Thanks to innovations such as the World Wide Web and the new era of information flow across the globe, the banking industry has had to undergo significant change - impacting not only its mode of operation but also customer expectations. Today, on-the-job training has a major part to play in helping staff meet and manage these demands and keep pace with change.
Moving from the position of bank teller to head of branch banking, consumer banking at Standard Chartered bank over the past 27 years, Catherina Chan is in prime position to observe changes in the banking industry. "In older days, a good service attitude was the major consideration for a customer to choose your bank. Nowadays, our customers are more educated and knowledgeable. We need to provide efficiency and professional knowledge of many products. A good attitude is only a basic requirement," Ms Chan says.
Nowadays, the product range is much larger in the banking industry. Employees need to learn about new products, such as those related to investment strategies and tools, she says, adding that they also need a license for some products and have to sit examinations.
Training benefits every level and position
Providing training to meet these new requirements and challenges is therefore an important task. Standard Chartered, for example, has a long history of staff training and has operated its own Training Centre for over 25 years. The centre offers different kinds of training programme for staff members, with the delivery mode varying from self-study packages to classroom courses. In addition, every new employee attends a Sales and Services Competency Training Course, which helps newcomers understand the operation and requirements in the Service, Product and Sales streams.
Other programmes are available to staff members at different levels - even employees from overseas branches. Ms Chan explains that, with their supervisor's approval, an employee can apply for and undergo a course at any time. "Some training courses are by nomination as we believe that training is also a form of recognition. On average, all staff members have the chance to receive five to 10 days' training per annum," she says.
In an environment where training is given such a prominent position, it has something to say about the company culture. "We are people-oriented. Any product can be copied and be the same everywhere, but people cannot be copied," says Ms Chan. "People are the most important and unique feature in a company, because it is they who deliver the products. We believe in enhancing the personal quality of our staff, and each and every one of our staff should live our core values - [be] responsive, creative, courageous, international and trustworthy."
What do employees think about Standard Chartered's training opportunities? According to Ms Chan, they are happy to learn and be trained. The most popular workshops cover personal effectiveness, embracing topics such as managerial and presentation skills and self-development. She believes that staff members have responded positively to the courses' practicality and relevance.
Above all, training has a key part to play in the bank. Managers, for example, are involved as trainers of their team members. Senior executives attend staff presentations to show their support and take the same courses as their subordinates to learn about new products.
Training penetrates all levels and positions - indeed, Ms Chan has just undergone a five-day leadership course in Oxford, England. "It's very refreshing and insightful. You learn a lot from meeting these academic people and scholars in the field," she smiles.
To her, training offers a kind of recognition, both when staff are selected for training and once they receive it. "If I have another training opportunity, I would love to meet people from other professions. We can share [our] different experiences," she continues.
As an experienced professional, Ms Chan adds that she enjoys the many learning opportunities given to her. She feels that the industry has exposed her to a diversified environment with a broad view and provided many useful skills.
She also believes that a banking career has a great deal to teach those on the first rung of the career ladder. In particular, she notes that young newcomers to the bank are very forward-thinking and hard-working - but says that she expects them to continue to learn and to initiate learning by asking questions and exploring by themselves in different areas. In her opinion, this learning attitude will equip them to adapt to and survive an ever-changing world.
To extend its learning culture into society, Standard Chartered opened another training centre, the Financial Career Institute, in June 2003. The institute not only offers courses for the banking industry but also other programmes that are relevant to any industry, such as financial management, China business and executive skills. Courses are available to the public as well as employees. To date, half of the participants have been corporate personnel, including those from other fields, while the other half are individuals.