Retail Banking

Selective recruitment

by Charles Mak

Chris Jue
Senior Vice President & Head of Consumer Branch Banking
China Construction Bank (Asia)
Photo: Wallace Chan

Banking recruiter holds firm to hiring principles albeit rich pickings in burgeoning Hong Kong talent market

Talent acquisition in the banking and finance industry has never been this robust, with major corporations touting varied and increasingly attractive remunerations and incentives in a dire bid to drum up interest among the best and brightest job candidates that Hong Kong's employment market has to offer.

According to Chris Jue, Senior Vice President & Head of Consumer Branch Banking, China Construction Bank (Asia), the overall market sentiment is not only favourable to seasoned banking practitioners but is also fuelling enthusiasm in career-minded individuals looking to tap into the field. "The challenge for hiring companies remains that the quantity and quality currently in store must correspond well with very specific HR requirements," Ms Jue emphasises.

"Our hiring strategy, for example, is not supply-driven. Quality people are a promise to our customers," remarks, Grace Lee, Senior Vice President & Head of Human Resources, CCB (Asia).

As such, the bank adheres to a pragmatic approach to recruitment. The uncomplicated process encompasses first screening of applications and interviews. Line managers join hands with the bank's HR team during this to discuss prospects with selected candidates. "The selection process is a two-way street," Ms Lee notes. "At the end of the day, we want our candidates to feel right about their choice."

Experienced recruits are expected to possess the requisite professional qualifications while their junior counterparts will be given ample time and support for attainment of credentials. "For this reason, we focus more on a person's innovative mindset, integrity, professionalism and capacity for teamwork during recruitment," Ms Jue reveals.

A popular choice

New blood is vital to the long-term development of fast growing institutions like CCB (Asia). To this end, the bank has a few years ago rolled out a management trainee programme to tap Hong Kong's top-notch graduates. "These young people are full of ideas, and it has been extremely satisfying to see them grow with us," notes Ms Lee.

In fact, a banking career never fails to appeal to budding professionals despite inevitable ebbs and flows. The reasons, as Ms Jue points out, are obvious.

"In addition to new optimism sparked by mushrooming post-tsunami trade activities, the consumer banking sector, in particular, has always been an ideal and preferred first step for young aspirants looking to enter into a long-term career," she says. "A frontline role essentially puts them in touch with a diverse clientele and so allows plenty of scope for growth."

She cautions however that career success in this highly regulated milieu requires of practitioners, regardless of their professional disciplines, ranks and positions, a high level of professionalism up front.

"We're not talking about any sales job here," Ms Lee emphasises. "The much misperceived 'sales' bracket cannot sufficiently cover all business and professional aspects involved."

Coming out tops

An all-round, versatile and market-relevant staff training and development schedule holds the very key to the bank's success towards business sustainability.

New joiners are immersed in a 12-month meticulously formulated accreditation programme comprising initially a series of e-learning to ensure they are off for a good start. The bulk of the remaining training, which encompasses an induction and several assessment activities, homes in on strengthening the individuals' frontline skills but Ms Jue stresses that service and cultural alignment remains a focal point.

"We must also feedback on their progress and let them know if they have acquired all the necessary skills and knowledge for discharging their duties," she adds.

Experienced, high-performing staff in time will need a career boost and aspirants that are ready to head into the next leg of their careers may ride on the bank's structured and transparent career advancement system which comprises a comprehensive array of professional training programmes, reimbursement for external courses, practical skills acquisition stints, as well as mentoring schemes.

Staff that demonstrate the necessary competence may assume their desired positions and progressively work their way up the corporate ladder, safe in the knowledge that help is always at hand. "For instance, a branch teller who aspires to an operation officer position may take a three-week OO (operation officer) training," Ms Jue explains. "Likewise, stepping-up branch managers will need to spend six to nine months' time working towards fulfilling the criteria set forth in a BMT (branch management trainee) curriculum." Mentors are assigned to keep these budding individuals in check, help fast track their knowledge and share their own career experiences.

Aside from this, the bank's talent pipeline is sustained by a range of development schemes including an associate development programme which supports academic pursuits; as well as a number of professional qualification awards.

"We also send staff away for external training to get them up to speed with market trends,"

Ms Lee says, adding that the bank's staff training and development canlendar is complemented with personal effectiveness training, and other well-being programmes such as stress management and those on emotional quotient.

"We believe that personal development is parallel to professional advancement," Ms Jue concludes.

People focus

  • Careers in consumer banking attractive
  • Candidate selection process a two-way street
  • 12-month accreditation programme ensure new recruits off for a good start
  • Talent pipeline sustained by all-round people development schemes

Taken from Career Times 18 February 2011, A7

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