Money Moves

Going full-steam ahead

by Grace Chan

Annie Ma, managing director
sales & distribution
consumer banking
DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Leading financial services group invests in tomorrow's leaders

Prominent Asian bank DBS is on an ongoing drive to recruit service-oriented and career-minded graduates with good people skills ahead of anticipated growth in the consumer banking sector.

"We plan to hire 200 new frontline employees to support our expanding wealth management business", says Annie Ma, managing director, sales & distribution, consumer banking, DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited. "We've continued to hire, despite the 2008 financial crisis, to meet our clients' demand for high-quality financial planning services and to comply with stricter legal and compliance requirements," she adds.

The bank currently has frontline positions available for treasures relationship managers (TRMs) and financial services managers (FSMs), as well as for specialists in investment services such as funds, foreign currencies and insurance.

Applicants must possess a service mindset and good communication skills. Since technical knowledge and skills can be acquired, they should, above all, be keen to learn and be truly enthusiastic about the profession, Ms Ma stresses.

Newly appointed TRMs will be tasked with developing relationships with high-net-worth customers with total assets of more than HK$1 million, as well as identifying new business opportunities. FSMs play a similar role, but will be serving general banking customers with assets of at least HK$30,000.

Getting a foothold

While the bank is targeting seasoned professionals for certain positions, it is also keen to nurture young talent with limited experience through a number of in-house training initiatives. Its treasures relationship executive (TRE) programme, for instance, is customised for people with at least three years' experience, while a financial services executive (FSE) programme was designed for those who are less familiar with the field, including fresh graduates.

"We have two recruitment drives per year for FSE," says Ms Ma. "With each intake, we admit 10 to 20 people to the programme. This year, the first batch joined us in the second quarter, and the next will start this quarter."

Both the TRE and FSE programmes run for six months, starting with intensive classroom sessions that cover wealth management product knowledge, relationship building and consultative selling skills. This is immediately followed by branch attachments, to allow trainees to gain hands-on experience.

The recruits are supported by a team of in-house experts, including investment, bancassurance and treasury specialists, to help them hone their sales and service skills. "Our senior vice president of treasures and markets, Tommy Ong, who is DBS's foreign-exchange expert and a household name, lectures our trainees on his area of speciality," Ms Ma notes, adding that the new staff members are also assigned mentors to guide them and to help them draw up a clear career roadmap.

Once they complete the programme, high-performing TREs with the necessary skills and knowledge can expect to move up to the position of TRM within a year and should reach senior-manager level in another three to five. The next step up is to become a branch manager or centre manager leading a team of TRMs, followed by district manager overseeing the operations of up to 16 DBS branches.

First-rate FSEs can move into a managerial role within a year and, once they have solid general banking customer experience, be transferred to a TRM position. The same progressive career path is then open to them.

In a separate endeavour, the bank also has a two-year regional management associate programme to develop future leaders.

Equipped for success

Across the wide spectrum of financial services, consumer banking is a popular choice for young graduates, because of its dynamic nature and tangible results, points out Ms Ma. "With subdivisions including frontline sales, product development, marketing and credit, there are a number of fast-track options for top achievers," she says.

Although many banks are competing for the same pool of talent, Ms Ma believes that DBS's uncomplicated organisational structure has several advantages. "Since the bank has a straightforward reporting line, staff at all levels can voice their opinions effectively and get things done promptly," she notes.

Effective internal communications are key to business success, she stresses. "We use a dial-in set-up to enable all 900 frontline staff from our 48 branches to attend daily morning briefings. Employees also have access to internal workstations where they can keep track of their own work performances, as well as those of their colleagues."

DBS prioritises the development of long-term relationships not only with its customers, but also with its staff, concludes Ms Ma. "This is why we devote such considerable training resources to grooming our own talent."

Top of the profession

  • Six-month training programmes nurture young banking talent
  • Clear career development paths mapped out
  • Flat organisational hierarchy key to business efficiency
  • Corporate culture prioritises long-term staff relations

Taken from Career Times 29 October 2010, A2

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