At Hang Seng Bank, management trainees are graduates from all disciplines - engineering, biochemistry, law or even music.
"What makes a difference is soft skill competencies - those are more difficult to learn," says Louise Lam, Hang Seng Bank's head of human resources (HR).
Although competency lists often seem alike, she says companies do have preferences. "We require a subtle and steady personality. We want [trainees] to be innovative but have tenacity, and have a technically strong image," Lam says, adding that potential staff must also be "dependable, open and connected", and "deploy courageous integrity at all times".
"They should be down-to-earth, prudent in risk-taking but good at dealing with change and have a high energy level. They have to show us that they have integrity," adds Yvonne Chan, the bank's head of HR for corporate and commercial banking.
Hang Seng Bank's management trainee programme receives about 5,000 applications a year, including those from overseas. Candidates must complete an e-application with an online scoring system and aptitude test benchmarked to a "student norm" in Asia. This is followed by a group exercise and an interview. Those who pass will have to grapple with a hypothetical business case study.
"We are not [simply] looking at the answers, but how [applicants] handle the questions, analyse, present their case and defend it," says Lam.
Candidates must indicate whether they prefer retail banking and wealth management, corporate and commercial banking, financial control, or operations management. However, the bank does allow cross-streaming. "If they know the operations well, they can spot more business opportunities," Chan says.
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