talent in the financial services field, the engine of much of the
economy’s growth, can be daunting – especially since April
2007, when the Chinese government loosened restrictions on
foreign ownership of local banks. Multinational financial services firms have since flooded China.
The gap between employee supply and demand is especially
wide when it comes to candidates capable of moving into senior leadership roles. Many recruits fresh out of universities
lack the language and other skills to take on even entry-level
positions in global companies. Nevertheless, salaries in China
have risen out of proportion to the expertise of the talent pool,
creating unrealistic expectations among potential employees.
from these other industries; it was able to offer higher pay and
significantly greater opportunities for career advancement.
Induction and orientation. SCB runs a standard induction
program, but it offers an intensive version for its raw-talent
hires – employees who demonstrate the desired behaviors and
values but have no skills in financial services. This program
introduces recruits to the company’s culture and values and
teaches them the ethical management of financial services, including money-laundering prevention and codes of conduct.
Technical training. SCB’s retail division offers extensive
training, and relationship managers in its wholesale business
must complete a rigorous five-day “boot camp.” All trainees
In emerging economies, companies have no choice but
to nurture local talent – and those bright young recruits
want to see others like them in positions of power.
Moreover, China’s one-child policy has created a unique problem. As one manager put it, “Consider that millions of young
Chinese have no siblings and no cousins. It’s not too difficult to
see how the child can become the center of attention for the
entire family. It’s not easy giving critical feedback to someone
who is not used to it and who has lots of employment options
Recall SCB’s former difficulty in recruiting leaders for its
banking operations in China. The company’s strategy illustrates our framework in particularly illuminating ways.
Katherine Tsang, the CEO of SCB China since 2005, says,
“These challenges forced us to tell the SCB story with passion,
but to make sure that our culture and management practices
matched that story in an honest way. We tell lots of stories
here about our mission, our sense of purpose, and our brand,
and the many opportunities that young people will get when
they come to work for us. But we need to keep those promises.”
Together with Geraldine Haley, SCB’s group head of talent
management, Tsang created what the company calls the “raw
talent superhighway” for SCB China, which is designed to
attract and retain good people. The bank emphasizes acquiring specialized skills, followed by broad managerial training
and development, followed by global networks and leadership
development. Several components went into the highway’s
Selection. Tsang’s and Haley’s teams conducted extensive
analyses of the skills and talents required by both retail and
commercial bankers in China. Then they investigated non-banking industries, such as travel and tourism, that had developed similar expertise, especially in customer relations. SCB
China set out to aggressively recruit promising employees
must pass a strict examination before they are exposed to the
bank’s customers and clients. Skilled and seasoned managers
conduct most of these sessions.
Professional and management development. SCB’s raw
recruits also get intensive training in the English language,
communication and listening skills, and business etiquette,
and they have a variety of ongoing educational opportunities.
They receive career guidance and access to networking sessions, enabling them to explore different paths at the bank. In
addition, SCB offers the Great Manager Program, which has
won best-practice awards in China and elsewhere in Asia for
its creativity and effectiveness in management development.
The company has regional learning centers throughout China
and e-learning platforms, so development is accessible to all.
SCB is forming strategic partnerships with Chinese universities, both to strengthen relationships for recruitment and to
offer those who join the company ongoing professional development at those schools.
Stretch assignments and deployment. One SCB message
to recruits is captured in “Go places…,” which has a double
meaning: It tells people that if they join the bank and do well
they will move ahead in their careers, and it reminds them
that SCB is a global company with opportunities around the
world. Chinese talent is often moved elsewhere, including to
the group head office in London.
Personal development and performance management.
SCB employees explore their passions and strengths, with
coaching and guidance, to find a starting point for their careers. Although the SCB environment is nurturing, Tsang and
other leaders don’t hesitate to give regular and often tough
feedback. “We deal with problems openly and honestly, and