OCBC Bank is embarking on a programme to train and develop digital skills in all its 29,000 employees globally in one of the largest digital transformation initiatives undertaken by a Singapore bank.

OCBC said it will invest S$20 million over three years in its OCBC Future Smart Programme.

Employees will receive training in seven domains - or "pillars" - which OCBC has identified as critical to attaining digital competency, with proficiency in each domain measured across one of four qualification levels.

The seven specialised digital domains are: digital business  models and ecosystems, technology and data, customer centricity, new risks, marketing and communications, "the way we work" and leadership in the future world.

OCBC staff will also go through four qualification standards to assess their skills level: awareness, literacy, practitioner-level and mastery.

The project was officially launched on Tuesday by OCBC's chief executive Samuel Tsien, head of group human resources Jason Ho and head of learning and development, group human resources Yap Aye Wee at OCBC Campus along Tanjong Pagar Road.

Employees in Singapore, Malaysia, China, overseas branches and the Bank of Singapore will be the first to participate in the initiative, with subsidiaries Great Eastern Holdings and Lion Global Investors following thereafter.

Some 6,000 online programmes and speaker sessions, workshops and classroom learning will flesh out the seven-domain curriculum, with all employees expected to attain the minimum level of competency - "awareness" - across the seven areas by the end of the programme's first year.

In addition, OCBC added it will adopt a "gig" approach, where employees - on a freelance basis - can take up consulting jobs with teams running digital projects.

External professionals will be hired to conduct courses in their areas of expertise at the OCBC Campus as part of the gig approach.

OCBC will initially bring in experts in "human-centred design and agile methodology" to teach employees design thinking skills.

OCBC's head of group human resources Jason Ho said businesses must take steps to ensure survival through digital competencies.

"New technologies will continue to emerge so it is critical that we create a strong learning culture that encourages a mindset receptive to learning, unlearning and relearning," Mr Ho said.

"Our hope is that employees will carry this mindset beyond the workplace too, because digital plays such an important role in our personal lives and we need to continuously learn how new technologies can help us," he added.

In August last year, DBS Bank similarly announced that it too, will invest S$20 million over five years to groom its 10,000 Singapore-based employees to embrace new technologies.