Money Moves

Next generation of leaders

by Ella Lee

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Vivian So, vice president, recruitment, human resources, DBS Bank (Hong Kong)
Photo: Edve Leung

Every organisation with a vision for long-term business growth realises the importance of investing in the development of future leaders. Since 2004, DBS has done this through its annual Management Associate Programme (MAP), which targets individuals with undoubted potential and grooms them for leadership positions within the bank.

According to Vivian So, vice president of DBS Bank (Hong Kong) human resources recruitment, a programme like this does not come cheap. "Unlike other year-round recruitment activities which fulfil the company's immediate HR needs, MAP is designed for future leaders," she says. It entails a considerable investment for both the extensive selection process and the in-depth training which follows, but is fully supported by senior management and all levels across the region.

The programme provides numerous opportunities in practical training and ensures management associates can work with and learn from senior colleagues, even including group vice chairman and CEO Jackson Tai and group COO and DBS Bank (Hong Kong) chairman Frank Wong. The MAP programme lasts for two years and begins with a series of structured classroom sessions in Singapore. Management associates from different countries get to meet the bank's leaders and acquire a wide spectrum of essential financial and professional skills. After that, trainees return to their home base to undertake on-the-job attachments in consumer banking, wholesale banking or support unit, one of which they will have opted for at the start of the programme.

To cope with rapid expansion, DBS Bank is planning to take on over 20 management associates in Hong Kong in the coming intake and, based on previous experience, over 2,000 applications are expected. In order to attract the top graduates, career talks are planned at venues including the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University of Hong Kong. "We want to make sure we have extensive coverage," says Ms So.

Besides local graduates, the bank also targets those who have studied overseas, who could comprise one-third of the total management associate intake. Ms So adds that other young professionals with no more than three years' working experience will also be considered.

She points out that the selection process will concentrate on identifying the candidate's overall quality rather than educational background and, therefore, it is not necessary to have a degree in business or a finance-related discipline.

Applicants must be ready for a series of assessments, from the initial aptitude tests, a competency-based interview, and an assessment centre evaluation, to a final panel interview with the bank's senior management. A core competency model is used to focus on six key areas: leadership, customer focus, performance and results orientation, innovation and change management, teamwork, and professional excellence. Ms So emphasises that the bank looks for the cream of the crop and never settles for second best.

As a hint to those interested in applying for the programme, she suggests they come prepared to think and act as real business leaders. "They should be ready to put themselves into challenging situations," she says. "They are required to think like future CEOs, not to think theoretically as students, and show that they are able to overcome real business problems."

Taken from Career Times 21 October 2005, p. A2
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