Keep it simple and slowly build on it.”

In other words, don’t jump straight into giant projects such as filming a 20-webisode series. Instead, start with telling the story of a single product or service feature, and see where it goes from there.

It’s also important to remember that there’s an added requirement to the process: banks and other corporations have regulations and standards to which they must comply. It’s a little bit less free-form than pure creative work.

“You do have to work within legal and ethical jurisdictions and be aware of what you say and do,” Delon cautions. A conscious balance must be struck between creative licence and being transparent to the customers; and creatives seeking to enter the industry must be willing to find it.
Mr Dean Tong Head of Human Resources UOB speaking to Management Associates at the Bank
Mr. Dean Tong, Head of Group Human Resources at UOB

For those coming from a non-creative background, you can still develop the creative skills

On the flip side, there are those already working in banking who may find it hard to develop the newly-needed storytelling skills. But just as creatives can learn the practical business dimensions, the reverse is also true:

“I was more a science than an arts student,” Delon says, “I don’t think I was artistic when I was young. I watched a lot of movies, but I never saw them in a creative or deeply artistic way until recently.”

Delon’s first venture into scriptwriting was after his brother-in-law talked about the movie Hancock and he felt impelled to try his own. His attempts developed progressively as he made submissions for competitions and listened closely to reviews.

“Over time you develop a bit more maturity in your storytelling”, Delon says, “You’ll start understanding your characters, make them less black and white. It also helps practically as you start to observe people. As a result, you will be able to understand why and how they act that way and this helps in whatever line of work you’re in.”

Delon notes that the process takes time (he started writing scripts in 2013), but he believes that the results will show with persistence.

Creatives are also welcome because of the adaptability they bring

The constant trial and error process is already familiar to creatives; but tech and banking jobs today require the same kind of adaptability.

“Given the fast pace in which technology is changing, our people must also be enterprising to want to adapt, to innovate and to be open to learning new concepts that could help them progress,” Dean says, “Whether in their current role or in a future role.”

This is yet another aspect that creatives can bring to the table – the openness to experimentation and the determination to keep going even if initial attempts may not work out.

“The first draft of what you come up with is probably going to be the most useless”, Delon says, “But you have to persist through the second, and the third, and so on while refining it each time.”

This kind of persistence, and willingness to keep trying new approaches, is equally valuable in creative or technical enterprises today.

Entering the tech dimension through creative storytelling

As part of the information technology team in GTO, Delon understands the growing importance of being digitally savvy, in both banking and other industries. This was one of his reasons for being a consultant to a children’s coding school. Delon also seeks to implement the creative storytelling angle in the syllabus to drive the greater adoption of tech skills.

“Which would interest you more,” Delon asks, “Just coding things like an image of a ball moving or being able to write an episode of your favourite story?”

By making the coding process a storytelling process, two purposes are served: the ability to write stories is being honed, while the student is able to feel like part of the universe they’re creating.

“They should want to do more and more of telling their own story as their interest grows and as they continue to build their own character,” Delon says, “Until it becomes part of their DNA.”

Storytelling can be a start towards having educational courses that balance creativity with technical skills; but for adults who didn’t have the benefit of that early on, it’s not too late to realise their storytelling has a place in a banking or tech career.

Dean says, “As we invest in and build our capabilities for the future – such as rolling out TMRW, ASEAN’s first digital bank for the region’s digital generation – we are always on the look-out for passionate and like-minded people to join us."

“Beyond traditional banking roles, we welcome people with specialist skills in infocommunications and technology to help us achieve our long-term goals.”

Just because your passion is in an area such as scriptwriting or storytelling, don’t assume there’s no place for you in an industry such as banking. The Infocomm industry is dissolving the old, strict boundaries between careers; and you owe it to yourself to find your potential in an infocomm job today.

Why Singapore’s Infocomm industry is the next big career opportunity

Even in the early 2000s, the growth of ecommerce hinted at the coming digital revolution. But over the past decade, the growth in the infocomm industry – along with attendant demand for digital professionals – has grown exponentially.

On the private hire vehicle scene, Grab and latent competitor GoJek have emerged as major transport players, within the last five years. In finance sector, the growing demand for online banking, eWallets, and other secured transactions have fuelled a massive demand for cybersecurity experts. In addition, Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative has seen a push for SMEs to go digital, fuelling demand for infocomm professionals at multiple levels – from the smallest start-ups, to companies that are rapidly scaling up.

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To pursue an exciting career in UOB, visit UOB Careers

This article is written by Ryan Ong and information is accurate as of 13 September 2019