Retail Banking

Asian banking stalwart invests in budding talent

by Grace Chan

Blanche Chan
senior vice president and head of human resources
DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Finance leader keeps firm focus on the region in developing managerial all-rounders

Banks are devising different strategies to maintain their talent pipelines in the current favourable economic environment. One leading institution sees its strong regional network as a distinct advantage to attract prospective recruits.

"Our Hong Kong employees have a myriad of opportunities to move across Asia within the organisation. We also draw talent from other regions in a bid to increase our staff's exposure," says Blanche Chan, senior vice president and head of human resources, DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited.

Ms Chan believes the bank's commitment to Asia makes it an employer of choice. "This continent has become an engine for global economic growth. As a home-grown institution, we're in a very good position to tap growth potential here. Our understanding of the market and long-established client relationships also give us the upper hand."

With a network spanning more than 200 branches across 15 markets, DBS not only offers plenty of career opportunities to deserving staff, but also encourages job rotation to expand their professional horizons. "In the past years, for instance, some of our trainees have rotated from our institutional banking division to the capital markets team which specialises in IPO financing. There have also been rotation opportunities between frontline banking, mid office and credit functions. A number of our Hong Kong staff are currently working on the mainland, in Singapore and elsewhere on short- and long-term assignments, Ms Chan explains.

The possibility of a DBS career extending beyond Hong Kong has proven a magnet to young graduates, she adds. The bank's regional management associate programme (MAP), established in 2004, is attracting several thousand applications from local and overseas graduates every year.

Future prospects

A regional organisation such as DBS offers plenty of chances for people to work and interact with colleagues in other business functions and offices. "In 2010, we incorporated 11 weeks of campus training in Singapore into the MAP, giving our trainees early regional exposure and a chance to start building networks," notes Ms Chan.

This July, about 70 newly recruited management associates from across Asia—including more than 20 from Hong Kong—are due to travel to the bank's campus in the garden city. "Teamwork is key to our success," adds Ms Chan. "We believe in interaction and synergy between all our staff across the region, rather than simply focus on individual achievement."

Graduates from all academic disciplines are welcome to apply to the programme and the campus training gives the trainees an overall picture of the industry, as well as DBS's unique market position and business portfolios. In addition to fundamental finance and banking concepts, the bulk of the curriculum focuses on the bank's vision, mission and values, personal effectiveness, leadership, team building and strategic thinking and other professional skills.

The initial training is followed by three consecutive seven-month job attachments, in line with the recruits' personal areas of interest. After each stint, which gives them the chance to learn the ropes of specific business functions, they return to Singapore for one to three weeks' training designed to strengthen teams and knowledge.

Since the MAs are prepared for the ultimate role as the bank's future leaders, leadership training lies at the very core of the MAP schedule, Ms Chan says.

Job mobility

DBS Hong Kong offers a full array of banking services, including credit, trade, cash management, IPO financing and debt financing to a growing clientele that ranges from small- and medium-sized enterprises to mid-cap companies, sizeable corporations and public-listed companies.

For this particular reason, the bank intends to develop its MAs into all-round bankers. The scope of training and job exposure is very broad, Ms Chan remarks, although the young talent will have the flexibility to specialise in a business stream of their choice.

"We don't prioritise applicants with particular professional qualifications," Ms Chan stresses, adding that the MAP targets young graduates from any academic discipline provided that they have a passion for and a commitment to a career in banking. She says, "We believe that people can always pick up technical knowledge from the job, and so it's vital that they share our core values including the importance of relationships, integrity, teamwork and service excellence."

Short-listed MAP candidates undergo a stringent selection process, comprising an aptitude test, interviews and assessment centre, during which their leadership and interpersonal qualities and communications skills are evaluated. "Since we're grooming future leaders, it's a plus if they already gained some leadership experience at university," says Ms Chan.

The bank is engaged in an ongoing recruitment drive to find talent at all levels. Currently, there are frontline positions available for retail banking relationship managers and executives, as well as for institutional banking relationship managers.

"In addition to regional exposure and abundant development opportunities, DBS also promises its employees considerable training resources to help them grow and this is in line with our corporate culture and values," concludes Ms Chan.

Talent boost

  • Strong Asian base ensures exposure and development opportunities
  • Trainee programme stresses teamwork and growth across the region
  • Job rotation and mobility encouraged
  • Passion and dedication more important than academic background

Taken from Career Times 15 April 2011, A4

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