Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Filling the GAP

DBS is hiring graduates for tech positions

While many banks develop fresh management-training graduates into generalists by exposing them to a wide variety of business functions, DBS is one of the few which chooses to grow new recruits vertically with its Graduate Associate Programme (GAP).

Candidates are groomed to have in-depth knowledge in technology and back-office operations, such as quality control, customer service, regulations and compliance, and people management.

“The technology and operations [T&O] team supports the bank’s daily operations in all areas of business,” says Yang Ping Choong, chief operating officer of DBS Hong Kong. “In today’s competitive global financial industry, the use of technology to enhance customer service is the key differentiator that sets the bank apart from others.”

The two-year GAP is no less demanding than the bank’s Management Associate Programme and the recruitment process is similarly stringent. The bank enrols up to 20 graduates each year and it is currently interviewing for this year’s intake.

“When we started, we were very clear about our objective: to build a pipeline for the T&O team consisting of our own people who have a good set of corporate values and identify themselves with the bank’s vision,” Choong says.

T&O staff make up 25 per cent of the bank’s 4,000 people in Hong Kong. They are an important factor in achieving the bank’s objective to become the Asian Bank of Choice for the New Asia, and to expanding in its six key markets – Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and India – by increasing connectivity and improving relationships with clients.

Within the T&O team, the bank promotes three values: teamwork, connectivity and relationships. “We encourage teamwork and prefer not to have ‘superheroes’. Superheroes can’t do the job by themselves,” Choong says.

New recruits receive three weeks of structured onboarding followed by a one-month intensive training programme in Singapore. There they combine with the Singapore GAP team for classroom training, projects and presentations so that they can network together and develop good relationships.

The Singapore programme is followed by two 11-month rotations that provide on-the-job training, as well as two one-week engagement programmes. Each trainee is assigned a supervisor within the buddy system who looks after them. Trainees are also given opportunities to make presentations to senior management.

“The basis of training is exposure, experience and education,” Choong says. “We also constantly engage associates to make sure they come forward and are open about their views.”

Roch Chan, who has been on the GAP for almost two years, was attracted to the programme as it called for innovative candidates. Trained as an industrial engineer, he is interested in how people interact with technology and how the process can be improved.

“As fresh minds, we have to come up with new ideas and speak our mind. But the crucial part is how to present your ideas,” he says.

Last year he was seconded to Singapore to work on a large-scale project upgrading an international trade finance system.

Yuki Wong, who has been on the GAP for almost a year, says the organisers have learned a thing or two from the TV programme The Apprentice. When she and her team arrived in Singapore, they found out at 9pm that they had to put together a booth to showcase their work by the following morning. The three Hong Kong teams rushed to a nearby shopping centre to buy material and worked through the night.

“In the morning we got up very early to finish it off as we had a committed team that worked hard for better results,” she says, adding that there was a trade off between how good a job you wanted to do and how much sleep you wanted.

A graduate in marketing and management, Wong is involved in a lot of initiatives and events, such as the bank’s yearly talent show.

“Here I’m allowed to work like I’m in a family,” she says. “That’s why I want to be here.”