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Cassandra Cheng, OCBC Bank

Banking on internal talent

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Cassandra Cheng, head of learning and development at OCBC Bank, speaks about the philosophy of growing one’s own timber through a slew of leadership development programmes for high potentials and graduates.

At OCBC Bank, we view talent management and succession planning as key focus areas vital to the success and future growth of the company. We have a dedicated team tasked to drive talent management for the bank.

Talent management is, as a matter of fact, a management-level agenda for us. At the group level, we hold an annual strategic talent review meeting chaired by the group CEO, along with core management members, to review leadership bench-strength, succession planning and discuss development plans for key talent.

At the business-unit level, each business head holds at least two talent reviews annually to review and evaluate talent development plans and progress, as well as create action plans to ensure strong leadership bench-strength.

Finally, at the HR level, we have a process to put identified talent through a fast-track route for them to assume bigger responsibilities, through stretch assignments, which include overseas postings, job rotations and career progression.

Their performance is tracked to ensure they possess the potential to take on senior management roles in the future.

Putting a finger on talent

To ensure high-potential talent within OCBC is promptly identified and brought to the surface, a talent review council within the different business units holds at least two meetings a year to discuss new potential talent and develop career plans for their development.

The council spends a significant amount of time deliberating on their performance and growth potential. Other factors taken into consideration include the employees’ core values, motivations and aspirations.

We also adopt a structured hiring approach to identify young high-potential talent to join OCBC Bank. Our Post-Graduate Management Associate Programme (PGMA) targets highly qualified individuals with a Masters degree with two to six years of work experience in both banking and non-banking fields.

To ensure high-potential talent within OCBC is promptly identified and brought to the surface, a talent review council within the different business units holds at least two meetings a year to discuss new potential talent and develop career plans for their development.

This is unique as we believe in the value of their transferable skills from their non-banking work experience. For instance, we have had scholars from the civil service department, as well as psychologists and engineers take part.

Under this programme, these associates undergo a comprehensive 18-month induction programme, including job rotations, project assignments and international assignments to be assessed on their leadership and potential qualities.

Today, many of our associates have transitioned successfully from non-banking industries to leadership positions in OCBC Bank. Over the past 10 years, more than 250 employees have joined us through our PGMA programme.

In 2012, we started a new initiative called OCBC Young Bankers Programme, targeted at fresh graduates keen to embark on a banking career.

Over a 12-month period, we give these young bankers plenty of opportunities to learn and develop their skills to excel in their career. They are assessed on their performance and leadership qualities by their respective managers and mentors.

About 60 young bankers have joined us since commencement and we are expecting another 45 candidates to join us in July this year. We will continue to assess the top 30% of each cohort for another 12 to 18 months before we short-list them for broad-based functional and leadership development.

Last year these young professionals went on to join various divisions in OCBC Bank, including group consumer financial services, group investment banking and group operations and technology.

In addition, our structured internship programme opens our doors to about 100 undergraduates per year, serving as a natural platform to identify high-potential fresh graduates.

We take talent in as undergraduate interns from the three local universities – National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University.

The programme then allows them to gain insights into the industry and to get hands-on experience with real-time projects. Interns, who perform well and show a strong fit with our culture and values, are offered jobs with the bank upon their graduation.

In 2014, we offered jobs to about 60% of our graduating interns.

Our structured internship programme opens our doors to about 100 undergraduates per year, serving as a natural platform to identify high-potential fresh graduates.

Building bench-strength

In addition to our initiatives for high potentials, we strongly believe in growing our own talent through various leadership development programmes.

For instance, we have partnered with INSEAD for an executive development programme that was launched in 2008 to develop our future leaders. It is an annual two-week programme where participants get to work on projects to be presented to the management committee, with the opportunity to implement them.

To date, over 240 of our employees have gone through this programme, including colleagues from across the OCBC Group such as OCBC NISP, Great Eastern, Bank of Singapore and Lion Global.

Another way to engage with our younger talent is the Future Leaders programme launched in 2012. It is specifically for those who are aged 35 years and below, mobile (able to take on overseas postings), and have the potential to succeed senior management roles in the next five to 15 years.

Our structured and diligent process of identifying and developing talent has yielded a strong pool of internal and ready leaders who are helping to grow the company.

Each one has a tailored development plan that includes an overseas posting, exposure to different job functions such as audit, commercial banking and credit, and will be mentored by a member of OCBC Bank’s senior management team or even the CEO himself.

We also launched the OCBC Smart Asia programme in 2014 to equip our leaders for future challenges and new competencies, especially targeted towards growth in Asia.

For us at OCBC Bank, talent management is a long-term journey which has been a core management practice for many years. Our structured and diligent process of identifying and developing talent has yielded a strong pool of internal and ready leaders who are helping to grow the company.

Today, almost all of our senior management vacancies are filled with talent groomed internally. They have strong engagement and institutional knowledge about the organisation which are key in driving our expansion in Singapore and the region.

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