A graduate management programme is not only a fast track to a higher position, it also allows candidates who originally didn't study the required subjects to be immersed in a company's business and learn everything on the job.
HSBC is now recruiting fresh and recent graduates with up to three years of work experience for its new General Banking Management Programme. The company has put the emphasis on right attitude rather than on academic credentials.
"We are flexible about what the person studied in university," says Margaret Cheng Wai-ching, head of the bank's human resources, regional personal financial services and Hong Kong. "We look for graduates with general qualities like good commercial acumen and communication skills. We look for these traits based on what they have done in school and their extra-curricular activities."
Applicants should be able to demonstrate through their school work or extra-curricular activities that they are bright, have drive and ambition as well as leadership abilities.
Although the opportunity is given to a wide selection of graduates, it is not easy to get in.
"The HSBC management training programme looks for future leaders, so it is selective and competitive," Cheng says.
The 24-month programme has three core placements of six months each, which offer work experience in specialised fields such as retail banking or corporate service delivery. The three placements depend on the bank's needs as well as on the graduates' individual interests.
"We start with an orientation programme. We have a comprehensive e-learning curriculum, as well as classroom training, teaching the fundamentals of banking," she says.
Participants also receive basic management training.
Graduates join a mentoring programme with a high-performing senior manager who can share some work experience or give career advice.
"Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship and we try to get mentors who have experienced the programme, but that is not always necessary," she says.
Towards the end of the second year, graduates from all around the world get together in London. They network with each other, meet senior managers in Britain and participate in training in more general subjects such as micro economy and strategy.
"Everybody gets to go unless they have performance problems," Cheng says.
Once they finish the two-year training, they will be set on their medium-term career.
"Graduates will be placed in a defined role that best matches their skills, career interest and the bank's needs. They can decide later if they want to specialise or want to try something else," she adds.
Learning on the job
Core placements provide an in-depth understanding of the bank's three core businesses.
Three shorter elective placements offer exposure to some of the supporting functions.
Formal classroom training, overseas exposure and mentorship make up the rest of the programme.