Banking on brand sustainability
by Charles Mak
Hot on the heels of a series of strategic moves including the acquisition of Bank of America (Asia) by its parent China Construction Bank in August 2006, the subsequent renaming exercise in December the same year, and the acquisition of AIG Finance (Hong Kong) Limited late last year, China Construction Bank (Asia) Corporation Limited is looking to forge ahead plans to increase its branch footprint in Hong Kong and Macau.
Despite the ebb and flow of the recent global financial sentiment, CCB (Asia) has over the past three years expanded its branch network threefold, with a dozen more to complete this year's line-up, steadily approaching its 80-branch target.
"By then, the size and scope of our business will be on a par with our major local counterparts," says Miranda Kwok, president & chief executive officer, China Construction Bank (Asia) Corporation Limited.
CCB (Asia)'s efforts into network development are not simply a physical manifestation of the bank's strengths. "The objective has always been to refine our service and product offerings via engaging a wider segment of customers," Ms Kwok says. "The quality and consistency of our service constitute to the level of brand experience. Evaluation by mystery shoppers and customer satisfaction survey give us a qualitative as well as a quantitative perspective with regard to this."
During the last two years, the bank rolled out a handful of innovative services and products across the consumer and commercial banking sectors. These included an array of renminbi services, a dual currency debit card and its signature cross-border long card, which offers frequent travellers between Hong Kong and the mainland added convenience. Ms Kwok notes, "Our range of services and products also carry vivid characteristics in line with our brand identity, which in turn gives us a real niche in the Hong Kong market."
As more customers are turning to electronic banking, the bank has complemented customer flexibility and convenience with a host of automated services such as online banking, ATMs and phone banking, alongside its efforts in infrastructure advancement and system enhancement to boost ease of access and user-friendliness. "This is all part of a service enhancement scheme," Ms Kwok says.
Backed by China Construction Bank, one of the four largest state-owned commercial banks and the world's second by market capitalisation, CCB (Asia) quickly got into its stride. "The close ties with our parent company give us a strong brand image that for all intents and purposes denotes a superior level of reliability," says Ms Kwok.
Competition among the Chinese banks in Hong Kong remains fierce, but the quest to gain a stronger foothold has been clear sailing for CCB (Asia), thanks to its unique market position. "Our forte lies in corporate finance, property and related infrastructure, and mortgage businesses," Ms Kwok explains. "Hong Kong is unquestionably over-banked but the accretion of the city's wealth continues to gather momentum and the volume of international and cross-border trade will support the sustainable growth of the local banking industry."
This, according to Ms Kwok, is translated into ample career opportunities. In preparation for new branch launch, CCB (Asia) has hundreds of job vacancies that need to be filled in the coming months. The bank's assessment centre reveals that an increasing number of young graduates and mid-career professionals are eager to join for one particular reason. "Our commitment to China trade is clear and our brand represents great prospects in terms of business as well as careers," she says. "In anticipation of a greater influx of mainland customers, job candidates by and large favour cross-border exposure, so they are keen to ride on our platform."
Ms Wong notes that the bank has been making considerable efforts to build up an employer brand, and turn this somewhat intangible concept into highly visible career prospects and stringent job requirements. "We are clear about our HR goals," Ms Kwok stresses. "Career development is a promise to deserving members of our team as well as those looking to join us."
A number of former Bank of America (Asia) employees currently remain in service with CCB (Asia), making up about a quarter of the 1,700 staff members working at the bank's existing 47 outlets in Hong Kong and Macau. Although English continues to be the medium for internal communication, bilingualism is encouraged. "Our workforce reflects the unique features of integration between a western management style and a strong Chinese background," says Ms Kwok.
The bank's three-year management trainee programme demonstrates its appreciation of and respect for workforce diversity. "The annual intake is an amalgamation of talent from Hong Kong, the mainland and other regions," Ms Wong explains. "The three-tier exposure, comprising elements of American culture, rich Chinese heritage and our commitment to serving the Hong Kong and Macau markets, essentially gives the career experience here at CCB (Asia) a new dimension."
Ms Kwok remarks, "The integration of cultural characteristics and market intelligence has been phenomenal."
Taken from Career Times 23 April 2010, A4
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