Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Talent retention a business priority

by Mayse Lam

John Lee, executive vice president and head of human resources
CITIC Ka Wah Bank
Photo: Edde Ngan

In any growing economies, the pace of industry developments depends on the supply of talent

While much attention has been given to the close ties developing between the banking industries in Hong Kong, the mainland and Macau, the fight for talented professionals intensifies.

"With the booming mainland economy, particularly in the baking and financial services sector on the mainland and in Macau, the industry is experiencing a tremendous shortage of qualified professionals," says John Lee, executive vice president and head of human resources at CITIC Ka Wah Bank. "Since the financial services industry in Hong Kong is well established and has a ready pool of qualified practitioners who are well-known for their high level of professionalism and competitiveness, a growing number of organisations on the mainland and in Macau is eyeing this talent pool, putting more pressure on the talent supply in Hong Kong."

Mr Lee believes that this occurrence has greatly impacted Hong Kong's banking industry. "Almost every bank in Hong Kong is facing the same challenge. At CITIC Ka Wah we are continuously allocating members of our staff to our mainland and Macau branches to satisfy the growing number of clients. While at present we possess an adequate supply of human capital to be able to do this and still perform daily operational tasks and serve our other clients, we are constantly seeking capable people to enable the bank to capitalise on emerging opportunities so as to facilitate further growth," he says.

High standards

Although CITIC Ka Wah is on the lookout for new people, Mr Lee stresses that quality is of the utmost importance. "We are extremely selective when recruiting new members. We are searching for talent yearning to make a difference in the industry as well as people who share our aspirations and corporate goals," he notes, adding that candidates must also be confident, innovative and progressive in order to fit into the bank's unique culture, putting great emphasis on team work and performance. "Every leader in the bank, from CEO to branch managers, believes in team spirit and open communication," Mr Lee notes.

Such selection criteria are only part of CITIC Ka Wah's philosophy in ensuring the bank's professionals are capable of delivering the best services to clients. "To ensure that our people are well suited to the operational and strategic needs of our businesses, we have developed an effective performance management system directly linked to our key performance indicators. At the same time, we also keep record of their achievements towards their own career goals," Mr Lee explains.

The efforts invested in building professionalism and management excellence have been constantly benchmarked, enhanced and subsequently rewarded. For instance, the bank has received an Outstanding Financial Planner Grand Award from the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers last year, a Productivity & Quality Certificate of Merit from the 2006 Hong Kong Awards for Industries and a Silver Award in the 2007 Hong Kong Management Association Quality Award.

Retaining talent

"Because of the high standards we set for our employees, we greatly appreciate the work they put in to succeed," Mr Lee says. "We really value them and their accomplishments. They are our most important assets and once they join us, we do everything possible to retain them." Employees at CITIC Ka Wah enjoy attractive salaries, allowances and benefits that are in line with market standards. The bank also offers various profit-sharing schemes and stock-sharing options to most staff — an incentive that is rare in the industry.

Besides financial incentives, the bank also encourages staff to pursue their own interests. CITIC Ka Wah's staff recreation club often organises events and staff activities, aiming to develop a stronger sense of belonging and engagement among staff. Development programmes and specialised training are also tailored to cater for employees' personal growth and career advancement.

While CITIC Ka Wah's turnover rate is in line with industry norms, Mr Lee believes the numbers do not reflect the real situation. "The ultimate indication of the effectiveness of our retention policies is that those talents we want to keep decide to stay with us. At the end of the day, if these people choose to stay with our bank, we have succeeded," he concludes.


Taken from Career Times 26 October 2007
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