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How to begin a banking career at DBS

Debbit Chan

DBS is currently sorting through applications for its 2015 management associate programme in Singapore and across Asia.

While you don’t necessarily need to have a finance degree or even an internship under your belt to get a place on the associate scheme, you do need to display an “innovative” mindset, says Debbie Chan, vice president, campus strategy and graduate recruitment at DBS.

Chan chatted to us about the “fast track” programme and explained how to kick start a career at DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest bank.

How many people are you recruiting for your 2015 management associate programme?

We’re looking to hire about 80 to 100 management associates across Asia. Our focus is on the quality of candidates, not quantity.

What’s the hiring timetable?

It’s a two-year programme, designed to groom future leaders and is open to graduates with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees who have no more than two years of work experience. The application and interview processes began in August and we are close to completing selection. Successful candidates will start end July to early August 2015.

Tell us about your interview and selection process.

There are four stages to the process, which takes around two months to complete. These include video interviews, competency tests, and verbal and numerical ability tests. Shortlisted candidates will also have to go through an assessment process comprising of three case studies. Those who clear this assessment will then proceed to two final interviews with management.

How important is doing an internship to your chances of being selected as a management associate?

DBS offers a management internship programme, which allows undergraduate students to be immersed in the fast-paced environment of Asian banking. It’s is a great way to gain exposure to different sectors and to identify your working style or preferences. Students can also hone interpersonal and communication skills in the workplace, which tends to be more dynamic than school or peer-to-peer settings. Ultimately, this helps them make more informed career decisions after they graduate. On average, about 25% of our interns get converted to associates.

Aside from an internship and excellent academics, what else do you look for in associates?

Asia is growing at an unprecedented pace and broad trends affecting the global economy, technology and the banking industry are changing the landscape that DBS operates in. Against this backdrop, DBS is focused on being innovative, so we’re looking for people who have an innovative mindset. Being innovative isn’t just about being tech-savvy or great with social media; it’s about being able to embrace change, look for smarter ways to improve your work, and deliver simpler solutions for customers.

Which departments do your management associates get to work in?

It’s a two-year cross-franchise leadership programme, offering the most promising candidates the opportunity to fast-track their careers and develop the fundamental skills to prepare them for the future of banking. It includes campus training throughout the different phases of the programme, designed to provide technical knowledge and soft skills. They also do three seven-month stints across different business areas, such as institutional banking, consumer banking, treasury and markets, risk, finance, technology and operations, wealth management and digital banking. To help the bank execute our strategy, we continually assess the areas in which we need to develop talents.

Separately from this management associate programme, we also run graduate associate programmes for those looking to specialise straight away in one of these divisions: technology & operations, retail sales and branch banking, or small and medium enterprise (SME) banking.

Which universities do you target for Singapore-based management associates?

We take part in career fairs and organise annual campus recruitment talks, workshops and exclusive networking events for penultimate-year undergraduates from the local universities (NTU, SMU, NUS and SUTD) in Singapore. As part of this, students have the opportunity to network with the bank’s management and with people who’ve already participated in the management associate programme. About 60% to70% of our management associates are recruited from local institutions, while returning Singaporeans or Singapore permanent residents who’ve studied overseas make up the majority of the rest.

And which type of degree courses?

Our graduate programmes are open to graduates from all disciplines as we place a strong emphasis on overall potential. At the beginning of the programmes, we provide comprehensive training to help associates build a good foundation in banking knowledge before their rotations to the different business areas. So it’s not necessary to have a business or finance degree – we believe that diversity of experience and academic training will enrich the programme as a whole and benefit the cohort.

What makes a graduate job at DBS unique?

At DBS, a programme manager works with the management associates to design individual development plans based on their individual strengths, career interests and our business needs. Management associates who come top of their cohort in each country also have an opportunity to go for a two-year overseas assignment to further enhance their career development. And because our head office and senior management team are in Asia, all strategic decision making for the group takes place right here in Asia. Management associates will know the decision makers and be where the action is. DBS is rapidly expanding in the region, from India to Indonesia to Greater China, and this growth provides immense career opportunities.


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