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Eight ways to land a better job in Asian banking this year

Promotion Asian banking

The post-bonus hiring season may not be as busy as usual this year in Singapore and Hong Kong. So if you’re looking to get ahead in Asian banking in 2017, aiming for an internal promotion could be a better bet than searching for a new job.

Here’s what to do if you want to move up the ranks over the next 12 months.

1. Be ‘visible’…

“In an Asian cultural context some people find that pushing personal agendas goes against the grain, so they miss out on promotions,” says Jeremy Stunt, a former COO of cash equities at Standard Chartered, now a Hong Kong executive coach. “Some people are just not sufficiently visible. In a fast-paced bank, you can’t expect colleagues two levels up to notice you automatically. If senior management don’t know who you are or how good you are, you won’t be front of mind at promotion time.”

2….By creating your ‘brand’

“It’s very easy to get lost in a big bank, so devote time towards building your personal brand,” says Ovidiu Olea, a former HSBC associate director, now CEO of Hong Kong start-up Valoot Technologies. “Small things like buying the team coffee every Tuesday morning or wearing funky socks can actually help you stand out and get known. In a bank, your brand goes ahead of you, telling colleagues your story. So once you’ve built it, use it to extend your network.”

3. Chase your moonshots

“Life in a large bank can be a bit of a grind for most people, so take on a pet project that aims very high and gives people around you inspiration to achieve more,” says Olea. “These moonshot projects can get you remembered for your original thought, energy and can-do attitude, which will help your promotion chances.”

4. Impress managers in other teams

People in other teams may help determine your promotion, especially if you’re senior and subject to a promotion committee. “So to stand out you’ll need to create cross-business-line exposure and generate value beyond your core area,” says Russell Graham, a banking consultant and former head of solution delivery at Standard Chartered. “For example, a transaction banking salesperson could look to generate FX revenues – and publicise the fact – to get support from senior management in FX. You could also volunteer for cross-business working groups.”

5. Improve your social skills

“To influence people beyond your immediate team you’ll also need to be good at developing relationships,” says Stunt. “It can be hard to let go of tangible near-term goals to focus on these softer skills, especially if your education and work experience have always focused on mastering the technicalities. But all the research shows that successful leaders have strong social skills. This is particularly important for engaging with people across the diverse cultures of Asia. If you can’t address this, you won’t move up in your bank.”

6. And your time keeping

Bosses in Asia tend to favour staff who stay late in the office and are habitually punctual to meetings. “We’ve all worked with people who perform well and have an enviable repertoire of skills, but are constantly late for meetings and are absent from the office at key times,” says recruiter James Carss. “Their habits and attitude often hold them back from promotions and greater recognition, particularly in roles where they need to lead from the front.”

7. Have international experience

Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are clamouring to hire local banking professionals who’ve worked and/or studied overseas. “Having experience outside of Asia can be a distinct advantage,” says Carss. “Global banks often need employees who can act as a bridge between the local office and their headquarters. Lacking this exposure can hold you back, particularly if part of the promotion decision is made overseas. I’ve known cases where promotions have been made less on merit and more on who senior management feel comfortable with.”

8. Take on managerial tasks

Constantly beavering away at solo assignments isn’t a ticket to promotion because it stifles your ability to develop the managerial skills you’ll need to step up. “Develop yourself in the direction you want to move,” says Henry Chamberlain, a Hong Kong-based management consultant and former head of selection at Standard Chartered. “Sometimes that means being selfish and searching out assignments that show off your management skills. I frequently interview managers across Asia and consistently find that successful ones spend 20% to 30% of their time managing and developing people. If you’re not in that ballpark, think about putting in more time and effort.”


Image credit: DragonImages, getty

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