Bilateral partnerships pave the road to success

by Ada Poon

Talent development and a favourable workspace are key in the banking industry

Felix Lau, senior vice president and head of sales & distribution, retail banking group CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Hong Kong's buoyant economy has fuelled a booming financial-services sector. When it comes to the banking industry, high-calibre employees are the building blocks in the quest for long-term success. Today, most companies value their staff as partners in the drive for results. At the same time, it is equally important for employees to find a favourable workspace to launch their careers.

To take a closer look at the pool of banking talent, Career Times recently hosted a seminar on "The Banker's Road to Success". Three industry speakers were invited to discuss market trends and techniques for building a successful career.

Increasing demand

Delivering insight into "achieving a quality career as a relationship manager", Felix Lau, senior vice president and head of sales & distribution, retail banking group, CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited, pointed out that the increasing demand for relationship managers is directly related to the thriving wealth-management services industry.

According to Mr Lau, Hong Kong's wealth level is relatively high with 1.3 million residents possessing liquid wealth between US$60K and US$1M. The city is ranked second in terms of the number of high-net-worth customers in Asia. The rapidly expanding product portfolio in banking services also requires more specialised professionals to help customers manage their wealth and achieve higher returns.

He said career opportunities, job satisfaction, organisational culture, reward and recognition and a collaborative work environment are the main drivers to attract talent, and that is what employers should seek to provide.

However, the road to success is always a two-way effort. From an employee's perspective, it is important to choose the right employer, to make sure that both parties had similar objectives and to obtain professional qualifications through continuous learning. A positive attitude and personality type, clear personal goals for career development and a passion for the job are indispensable, he noted.

Taking CITIC Ka Wah Bank as an example, Mr Lau said the company encourages talent development. Two-third of the bank's relationship managers had been trained internally and promoted from junior positions. In the move up the career ladder, a relationship manager is in line for promotion to branch manager or even district head.

Effective talent management

Maylie Lee, director, human resources, Hong Kong, American Express, agreed that it was crucial for employers to establish a favourable platform to nurture employee talent. She illustrated a successful talent model through her own company's experience.

Maylie Lee, director human resources, Hong Kong, American Express
Photo: Wallace Chan
Firstly, it is crucial for the company to have an understanding of the strength of its staff in order to match the skills required within the bank, making sure that the available human resources are best deployed in different teams and departments. Developing the leadership's people-management capabilities is also a core part of the strategy.

Ms Lee said employee development is crucial to American Express to upgrade skills across the entire company. All staff members are part of a development plan, working alongside their managers. The Hong Kong Sparks Programme, for instance, highlights the company's efforts in fostering top employees through a focused training programme spanning 18 months and including mentorship, workshops, business familiarisation and meetings with senior visiting leaders.

The talent management model's three core pillars (talent deployment and pipelines, leadership capabilities, and talent capabilities and tracking) strongly supported the direction of talent engagement, as well as diversity and inclusion. She added that employees appreciate schemes such as job rotation, staff exchange across regions and work-life-balance programmes.

Finally, Ms Lee reiterated the importance of providing long-term career prospects for talented employees, stressing that a happy working experience increases staff engagement and motivation, in turn leading to better business outcomes.

Ample opportunities

Vivian Wong, product manager, credit cards and personal loans, The Standard Chartered Bank, and grand award winner of the HKIB Outstanding Financial Planner Award 2006, is an inspiring example of a talented young graduate who progressed speedily on her chosen career path.

Vivian Wong, product manager, credit cards and personal loans, The Standard Chartered Bank
Photo: Wallace Chan
After graduating in 2003 from the University of Toronto, Ms Wong joined The Standard Chartered Bank on a summer internship programme. Shortly after the start of the programme, she was offered a contract position and, soon after, a permanent role. She stayed with the company's economic & finance department for two years, covering strategy and analytics projects. Six months ago, she took up a new challenge as product manager in the credit cards and personal loans division.

Confident, self-motivated and proactive, Ms Wong treasures every opportunity to learn and try new things. "I appreciate the company's efforts in talent development — my superiors respond to my needs and assist me to identify my strengths and career direction," she stated.

To acquire a diversified experience in the banking industry, Ms Wong had joined both required and optional training programmes, which provided her not only with a broad range of skills and knowledge, but also with friendship and support from her colleagues.

Reflecting on her success, her tips for fresh graduates were: "Keep learning and be flexible. Accomplish your tasks as best as you can and be well prepared for any opportunities."

Taken from Career Times 22 June 2007
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