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Here for good and greatness
Published on Thursday, 25 Aug 2011
Banking trainee Ernest Ma (left) and regional HR head Nita Law.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

Even the most ambitious graduates will find Standard Chartered Bank's International Graduate Programme exciting as it takes them from an international induction in Malaysia through two years of learning and job rotations to a graduation ceremony in Singapore, Shanghai or Kuala Lumpur.

However, only the best and brightest need apply, as the company has to go through 3,500 applications for next year's programme.

"The programme receives an overwhelming response every year. The bank handpicks about two dozen graduates from various universities through a demanding global selection mechanism," says Nita Law, North East Asia regional head of human resources of Standard Chartered Bank (HK).

"An international perspective including diversity and inclusion, flexibility, good interpersonal skills, self-motivation and a willingness to learn will be a good starting point for career-driven individuals [who wish to apply]," Law adds.

Application is followed by a series of online tests measuring logical and numerical reasoning and assessing behaviour. There are also three essay questions requiring short answers. Only the top 20 per cent of the applicants pass these tests, which are then followed by a phone or face-to-face interview.

The final interview for the talented few takes up the best part of the day, with a group debate, presentation, written case study and one-hour interview with challenging questions.

Ernest Ma, who has been a wholesale banking trainee with the bank for a year, advises applicants to get to know the bank and understand their own aspirations.

"You should know what Standard Chartered's capabilities and focuses are, both geographically and business-wise. Subsequently, you should be clear about what you want to achieve. It is also vital that you can demonstrate why this programme will allow you to achieve your goals and how you can contribute to the programme," Ma says.

He adds that he enjoyed the induction, which included sharing and group activities.

Ma also got to meet 160 graduates from different countries and network with the bank's senior employees. He says he is grateful for the opportunity to explore the business through job rotations, which exposed him to relationship management, foreign exchange derivatives, funds and insurance, risk management and equity research.

In terms of international exposure, there are opportunities for overseas training and rotation to one of Standard Chartered's major footprint countries. "The programme allows us to build a broad knowledge of different businesses and markets," says Ma.

To help trainees fit in and develop, they are all allocated a business sponsor and a buddy, typically someone from the previous intakes.

The bank wants to build on strengths, and is keen to identify natural talents in trainees, says Law. "We believe that building on strengths is the most productive and satisfying way of creating individual and organisational performance," she adds.

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