Money Moves

Finance giant offers golden opportunities for budding commercial bankers

by Wendy Shair

Citi Hong Kong - training for relationship managers
Anson Kwok, managing director and head of commercial bank, Citi Hong Kong
Photo: Dickie Tam

Major bank trains young talent to become qualified relationship managers

Robust hiring in Hong Kong's banking sector has created ample opportunities for young professionals. One institution that is actively recruiting is Citibank, which uses a three-year targeted commercial bank trainee programme to identify and groom fresh talent as part of its succession strategy. Now in its fifth year running, the training programme accepts 10 to 20 people out of many applications received annually.

Taking on new staff is crucial to the sustainable development of the banking industry, says Anson Kwok, managing director and head of commercial bank, Citi Hong Kong, adding that new recruits get wide-ranging training to help them adapt to the company culture. This also helps to reduce staff turnover.

However, it is not easy to get a foot in the door. "Applicants must be well prepared," Mr Kwok advises. Candidates undergo a rigorous selection process, including aptitude and writing tests to evaluate their analytical and language skills. Problem-solving and communication abilities are assessed through presentations and panel interviews with senior managers. "Newcomers must have a positive work attitude, outstanding academic results and impressive leadership skills. They must be good communicators," Mr Kwok points out.

"We don't mind recruiting people with less experience, since we believe the right credentials and attitude towards the job are far more important. Our bank offers potential candidates good career-progression opportunities. High performers benefit from global exposure."

Intensive training

Citibank evaluates recruits' performance every six months. "We closely monitor their approach to their work, their aptitude for the profession, as well as their problem-solving skills," Mr Kwok emphasises.

The training includes classroom training sessions, in addition to on-the-job training, aimed at advancing the new staff members' knowledge of banking products, credit analysis, operations and selling skills. "All the training is provided by Citibank employees that are familiar with the company culture and have in-depth insight into their subjects."

Trainees are rotated between departments so that they can get an overview of the bank's range of products and services, broaden their skills and build up an internal network. "Once they've completed their job rotations, they should have a clear picture of the different banking operations," Mr Kwok explains.

"New recruits' first job role is that of assistant to relationship managers. This helps them get a thorough grasp of how the commercial bank functions," Mr Kwok says. "We also try to give them overseas experience, for example by offering them a stint on the mainland. Banking professionals from mainland China also benefit from work exchanges to Hong Kong."

From time to time, trainees are given specialised projects to work on. "Recently, we sent some of our trainees to Singapore to learn about the city-state's commodity market. Such exposure is important for them to broaden their scope."

Bright prospects

Participants are assigned direct supervisors, as well as mentors that closely monitor their work performance and guide them, offering encouragement and advice. "We also have a 'buddy' scheme, a valuable source of counsel and ideas exchange," says Mr Kwok.

"Our ultimate goal is to train our young talent to become qualified relationship managers and this is the backbone of the trainee programme," he stresses. "While they're on rotation, we want them to receive on-the-job training, and they also need to go out and build up their personal networks. Once they have a few years of solid experience, they should be qualified to become relationship managers."

There are plenty of opportunities for achievers to move up the ranks to become team heads. Others may choose to become experts on specialised banking products, says Mr Kwok.

Citibank wants to retain high performers and offers great career prospects to qualified people. "The rotation experience allows trainees to observe different aspects of Citibank's broad suite of business activities and to build a network of contacts within the organisation, which can be invaluable as trainees develop their careers. We're looking for people who want to develop their skills and talent to become professionals, rather than individuals looking for a fast-tracked opportunity based on remuneration."

The commercial bank training programme drives top talent to achieve the best results, Mr Kwok points out. "Our trainees tend to strive for excellence at work and they always set very high standards for themselves and their teams."

Citibank intends to continue recruiting potential banking professionals in 2012 as part of its growth plan, says Mr Kwok. "We never stop hiring quality people and regularly engage with local and overseas graduates to attract aspiring young professionals. As the market continues to expand across the border, we also welcome people with mainland experience," he concludes.

Cream of the banking crop

  • Commercial bank trainee programme identifies and grooms fresh talent
  • Selection process involves tests, panel interviews and presentations
  • Trainees monitored and supported by supervisors, mentors and buddies
  • Job rotations, specialised projects and overseas exposure help to enhance skills

Taken from Career Times 11 November 2011, A11

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