Corporate Banking

Banking on future talent

by Charles Mak

Nita Law
Regional Head of Human Resources, North East Asia
Standard Chartered Bank
Photo: Wallace Chan

International financial organisation looks to its staff to drive growth momentum

The 2009 financial crisis triggered an inevitable, albeit brief, flight of talent in the banking and finance industry. This, nevertheless, has allowed employers and workers on the transforming financial landscape the necessary space to reconsider their options.

The banking sector never loses its charm, though, with fresh graduates every year keen to tap into the pillar industry en masse and experienced finance workers eager to explore future career prospects.

Nita Law, Regional Head of Human Resources, North East Asia, Standard Chartered Bank, confirms this. "Despite the ebbs and flows, a constant number of young graduates still find themselves attracted to banking jobs and have fervent aspirations towards joining the industry."

A dynamic international banking institution with a global staff complement boasting a wealth of experience in the field, Standard Chartered has always consciously maintained sustainability at the forefront of the banking field and takes considerable pride in its innovative streak, strong heritage and unique market position, which, Ms Law believes, contributes significantly to the bank's excellence in human resources.

Truly international

The talent pool in Hong Kong has been stretched too thin with lagging supply for companies aggressively looking to fulfil their expansion plans and mainland Chinese firms fishing in the same pond. To address this, Standard Chartered was among the first to adopt a "hire and train" approach to talent management. "We don't necessarily have to hire for skills or experience. It's more important that job candidates demonstrate the potential for growth," Ms Law emphasises.

New graduates, regardless of academic backgrounds, may apply to join the bank's highly popular and equally demanding international graduates programme which spans two years and includes a mentoring scheme, job rotations and overseas assignments. Every year, the bank handpicks about two dozens of graduates from various global locations through a stringent universal selection mechanism. Applicants for other jobs also find themselves challenged with screening tests in the process.

Career-driven individuals with an international perspective, flexibility, good interpersonal skills and a willingness to learn usually fit the bill, says Ms Law. "The right talent with the right aptitude will be given the right training that helps them to put their best foot forward," she adds.

Standard Chartered's worldwide portfolio and clientele underscore diversity in job roles and careers. Constant collaboration between regions gives the bank's staff, literally, boundless opportunities for personal and professional development. "Our people can rest easy that their career futures are not restricted by geographical barriers," Ms Law notes.

Staff mobility is supported by a wide range of overseas stints and long-term assignments across the bank's footprint as long as the individuals demonstrate the required competence transferable across cultures and jurisdictions.

The recent economic upswing has spiced up the labour market so companies hire to either replenish staff or step up human resources in anticipation of better business prospects. The bank's recruitment strategy is kept in perfect alignment with its growth plans. "Our business just keeps rolling," Ms Law reveals. "We'd never stopped hiring even during crises because we don't so much as consider people development as one-off projects. Rather, it is a key element of sustainability."

High promise

Faced with increased diversity in the wider banking and finance industry, young graduates today may not have the full capacity to get a full grasp of the fast-paced industry or to realise their own career potential. "In view of this, we must try and offer them sufficient relevant intelligence and information via several channels such as campus talks, job fairs and our career webpages to help them make an informed choice," says Ms Law. "Doing so, we stand a better chance of securing the right talent match."

She is quick to point out however that most of the bank's new entrants already have an initial awareness of their career preferences and goals, as well as the varied responsibilities different job roles entail. "The bulk of our training programmes are therefore geared towards helping them to understand more about their strengths, specific job requirements, the company, the market, and to acquire knowledge of banking products," she adds.

Engaging these budding talent is the next step ahead and this encompasses a whole gamut of career-centred training, performance assessments and progress reviews. Career development and advancement are the best things an employer can promise its staff, Ms Law believes. "People need to know they're making a real contribution to the business," she remarks. "We also find it important that they gain new skills for discharging the duties in a future role."

Managing attrition

  • Continuous recruitment
  • "Hire and train" approach to talent management
  • Competitive total reward
  • International moves encouraged and supported

Taken from Career Times 15 April 2011, A3

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