Retail Banking

Finance training opens a window of opportunity

by Wattie Lo

(right to left)
Blanche Chan, senior vice president, head of human resources
Crystal Kong, manager, consumer banking
Mason Ma, management associate
DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan

Asia's leading bank maps out career routes for future leaders

While leading corporations pull out all the stops to recruit the best talent in town, career-driven individuals actively seek out the best employers in the market.

DBS, a leading Asian bank, is one such preferred employer that boosts an exemplary record for consistently having the right people on their doorstep.

Through its management associate programme (MAP), which began in 2004 in Hong Kong, the Asian bank selects new recruits for 18 months of intensive training with the aim of ultimately grooming these newcomers into leaders.

The programme begins with two months of training in Singapore, where trainees meet with their Asian counterparts and engage in classroom learning that covers financial skills and concepts; business and personal effectiveness; corporate orientation; and a series of field trips and talks, before they embark on 16 months of home-based on-the-job training.

Meeting of the minds

Over the past decade, the banking industry has transformed into a people-oriented business. As such, DBS puts great emphasis on building relationships for its trainees, incorporating related elements into the programme to help sharpen their interpersonal skills. Aside from a buddy scheme, trainees are assigned a mentor and a dedicated appraising manager, and are immersed in a number of networking opportunities with members of the senior management. Members of the bank's HR team, together with a mentor, offer guidance to trainees to map out an appropriate career route.

Blanche Chan, senior vice president, head of human resources, DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited, stresses networking is an integral part of the programme since the bank promotes and values the relationship with and between staff members.

"We value teamwork and relationship," says Ms Chan. She adds networking activities such as casual after-work drinks and seminars hosted by managers will help new recruits hone their interpersonal skills and accentuate the bank's value on teamwork.

From the 2008 intake, management associate Mason Ma recalls, "DBS involves its senior management team in the assessment centre and networking sessions. I learnt a great deal about the bank's operations and the overall banking environment through interacting with senior managers in a series of events."

Only the very best

Since its inception, the MAP has met with success in helping to develop successful leaders in various areas of the bank's business. The programme has now been expanded to cover Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and the mainland. Taiwan and India may also be included in the near future.

Ms Chan remarks that the programme has attained a 100 per cent success rate, with all of the recruits securing positions in their field of interest upon completion of training.

"Our management associates initially take the position as analysts, and progress to associates after the successful completion of the programme," Ms Chan explains. She cautions, however, that the path is paved with a demanding schedule of key objectives and responsibilities and that the trainees are expected to pass a comprehensive set of criteria.

Before entering the programme, potential candidates are assessed through a rigorous recruitment process. The bank's HR specialists, functional leaders, and top management executives partake in identifying the cream of the crop, and then help match the individuals' career aspirations and personality traits against various career tracks. Stringent assessments draw on a wide range of tools including aptitude tests, competency-based interviews and assessment centre.

"Our candidates have diverse academic backgrounds and we do not just limit ourselves to business degree holders," Ms Chan reveals.

Monetary incentives never fail to attract talented candidates, but Ms Chan emphasises this is no longer a priority to young, career-driven individuals. "The level of our employee remuneration doesn't depend on a single criterion. However, many of our trainees tend to earn above-the-average salary packages for their consistent and outstanding performance shown in their results later on."

When selecting trainee candidates, DBS looks primarily at their potential for becoming the bank's future leaders. "The training schedule is designed in such way that our trainees will find themselves developing into generalists," she says. "This also gives our young recruits a wealth of career prospects."

Crystal Kong, a graduate from the University of Hong Kong and currently a manager in the bank's consumer banking division, notes: "When I was looking for a job, I considered several banks, but I set my sights on the MAP for its comprehensive training schedule. I took the plunge because of the exposure to various business areas from mortgages to credit cards, IT and operations. From campus talks to face-to-face chats with the bank's managers, I learnt a lot about the bank and became familiarised with the entire working environment. I would definitely recommend the programme to people who have a keen interest in a banking career."

Core skills

  • Leadership
  • Customer focus
  • Performance and results orientation
  • Innovation and change management
  • Professional excellence
  • Teamwork

Taken from Career Times 12 March 2010, A7

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