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Citibank, HKU bank on future bankers

Many veterans in the finance industry will tell you that what you learn at school bears little, if any, resemblance to what you face at work. To bridge the gap between textbook studies and real-life work in finance, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Citibank collaborated to produce a course for students of the business and economics faculty.  

Entering its eighth year, the HKU-Citibank University Banking Course for 2011-2012 is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of modern banking operations and practices.

Although the programme does not offer stipends or allowances as do other scholarships, it enables a select group of students to attend lectures and interact with experienced bankers outside their normal academic load. 

Following a stringent selection process, comprising a written test and group interview, 44 second-year HKU students have been admitted to the course. Citibank is very serious about the programme's quality, according to Kathy Cheung, country corporate affairs director at the bank. For instance, some of the modules are taught by Citibank directors.

"Citibankers, working as a team, are committed to improving the financial capabilities of individuals through sharing their knowledge and experiences," says Cheung. "Through the course, we hope to nurture future leaders in Hong Kong." 

The course runs from January to April and consists of 30 hours of classroom lectures given by Citibankers, a visit to a Citibank branch, a mid-term test, and a presentation. The course includes modules in risk management, wealth management and insurance. 

"Every module is taught by seasoned bankers from Citibank. Students gain insights and essential skills required in today's real banking world," says Cheung.

"This is a serious course. We expect students to be fully committed to learning, not just thinking about the extra line that the course will add to their resume. We reward top performers on the course with an internship at Citibank," she adds. 

This year, a new module on digital banking was introduced to give students a better understanding of how to build a digital bank to cater for the changing needs of clients brought about by technological innovations.

"We try to provide students with things that are not taught at school. For example, at school, students learn about the features of various products. But our lecturers will teach them how to make use of existing products to create new products," says Cheung. 

She hopes that besides knowledge in banking, the course will educate students about careers in finance. "Many students only set their sights on investment banking or becoming a banker," she adds. "We want to let them know that there are many other functions in banking, such as risk management and consumer banking." 

Laura Bao, a final-year student doing a bachelor's of business administration in wealth management, took the course last year and was offered an internship at Citibank.

During her two months' stay with the bank last summer, she experienced what it is like to work in finance.

"The internship is a confirmation for me to join the banking industry," Bao says. "I learned about the different functions of various departments within the bank. I think the experience is a great plus to my résumé since I now have experience working with one of the world's biggest banks."