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Money Moves

Good reasons for being an apprentice

by Christina Tai

(from left to right) Paul Pong, managing director, Pegasus Fund Managers Limited; Audrey Yu, senior counsel and Legislative Councillor; Andrew Chan, director, executive MBA programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Photo: Ringo Lee

At a recent seminar organised by Pegasus Fund Managers Limited, guest speakers addressed the topic of how an apprenticeship can provide a highway to professional success in Hong Kong's financial services industry. If the sector is to maintain a competitive edge, the quality of local talent will be the determining factor, and this depends on people receiving the right training and career guidance.

One of the speakers, senior counsel and Legislative Councillor Audrey Yu, drew parallels with the legal profession, where a reputation for integrity can be as important as having specific professional skills. "The chamber system [for training barristers] facilitates the exchange of ideas and resources," she said. There, the mentor complements and goes beyond the theoretical knowledge taught at university. The apprenticeship can develop into a close relationship and enables the young barrister to learn everything about taking statements, company searches, preparing cases, court procedures, and the finer details of style and professional etiquette.

A good mentor will observe closely and guide the apprentice by answering questions, anticipating problems, and emphasising what is most important. A form of apprenticeship also helps in the field of strategic marketing. The key to success is differentiation, which comes from creativity, knowing the competition, and tightly managing costs, so as to do more with less. In all of these areas, a mentor can help with suggestions and in making choices. It also makes a big difference if the overall company culture fosters creativity and learning.

Andrew Chan, director of the executive MBA programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that companies have a clear competitive advantage if they can discern market needs before these are widely articulated, or before a trend takes shape. He added that good mentors could inspire apprentices to think in the right way and know which signs to look for.

Introductions to members of the mentor's network of contacts could also provide a significant career boost and give the apprentice greater visibility, while they learned about the best business practices and how the market worked.

Paul Pong, the managing director of Pegasus, pointed out that, with the economy undergoing a transition and the mainland market developing, an apprenticeship scheme allowed trainees to learn faster. It also helped to cultivate the necessary sense of integrity among practising professionals, who had a duty to look after each client's best interests.

"Nurturing financial professionals who possess integrity and versatility will hopefully allow Hong Kong to become the 'Switzerland of China' one day," Mr Pong said. "The best kind of apprenticeship should cover the need for ethics, education, examinations, experience and endurance."


Taken from Career Times 15 December 2006, p. A2

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