Jul 5, 2011

In tackling the talent shortage: Training and grad recruitment are the key solutions

Staff training to improve retention and graduate hiring to boost long-term headcounts are two critical ways of trying to tackle the talent shortage which is currently afflicting foreign banks in China.

Sam Lee, partner, Banking Talents Recruitment, says for the next five years, employees will need more training to be integrated into new firms and to learn their culture and business strategies. Banks that fail to invest in staff retention programmes – such as training for personal growth, career development and counselling – will lose people to competitors, he adds.

Mike Zhang, manager, financial services division, Robert Walters Shanghai, agrees: “Specific training towards individual systems, methodology etc should be conducted to help the up-and-comer to learn. Most banks are offering systems training to improve efficiency; product training to improve staff knowledge and product coverage; as well as compliance training to improve risk awareness and qualifications.”

But there is a dangerous trend emerging because firms are often so desperate for talent that they are using their HR budgets to poach from other foreign banks, rather than to invest in training. According to a Shanghai recruiter, who asked not to be named, an HR manager at a medium-sized foreign bank recently said all he is doing in the current market is hiring people from competitors who can do the job from day-one. “He’s paying whatever it takes to get them. His bank needs to recruit quickly, and he admits to not having much time for training and development,” says the recruiter.

Zhang agrees than foreign banks can seem short sighted as they typically require experienced people to give them immediate client relationships. Besides training, Lee says foreign banks are increasing their graduate recruitment programmes because the financial sector is still growing in China – for example firms are opening more branches in second and third-tier cities. Zhang adds: “Most big commercial banks run their own graduate training programmes. The headcount for these is based on future business needs and availability of the bank’s training resources. But the dilemma is that trainees will leave after about five years of rotation within their respective banks. Therefore it’s a headache for management to maintain all these trainees.”

Foreign banks inevitably target top-tier institutions, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University, Zhejiang University, University of International Business and Economics, and Shanghai University of Finance & Economics.