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Language skills give edge

Published on Thursday, 30 Jun 2011
Associates and volunteers participated in a flag-selling activity last year.
Photo: CCB (Asia)
Grace Lee

A fast-track career path has opened up at China Construction Bank (Asia) for those interested in the professional stream of the banking industry. After three years of training fresh graduates for a banking career in the business stream, the bank has now set up a two-year training course for those who want to get into the middle and back-office functions rather than becoming a banker.

The bank was a part of Bank of America until 2006, when it became a wholly owned subsidiary of China Construction Bank Corporation (CCBC), one of the largest financial institutions on the mainland and the world by market capitalisation.

"[After we joined CCBC,] we launched an entirely different business strategy. We have a very comprehensive and fast-paced business expansion plan. We need many more talent in the long run," says Grace Lee, senior vice-president and head of human resources. "That is why in 2008, we launched a revamped management training programme, and this year another programme, focusing on the management pipeline for the professional stream of the banking industry."

Trainees of the three-year general banker programme are exposed to different business units with attachments to commercial and consumer banking and treasuries functions.

"Over 30 to 40 management trainees are still under the general banker management programme. This year, we would like to try another focus to feed the professional stream, but this doesn't mean we will not relaunch the three-year management trainee programme," says Lee. 

She adds that CCB (Asia) is an international operation, and talented associates - including management trainees - will have the opportunity to work in cities other than Hong Kong and Macau. "The mainland is one of the very convenient choices," she notes. "But we have to get them well-equipped and ready for adaptation to a different market before we send them over to other CCB (Asia) franchises."

Foreign languages provide a competitive edge. "It is not difficult to find trainees who have a basic training in Putonghua, and people who are not that familiar with it will have to pick it up," Lee says.

The bank, currently employing 2,000 associates in 50 branches in Hong Kong and Macau, has not set a limit for the number of recruits. "We target at least 10 trainees but [the final number] is determined by the quality of people we get," she says.

Applicants should be ambitious and passionate about developing a career in banking, and have the curiosity and aspiration to learn and to grow with the bank, says Lee. CCB (Asia) needs associates who want to improve and continuously develop themselves.

"We take graduates from top-tier universities in Hong Kong, the mainland and overseas," she says. "We are pretty open to [hiring] candidates from different disciplines."

Communication and people skills are also highly valued in this field. "Banking is a team-based environment so they should be able to work with the team," Lee says.

The necessary competencies and soft skills of shortlisted candidates will be evaluated in the bank's assessment centre.

Lee says graduates of psychology, business management and finance-related studies usually perform best.


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