Chance to MAP out career in banking
Like most students, Mason Ma attended numerous careers talks during his graduation year before deciding to apply to the DBS management associate programme (MAP).
“I found their careers talk different. It was human, connected, engaging and sincere. Unlike other banks, they sent their functional unit heads to talk to us,” says Ma, who has worked at the bank for three-and-a-half years and is now assistant vice-president of technology and operations.
DBS, which aims to be the bank of choice in Asia both for clients and employees, embarked on an expansion drive five years ago. It has grown considerably in Greater China – including the mainland, Taiwan, India and Indonesia – to a total of more than 200 offices employing in excess of 18,000 people.
The MAP, launched in 2003, has become a vital channel to build up a pipeline of fresh talent who can step up to satisfy the bank’s growing requirements.
“The bank treasures human talent and resources, and becoming preferred employer is part and parcel of our vision and development,” says Choong Tan Yang Ping, chief operating officer, Hong Kong, and head of operations, North Asia. “We have got our act together with a clear vision and strategy to propel the bank to success.”
She says that last year, the bank accepted only about 20 candidates out of thousands of MAP applicants, testing them through a range of interviewing methods including role play, group interviews, case study presentation, and even an informal networking session with management and staff.
“We observe the way the management trainees present themselves. Their communication, presentation and interpersonal skills are important. How they respond and engage their counterparts in various situations, and confront difficult questions and situations, are critical attributes we look for in each [management associate],” Choong says. “We expect a good first degree. A postgraduate degree is not necessary, but professional qualifications are a plus.”
The bank’s objective is to build a good team with members who are not merely order-takers, but are instead truly connected, have sharp minds and think independently. Choong says DBS values teamwork, excellence, passion, integrity and trust, and candidates are expected to embrace the bank’s values and business proposition.
Ma advises applicants: “Network to learn more about the bank through [meeting] alumni or past MAs. Research and understand the values and qualities required, be ready to present yourself confidently and always support what you say with examples. But most importantly, be yourself.”
The 24-month training has a systematic programme design that balances the management trainees’ needs for hands-on experience, further education and relationship building. A personal development plan is drawn up that includes on-the-job training across several different roles.
This is supplemented by campus training that takes place in Singapore three times for a one-month period each. The management trainees have the chance to meet other trainees across Asia, and network with their peers. Other relationship-building opportunities include working in different divisions, joining the mentorship and buddy schemes, and participation in the staff club and the bank’s corporate social responsibility projects.
“Get to know the people,” advises Ma. “If later you need to ask questions, you know who to go to.”
He adds that the most important thing to remember is to build collaborative working relationships. “You cannot accomplish everything by yourself, only through teamwork,” Ma says. “It’s really the people that can make a difference.”
The two-year programme gives trainees the opportunity to understand their own abilities and interests. After the training, they are assigned to a particular unit, depending on their interest and the bank’s business needs. Each unit manager then keeps track of the trainees’ development as they form a pool in the bank and are given fast-track opportunities if their performance is good.