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Seeking bankers with 'soft' touch

Published on Thursday, 22 Mar 2012
Georges Zecchin
Chief executive of Crédit Agricole (Suisse) Asia
Photo: Berton Chang

In job-hunting these days, prospective employers seem to take for granted an applicant’s cutting-edge hard skills, such as education, technical prowess and work experience. Instead, most recruiters focus on a candidate’s soft skills that fit the available position and the company culture.

“In my opinion, soft skills are as important as – if not more important than – traditional hard skills. I would even add that soft skills are increasingly becoming the hard skills of today’s work force,” says Georges Zecchin, chief executive of Crédit Agricole (Suisse) Asia. “Technical skills alone will not guarantee success at the workplace. Attitude and interaction with others are equally important, as well as the way people get things done and how they react to events.” 

Zecchin emphasises the need for developing the softer, interpersonal and relationship-building skills that help people to communicate and collaborate effectively.

His company, which operates under Crédit Agricole Private Banking in Asia, is part of one of the world’s largest banks, the Crédit Agricole Group, with 160,000 staff in over 70 countries. It is one of the oldest banks in Hong Kong, having arrived here in 1894. Zecchin’s group currently has about 100 employees, and is boosting its presence by hiring private bankers and product specialists.

“Resilience, confidence, communication skills and a willingness to learn are some of the key soft skills we are looking for,” Zecchin says, adding that the most important attribute for a job applicant is the ability to listen to  clients and find out their needs.

Given its  international clientele, the bank is looking for people with a multicultural background, who not only speak several languages but can also understand and work with different mentalities and traditions. Apart from English and Cantonese, it is also looking for Taiwanese, Indian, Malaysian and Korean nationals, among others.

Zecchin says they allow private bankers sufficient freedom within a given framework to grow their own businesses, and to support them with a full range of products and services.

“A well-diversified, quality product offering is of paramount importance to relationship managers who strive to protect, manage and grow their clients’ wealth, thereby deriving personal job satisfaction,” Zecchin says.

Benefits go way beyond a competitive compensation package, and include a  pro-entrepreneurial working atmosphere where individuals are involved in strategic decision-making, and are provided with wide-ranging career opportunities across the group’s global network, Zecchin says, adding that  the bank believes in “building long-lasting relationships guided by common sense and based on usefulness, proximity and advisory to clients.”

Solid  private-banking relationships can only be built over time and to promote such links, the bank keeps a close watch on staff turnover. Unsurprisingly, its approach has attracted many senior relationship managers from established and important banks, and has helped retain top talent.

Zecchin concedes that motivating relationship managers is not a “one-size fits all” exercise. “Our challenge  is to find the most suitable method of recognising value and rewarding the professional skills and commitment of our staff to enhance loyalty,” he says.

Crédit Agricole Private Banking plans ahead and develops a consistent strategy to ensure that staff have the necessary skill sets. “In other words… [not only] being at the right place at the right time, [but also] with the right skills. This may seem like an obvious point, but it is nonetheless acutely important in today’s competitive marketplace,” Zecchin adds.

The bank uses the induction training to convey its corporate values to new hires, and offers its staff regular high-calibre training to help boost their performance and career development. It also organises local and regional team-building events and management trips to Switzerland.

Being part of an international organisation means that staff are offered global job opportunities and career mobility, Zecchin says.


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