Money Moves

Getting ahead in finance

by Nicolette Wong

Citi Hong Kong - Talent development
Kathy Cheung
country corporate affairs director
Citi Hong Kong
Photo: Dickie Tam

Banking giant grooms young talent through education and experience

While some people may view finance as a complicated field, financial issues and concepts in fact form an integral part of most people's lives. Young people considering entering the world of banking can make informed career choices through real-life exposure, while consumers can gain greatly from practical information to help them run their personal financial affairs.

One institution that has pioneered the delivery of a finance education for youngsters from primary school students to university students as part of one of its major corporate social responsibility initiatives, contributing knowledge, human resources and funding, is Citi.

Sound knowledge of financial processes is a necessity for people from all walks of life, says Kathy Cheung, country corporate affairs director, Citi Hong Kong. "Everyone should have basic financial-management knowledge. Even a housewife, for example, needs to manage the household finances, which affect all other members of her household. By educating the youth on essential concepts about money, we hope to promote public awareness of these issues."

Practical skills

Forty-four second-year students at the Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong, have been selected to take the Citibank University Banking Course, which is now in its eighth year.

The undergraduates will not only be taught financial management skills, but also gain a comprehensive understanding of modern banking operations and practices. In addition to academic knowledge, the students will learn about actual business processes and job functions in a banking career.

Since the programme focuses on practical exposure, Citibank senior executives are actively involved. The modules are designed and taught by department heads or directors, who will not only deliver the course content, but also share their business and career experience with the students. The bank regards this interaction as tremendously valuable, since it offers the participants the opportunity to learn directly from experienced bankers.

The programme will greatly benefit the community in the long run, because positive change starts at an individual level, Ms Cheung believes. "For example, if most people manage their credit in a constructive way, this could reduce the risk of a general credit crisis. If people apply good financial-management skills to their household finances and other areas of their lives, it could benefit society as a whole."

The course's modules focus on banking practices and operations and are modified annually in response to market trends and changes, in order to keep students abreast of the latest developments. Recent revisions include an increased emphasis on renminbi-linked investment products, changes in loan-related products and regulatory reforms in the industry over the past few years.

The latest trends

The three-month course consists of 30 hours of classroom lectures, a visit to a Citibank branch, a mid-term test and a final presentation. A new module on digital banking, aiming to give students a better understanding of how banks innovate their products and services and consolidate and expand their client bases through internet and mobile banking, will be a highlight of this year's programme. Since the evolution of digital banking creates new regulatory issues, compliance is another key subject.

The curriculum covers core aspects of the industry, from consumer banking, wealth management and lending to branch operations and forging a career in the sector. The practical component of the course gives candidates a concrete picture of banking, especially in the area of governance, Ms Cheung stresses. "It gives them a real idea of what their roles and responsibilities might involve. This is very important for their future career decisions and moves."

Apart from the focus on technical knowledge and skills, the programme also aims to groom the aspiring business students in terms of personal attributes. Considering the small intake, they get plenty of personal interaction with lecturers and the chance to gain valuable communication, presentation, leadership and other interpersonal skills vital to career success from them.

"It's crucial that the candidates understand the level of commitment they will need to build long-term careers in finance, because it's also a question of passion and what they can contribute to the banks they work for and the industry in general," she explains.

To maintain continuity in learning, the Citibank University Banking Course has so far been rotated three-yearly between The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong. As the programme requires considerable investment in terms of staffing and funding, Citibank will maintain its focus on material development and content quality, Ms Cheung says. "We'll also look for other ways to branch out to offer financial education for a broader student pool in future."

Money matters

  • Undergraduates taught financial-management skills and gain understanding of banking
  • Course consists of lectures, visit to bank branch, mid-term test and final presentation
  • Practical component provides a concrete picture of banking, and especially governance
  • Students gain valuable communication, presentation, leadership and interpersonal skills

Taken from Career Times 17 February 2012, A3

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