Money Moves

Sound investment yields rich harvest

by Ada Ng

International bank employs sophisticated training programme to sustain a healthy supply of talent

Christina Loong, head of human resources, commercial banking Asia Pacific, human resources Asia Pacific, HSBC
Photos: Nolly Leung

More than two decades ago, HSBC launched a management associate training programme which has evolved and underwent refinements over the years to meet business dynamics and preferences of graduates fresh out of universities.

Today, the programme continues to play a key role in developing new talent required by HSBC's commercial banking and its other units.

Christina Loong, head of human resources, commercial banking Asia Pacific, HSBC, says the bank regards talent development as a core strategy for building a strong talent and succession pipeline.

"Despite the challenging economy, we've never questioned our commitment in talent development," Mrs Loong stresses.

She notes that the HSBC commercial banking management associate programme is anchored on the belief that its graduates will eventually join the ranks of the bank's senior business management team over the next 10 years or so.

"About 70 per cent of our senior management in commercial banking today came through this programme," she notes. "They are now very successful in their roles in HSBC's Hong Kong and mainland China operations."

International exposure

Philip Chiu, senior business banking manager, Asia Pacific, HSBC
In spite of its 26-month duration, the HSBC commercial banking management associate programme exudes undiminished appeal to new entrants. Aside from opening doors to potential promotions in the future, it also provides participants a rare opportunity to gain international experience, given the bank's global network.

Philip Chiu, currently HSBC's Asia Pacific senior business banking manager, credits the programme that he went through 10 years ago for enjoying the post that he occupies today.

"This best-in-class programme gives participants insights into various aspects of the commercial banking business. In my case, it gave me opportunities to work in different overseas offices of HSBC," he says.

A few years after he graduated from the programme, Mr Chiu also participated in HSBC's 18-month "next generation development programme" and worked alongside executives from around the world to develop a banking model for the Latin American countries.

"It served as an eye-opening experience that made me understand the breadth and depth of the industry," he notes, "More importantly, it broadened my interest in international banking which eventually enabled me to fulfil a role in developing international business at HSBC's London office."

Rigorous training

Helen Wong, commercial banking MME vice president, HSBC
Entrants to the programme need not come from the finance stream. "We're open to student applicants from any disciplines if they demonstrate the key attributes and capabilities that we look for," Mrs Loong adds. "Aside from the group's requirements, other qualities we are seeking include the passion and energy to succeed. Being creative and open to ideas are also necessary."

This year's recruitment has already started. The selection process was vigorous, starting with an online numerical and reasoning test. Candidates who met the benchmark and passed the online test were invited to one-on-one interviews with the human resources manager and business manager. This was followed by a robust assessment centre process.

Noted for its comprehensive structure and multifaceted nature, HSBC's commercial banking management associate programme provides both hands-on work experience and classroom sessions.

Mrs Loong says the programme is conducted in four phases. It starts with an eight-month trade services practicum in which a trainee accompanies a manager with the aim of learning how the latter approaches clients, get to know their trade needs and customise solutions that they require.

The next two phases of the programme are two three-month attachments that cover front-line operations, overseas business and overall business strategy of commercial banking. During this period, trainees are expected to build their project and time management skills, as well as soft skills required to interact with the different stakeholders of HSBC.

Trainees then go through the final 10-month credit lending phase, taking a challenging frontline role in which they receive coaching from seasoned commercial bankers, and provide financial solutions to the bank's corporate clients.

Mrs Loong says this aspect serves as a key feature of the training programme as it provides trainees with an opportunity to learn how to build up essential technical and credit lending skills for developing business and retaining existing customers.

The programme also includes a seven-week training at HSBC's residential business school in the UK and one of the countries in the Asia Pacific region in which the bank operates. This part of the training is aimed at enabling trainees to consolidate theoretical concepts on leadership, commercial banking and finance. Mrs Loong remarks that this consolidation is necessary before they can complete the programme and taking up a role at the bank's commercial banking unit.

Helen Wong, an HSBC commercial banking MME vice president, regards the UK training as a major highlight of the programme. "It goes beyond the teaching of hard skills required for one to operate effectively in the commercial banking industry," she notes. "The management associate programme broadened and enriched in a big way my banking industry knowledge and experience."

Banking on the future

  • Trainee programme produces 70 per cent of senior management in commercial banking
  • Overseas training practical and attractive
  • Hands-on experiences a key learning process

Taken from Career Times 14 August 2009, p. A5
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