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Graduates take their bosses' route to top

Published on Friday, 07 Jan 2011
Bank of East Asia’s head of human resources, Mimi Kam (centre), with management trainees Stephen Chan and Hilary Yung.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

One good way to  judge a company's commitment to developing its managerial talent from within is by looking at the subsequent career path of those who joined as trainees.

By this measure, Mimi Kam, general manager and head of human resources and corporate communications with the Bank of East Asia (BEA), says her company is up there with the best.

"We have 13 general managers and five are from the executive training programme. A number of our department heads on the mainland are home-grown trainees. Our London and Los Angeles branch managers are all also home-grown," Kam says.

BEA's executive training programme was the precursor  to the two-year management-training programme that it launched last year.

Hilary Yung Hei-lai and Stephen Chan Kong-keung are two of the nine trainees from the first batch on the revamped programme.

Yung says she was keen to join BEA because of its presence in the rapidly growing mainland market, and the opportunities this would give her to develop her career. Besides, the bank's training programme was particularly attractive to her because it offered "the chance to work hands-on in different areas to see where my interests would develop".

Trainees work in core functional units, such as personal and corporate banking, wealth management, treasury, risk management and the bank's China and international networks.

Chan cites his experience in the treasury unit to illustrate how quickly trainees are entrusted with significant responsibility.

"One department I went to was liquidity management," he says. There, under a manager's guidance, Chan had to help manage the bank's cash flow to make sure branches had the cash available to cover their obligations.

"I had to look at the US dollar position of the entire [banking] group," he says. "And I had to project into the next week and the next month."

Yung recalls another seemingly daunting task handed to her during her time with the treasury unit.

"At the end, I had to give a presentation of my forecast for the US foreign-exchange market for 2010," she says. As neither Yung nor Chan come from a financial background - Yung's degree is in marketing and management, and Chan's is in philosophy - a lot of their experiences are new to them. However, both have enjoyed their steep learning curves. Chan says he has "embraced the challenge" while Yung is now in the branches.

 "Here we get to meet the walk-in clients and, unprepared, you have to answer their inquiries," she says. However, as Yung has discovered, help is always at hand.

"All the management trainees have a mentor and the mentors are basically general managers of the bank, or at least department heads," Kam says.

For example, Chan's mentor is the chief financial officer of BEA. "The first time we met, he told me if I have any problems at all - work-related or stress-related - I can talk to him," Chan says.

Trainees can also turn to Kam and the training managers.

As part of the programme, all trainees spend a month at a mainland branch. Chan says he "would love to" work north of the border as he builds his career. Meanwhile, Yung's preference is "probably the core business of banking, like corporate banking".

Kam says the bank talks to its trainees "about where they want to go" before they complete the programme. It also consults the mentors and training managers, and considers the available positions within the company,  she says. "But there are many openings in the bank, so it's not too difficult right now," Kam says.

Candidates must ...

  • Have at least an honours bachelor's degree from a reputable local or overseas university
  • Have no more than two years' work experience
  • Be passionately committed to developing a long-term banking career
  • Be self-motivated, mature, and disciplined
  • Have excellent communication and analytical skills
  • Be a good team player with leadership potential
  • Have excellent command of English and Chinese, including Putonghua

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