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Human Resources talks exclusively to Carrie Leung, CEO of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers and its general manager, Philip Kam, to learn more about how it's creating a diverse talent pipeline for Hong Kong’s financial sector

Human Resources: What are you looking to achieve with the Banking Talent Programme?
Carrie Leung:
This is a very meaningful project initiated by the HKMA (Hong Kong Monetary Authority). It’s a new way of helping the fresh graduates to join the job market, especially during this period of time – which is something like a recession.

Because for graduates trying to get a job, it could be quite stressful. The idea is to provide short-term relief and also a valuable learning opportunity to the graduates. Hopefully after the programme, they will stay in the industry and in this way extend the talent pool for the future growth of the Hong Kong banking sector. We are hoping for a fruitful outcome and that the students can get a permanent job.

Is this initiative an opportunity being taken up due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 to keep fresh grads engaged and in the loop for when the economy bounces back?
Philip Kam:
That’s really the intention of the programme. But the banking industry also has a talent gap as well. The industry itself is constantly looking for a new supply of entrants into the market. So it serves the purpose of the banks, as well as the students.

With COVID-19, the opportunities of employment for new graduates is obviously reduced. Some of it is (due to) demand and some of it is just the management of time, while the HR departments in the banks are concentrating on other issues.

But – you’re right – the programme is really there to serve the graduate community in this specific environment.  

How many fresh grads would you estimate will undertake the Banking Talent Programme?
The number of available positions is around 300.

What sort of graduates are the banks looking for?
In the past, (banks) had a certain idea of the candidates they were looking for. Generally speaking, that would be law, accounting and business students. This programme, however, is open to all students – and the banks are encouraged to look at the graduates in a different light.

Because the market is currently being disrupted, the types of roles that are available require different skill sets. By opening up to all types of faculties, the types of applicants that banks will see will be different from what they are used to seeing.

So the desire for diversity is also a factor in the banks’ thinking?
Yes. A lot of banks have done their own internal studies and they now recognise the advantages of having a diverse workforce. When it comes to things like generating ideas. When it comes to making a team better.

We used to think of diversity as male versus female. But it also means other things – ethnicity for instance and our background of education. These are things that helps banks to maximise the effectiveness of their team.

So a programme such as this is open to all graduates, from all faculties.  It is open to all types of students, so not just limited to Hong Kong permanent residents but also international students who just happened to graduate from a Hong Kong university.

This programme is hosted by the HKMA – they are really the driving force behind this. They are the ones that have marshalled all the participating banks together. Our role is really as programme administrator, so we will liaise with all the interested parties.

From our perspective, what we really want to achieve is for these graduates to get their foot in the door to be able to demonstrate their abilities. And hopefully from that they can get a permanent offer from either the bank that hired them as a graduate or another bank that recognises their talent.  

Which banks do you see as being the biggest employers of graduates who successfully complete the Banking Talent Programme?
There’s a total of 43 organisations – made up of traditional and virtual banks. Included in that are four stored value operators as well (such as Octopus and Alipay). In terms of the number of graduates being employed, obviously the three note-issuing banks in Hong Kong – being the Bank of China, Standard Chartered and HSBC – are the biggest employers as well.

The hiring reflects the size of those banks. But participating banks also includes other banks as well, namely global banks represented in Hong Kong (such as Citibank and Julius Baer) and regional banks like DBS and local banks – mainly the retail banks in Hong Kong.