Financial Planning / Wealth Management

High personal touch

by Isabella Lee

Elisa Wong
head of human resources
Nanyang Commercial Bank
Photo: Ringo Lee

Medium-sized bank adheres to time-honoured values in the search for the best talent

Taking advantage of the robust economy, personal banking in Hong Kong is set to experience meteoric growth in the coming years. As ever larger numbers of clients seek comprehensive investment services, fulfilling the growing demand for human capital has become a pressing issue.

"Talent and the search for it is a challenge, especially in the area of financial planning, one of our core business developments for the foreseeable future," Elisa Wong, head of human resources division, Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd (NCB) remarks. Backed by strong past performance, NCB is proactively targeting the personal banking business, which involves enhancing services to lure customers away from competitors.

In order to achieve this ambitious goal, the bank launched a pioneering business model — RPC, which stands for "relationships", "products" and "channels", following a clear segmentation structure for both customers and employees.

Using this business model, the bank will continue to offer a full range of financial products to its clientele whereas assigned service providers will deliver one-stop services for individual segments, and experienced financial planners will work on "relationships" with VIP customers.

"With this new structure, there are infinitely more career possibilities for talented staff, in addition to the openings made available by the bank's rapid expansion. We make the potential opportunities ahead clear to every staff member from the first day of orientation," Ms Wong notes.

Multiple approach

To fill the numerous posts, NCB is recruiting high-calibre candidates using a selection of approaches. In addition to traditional headhunting methods, the bank also relies on internal recruitment of qualified staff who possess good customer services skills, strong professional qualifications and excellent business sense.

"It is a win-win solution for the company to recruit existing staff members, who usually work on the frontline, to the fast stream. Based on their potential, we are able to allocate the appropriate person to the right position. These recruits are usually more stable and established as they are accustomed to the NCB culture," Ms Wong explains.

As a member of the banking sector, Ms Wong believes that it is important for NCB to play an active role in fostering future leaders for the industry. The bank constantly designs and reviews talent programmes for undergraduates in Hong Kong and China, such as the New Youth Banker (NYB) programme, to expand the potential talent pool.

The programme aims to give university students practical job opportunities in NCB during their summer break. Participants take on real positions and work in NCB branches to gain hands-on experience, and through this sharpen their communication skills and broaden their horizons.

"Whilst temporarily employed, students get a taster of banking as a profession. Upon returning to campus, they can share this experience with colleagues and, hopefully, pass on a positive message to invite more talent to join us," Ms Wong points out.

Maintaining manpower

Besides attracting new blood, NCB emphasises updating established employees' skills. Ms Wong points out, "In the highly competitive labour market today, to maintain manpower at a sufficient level takes more than just recruiting. We should keep on providing our people with ample learning opportunities that ultimately lead to promising career development."

Meanwhile, NCB has a comprehensive learning system for all its prominent positions. Regardless of work experience, employees receive custom-made training plans that address individual improvement areas. If necessary, appropriate in-house training or external programmes are provided to cater for more specific needs.

To create a positive learning atmosphere, the bank offers financial subsidies to employees who begin recognised degrees or studies. NCB also covers fees for professional courses like those organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers.

Besides a range of non-monetary benefits, helping employees maintain a work-life balance is also of paramount importance, according to Ms Wong. Therefore, the bank arranges for staff to participate in training sessions evenly distributed within and outside office hours. This particular arrangement, incorporated into the bank's talent management policies, ensures staff enjoy a healthier balance between professional and personal life.

NCB has allocated considerable resources to developing its people including hiring external experts from consultancy firms, university professors and top-notch trainers to deliver courses uniquely designed for the bank.

Training spans a wide spectrum of topics, from customer service skills to selling techniques. Many experiential learning and self-reflection programmes such as the mystery shopper are adopted to boost the bank's service standards — a key differentiator in the personal banking business.

A reputable medium-sized banking institution, NCB's strength lies in its unique human touch in recruiting, training and retaining employees. Breaking away from the typical institutionalised employment framework, the bank offers tailored employee care and support which ultimately make the bank an employer of choice.


Taken from Career Times 09 November 2007
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