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Mentorship maketh the bank
Published on Friday, 18 Nov 2011
Illustration: Bay Leung
Candy Leung
Betty Tsui

Mentoring is a powerful personal development and empowerment tool, and is prevalent in the banking industry. It is an effective means of helping individuals to progress in their careers by means of a partnership - that between mentor and mentee.

The rationale of mentoring is to support and encourage employees to manage their own learning, so that they can maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the company asset they want to be.

Standard Chartered Bank's Candy Leung, head of learning and talent development for Hong Kong and Japan, outlines the mentoring programmes of her employer. "The bank operates a number of mentoring programmes, including `Development and Networking Alliance' (DNA), one-on-one mentoring and reverse-mentoring for junior staff to share knowledge with senior staff," she says.

Standard Chartered's programmes are highly advanced and finely tuned, as Leung explains. "One of the key programmes is our group mentoring programme, DNA, which was introduced in 2009.

It is a nine-month group mentoring programme for the bank's talents.

As its name suggests, it offers a platform for our talent to learn from, and network with, both the DNA leader and fellow members," Leung elaborates.

The programme begins with a session to announce the official launch of the timetable of learning. Each DNA leader - the mentor - will take on a team of four or five mentees.

Meetings driven by each DNA team are a core component. Mentees are free to propose learning objectives, topics, alternative formats and approaches to their mentors. The only requirement is that each team has to organise at least five meetings in the nine-month period. Leung says the most popular topics tend to be career development, change management, and work-life balance.

The final element of the programme is the closing ceremony which acknowledges the achievements of its participants.

"We all live and work in rapidly changing times. To continuously improve the programme, [Standard Chartered] adds some new elements to our DNA each year," Leung adds.

"The programme utilises small group mentoring to allow members to learn not only from leaders, but also from other team members, both within their own teams and across other teams."

The benefits of mentoring are wide-ranging. "DNA is a win-win strategy creating mutual benefits for both the leaders and the members, who take ownership of their learning and development by setting their own learning objectives and design the content, instead of conventional uni-directional learning."

Leung continues: "This allows mentees to learn at their own pace, style and preferences. DNA also offers a very good opportunity for them to interact with others from different departments in the bank."

Another benefit is that DNA enables the bank to grow leaders, in order to grow talent. "For DNA leaders, it provides an opportunity for them to practise and enhance their leadership and coaching skills by leading a group of young talents," says Leung. 

Another firm believer in the power of mentoring is UBS. "UBS businesses provide employees at all levels with a wide range of mentoring programmes designed to develop both mentor and mentee," says Betty Tsui, deputy chief executive officer, UBS Wealth Management (Hong Kong). "At its heart, our philosophy regards employee development as a shared responsibility, in which employee, manager and the wider group all play extremely important roles." 

UBS's attachment is based on uncomplicated business logic. "Mentoring programmes enhance employees' technical skills and confidence. This allows us to improve the service that we offer our clients. It's that simple," says Tsui.

The tradition of mentoring is deeply entrenched at UBS, she adds, and the bank recognises that the importance of sponsorship is central to mentoring at UBS.

"Research by the Harvard Business Review and other institutions of global renown reveals that career progression is enhanced by the presence of a sponsor - a proactive advocate," Tsui says. "Minority groups are less likely to have natural sponsors, so we created a framework that provides sponsors comprising senior figures in the organisation."

Mentoring is intertwined with an additional key UBS goal. "In mentoring, our overarching objective is to create a culture in which employees thrive equally, gender differences are regarded as a strength, and in which different approaches improve the service we offer to clients, and, subsequently, to our bottom line," she adds.


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