New graduates tend to perceive the banking industry as a wise and promising career choice, but with opportunity comes challenge.
"I am optimistic about the future, particularly in terms of human resources," says Carrie Leung, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB). Ms Leung explains that with many banking mergers leading to growth, skilled people are indispensable. She believes there will be continuous demand for banking professionals in the next few quarters.
With the Hong Kong and mainland China banking systems becoming more aligned, it is likely that more opportunities for cooperation will arise for professionals from the two sectors. Such an exchange of labour and expertise will benefit bankers wishing to expand their expertise in both systems, Ms Leung believes.
As competition becomes keener and higher standards are set, banks are also tightening their recruitment criteria. In addition to the necessary interest, jobseekers also need a higher degree of competency and a strong personality," Ms Leung notes.
Since banking is fundamentally people-oriented, candidates must possess sophisticated people skills to deal with business contacts and clients from all walks of life, she stresses.
Whether it is on the frontline facing customers, or in the back office cooperating with colleagues, a competent banker must be an effective communicator. This is particularly important because customer satisfaction and progress largely depend on how efficiently the banking staff operates as a team. In light of this, language skills are naturally essential.
In a bid to continuously raise the bar in the banking and finance industry, the HKIB administers the Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM ) programme which provides valuable opportunities for elites in the banking and financial management planning fields.
The CFMPTM programme is one of the HKIB's most popular qualifications. It is particularly well regarded by people wishing to start up careers as financial-planning consultants. The CFMPTM designation definitely benefits career enhancement, particularly for people working in the banking industry, Ms Leung points out. However, while it makes it easier for candidates to get a foothold in banking, it also helps those in the retail or corporate sectors because of their customer service and management experience. The added advantage of the qualification is that it counts towards HKIB associateship.
The HKIB also promotes professional knowledge and skills through courses in banking compliance, credit and risk management, and other programmes. As a professional organisation representing the Hong Kong banking industry, the HKIB's programmes are of a high standard. The institute has also been affiliated with the Education Bureau since 2006, and has helped devise a "quality education framework", outlining standards and professional training curricula for various industries.
Not only does the framework provide general guidelines for human resources trainers from different banks to standardise training materials, it also significantly reduces training costs when staff move from one banking institution to another. The benefits of the framework also extend from existing practitioners to young recruits aspiring to become banking professionals.
Training in Mandarin financial planning jargon has been particularly useful for banking practitioners dealing with increasing numbers of Mandarin speaking customers and partners, Ms Leung points out.
Compared with some of the more specialised banking sectors, financial planning is a relatively straightforward field to get into for people with the necessary skills. It can therefore act as a springboard for professionals working their way up in banking, Ms Leung concludes.
Making the grade
To attain the HKIB associate membership, candidates must pass the institute's associateship examination. In order to enrol for the examination, they need to have passed the banking certificate examination, or possess an associate degree or recognised professional qualifications. The three specialised areas of study include credit management, treasury management and banking operations. Once they have passed the required subjects, members are awarded a specialist diploma stating their chosen area of specialisation. Once members meet the relevant work experience requirements, they are entitled to become HKIB associates.