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Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Up another notch

by John Chan

Winsome Ha
general manager, sales & distribution, Retail Banking Group
CITIC Bank International Limited
Photo: Lewis Wong
Professionalism is the name of the game in the competitive financial markets

Rising optimism in the current and future business conditions in Hong Kong's banking and finance sector are expected to draw and retain competent talent. It remains however that maintaining a healthy, pristine environment for the sustainable development of people will continue to challenge the industry.

"A broader people development agenda is the only viable way forward," notes Winsome Ha, newly appointed general manager, sales & distribution, Retail Banking Group, CITIC Bank International Limited. "Banking institutes must find a way to translate people development concepts into practice and sustainable results."

Known for its practices and metrics in people development, CBI takes considerable pride in its talent management matrix which provides guidance for the bank to identify key training requirements, and more importantly, to keep track of the development of every individual staff members who are in turn safe in the knowledge that their needs for continuous professional advancement are supported by a highly transparent, tried and tested system.

Talent pipeline

To help new recruits put their best foot forward and ensure that they have what it takes to excel at the job, CBI has set up a 20-day Wealth Management Certificate programme, which includes training on the bank's culture, operation, systems, compliance standards, and product portfolio. This also gives them a better inkling of how things are done at CBI.

With a view to ensuring healthy development for its new staff, the bank four years ago spearheaded a "safety net" mechanism, which gives new joiners an existing clientele and ample time to work towards and progressively raise their business targets. "This is a good opportunity for less experienced staff to learn the trade, pick up the pace and get a tight grip on business realities," Ms Ha adds.

CBI's branch managers and senior staff are major components of the bank's people development infrastructure, she points out. Specialists such as those in investment and insurance are ready to lend a hand, sharing market insights and helping with drawing up financial plans. "The last thing we want is for our people to feel stranded on a high wire," she emphasises. "On-the-job experience is a key process and we make sure help is always at hand."

A junior member of staff may follow a typical sales career, starting as relationship manager, senior relationship manager, CITICfirst relationship manager, senior CITICfirst relationship manager and then CITICfirst centre manager. Those that have developed a knack for management will stand a good chance for stepping into the roles of branch manager and subsequently division head. In fact, more than half of the bank's CITICfirst relationship managers were promoted from within.

"New staff that have been on the job for a year or so usually have developed a fairly clear idea of their career aspirations," Ms Ha observes, adding that performance assessment will then come into play to further assist the individuals with their professional development. "There's plenty of scope for growth in the retail banking area," she remarks.

Several new initiatives including a New Branch Manager Accelerated Development programme are in the pipeline for the bank's managerial hopefuls, or newly joined managers to get a leg up. The bank will in June this year kick off a tailored talent development programme, which aims at immersing a handful of high-potential future leaders in an array of leadership stints over a stretch of two years. During this time, the individuals will also receive dedicated attention from experienced mentors.

Challenging backdrop

Aspiring career seekers nowadays look further than immediate financial gains when it comes to career choice. Ms Ha confirms this: "People tend to think long-term and factor in a company's market position, career and business support, and perhaps the most of all, the kind of opportunities for stretching their potential. They need to know if a certain job or company is worth their investment."

As an international expansion platform for its parent company China CITIC Bank Corporation Limited and with strong support from ultimate shareholder CITIC Group, CBI has been in an advantageous position to attract a great number of talent. Ms Ha concedes however that recruitment has been hard-going across the board since major banks and other financial institutions in Hong Kong are competing with each other for talent with similar attributes and qualifications.

Despite this, the bank is not ready to compromise on quality. In particular, CBI adopts a strategic recruitment process that focuses on examining a job candidate's technical attributes like qualifications and professional credentials, as well as personality traits, interpersonal skills, and potential for development.

In an allied effort to promote professionalism and industry standards, the bank has over the last five years joined its industry counterparts in the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards. "Our staff are gushing with enthusiasm," Ms Ha says. "Taking part in the event is proof of their self-confidence. We certainly encourage this and will give the participants the right push and support."

The bank has had a number of wins over the last few years. "Being publicly recognised for our expertise and professionalism is a great motivation for moving forward," Ms Ha concludes. "Competition is a fact of everyday life and we're well geared for that."

Taken from Career Times 13 May 2011, A5

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