Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Banks eye tech-savvy staffers

As banks seek to strengthen relationships with their customers, they are increasingly implementing technology-based service platforms to improve clients' banking experience.

According to Ashley Veasey, Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong's chief information officer, over the past decade, innovation and technology convergence have been the key themes shaping banking by changing customers' relationships with their bank and how they manage their money.

"The evolution of the internet, as well as, more recently, mobile technology, have resulted in game-changing shifts in banking," Veasey says, noting that technologies allow customers to interact with the bank more effectively. He says technology applications also allow clients to make choices relating to financial planning.

Internally, Veasey says the shift to enterprise mobility is also an important part of Standard Chartered Bank's strategy. His company was the first international bank in the world to adopt iOS as its main mobile platform, he says, adding that the iOS app was created so that users could download and operate apps in a secure space.

Veasey says that as a direct result of the adoption of the iOS platform, the bank has started to introduce custom-designed iNeeds for the iPad portal.

"The use of new technology enables our branch staff to better service our customers - with Hong Kong being our first business to go live. We are also empowering our staff with more tools through a dedicated Standard Chartered App Centre," says Veasey.

He adds that the launch of Standard Chartered Bank's Breeze suite of mobile banking and lifestyle apps is an example of the way the company uses technology as a new means of doing business.

The free app uses location-based services to provide information on more than 100,000 properties in Hong Kong, including valuations, transactions and property ratings. Other features include a stress test function - available for the first time in the market - which helps investors establish how much they can afford, says Veasey.

Users can also add preferred properties, set a target valuation threshold and receive alerts. The app also allows users to keep a record of search preferences and affordability, and shows matching properties.

Veasey says recruits to Standard Chartered Bank's group technology and operations management trainee programme play an important role in helping to develop new technology.

"Our management trainee programme, which aims to attract young people to work for our global technology and operations function, is part of a bank-wide objective to multiply our leadership capability," says Veasey.

He adds that by undertaking projects, and with input from coaches and mentors, trainees under the highly structured programme are encouraged to move out of their comfort zone.

"This programme is not about just becoming a manager, it is about wanting to do something interesting and challenging. We hope our graduates will become assets to our leadership brand," Veasey says, adding that as smartphone banking applications and new customer-driven technology services open up new business channels, trainees can look forward to an exciting and rewarding career.

Nick Fenn, Hays associate director in Hong Kong, says financial services companies are looking for tech professionals with experience to help their firms maintain a competitive edge.

He says that as software systems continue to be built and exported from Hong Kong, there has been a surge in demand for contract staff. "Functionally, software developers, project managers, business analysts and change professionals are in short supply," says Fenn.

Meanwhile, technology also plays an important role at one of Singapore's leading banks. Choong Yang Ping, chief operating officer for Hong Kong and head of operations for North Asia at DBS Bank (Hong Kong), says their technology help to deliver critical transaction platforms, improve service channels, and crunch data into meaningful information.

"As DBS expands its footprint across the Asia region, there is a constant demand for technology and new applications to meet new challenges," says Choong, adding that DBS has invested in the latest technology and controls. Some of these are multi-year projects, which require both experienced staff and young graduates.

When recruiting technology employees, Choong says she looks for attitude, personality and aptitude. Other than suitable qualifications and experience, she says DBS seeks candidates who are positive, willing to learn and capable of thinking outside the box.

"There are plenty of opportunities across functions and geographies for staff to grow his or her career," says Choong, adding that DBS offers training and job rotation.