Around 300 graduates and interns are joining Societe Generale in Asia this year in a rolling junior recruitment drive.
SocGen’s regional hiring numbers, which exclude its global solutions centre in Bangalore, will be similar next year, despite slowing economic growth in China and senior job cuts in the Asian banking sector.
Hong Kong, the French firm’s main hub in Asia, has the largest graduate intake, followed by Singapore and then China, says Matthew Clowry, head of Asia Pacific human resources.
Unlike almost all other global banks in Asia, however, SocGen has no yearly application deadline for internships and traineeships. And there’s no set time of the year when new hires start work.
“Instead of a fixed annual graduate programme, we recruit on rolling basis throughout the year whenever a department tells us they need new hires – so opportunities crop up a lot,” says Clowry. “And there’s a growing demand among graduates in Asia to start their careers at different times of the year, not just straight after they finish university.”
SocGen is also going against the grain by not rotating its graduates across different business units. Traineeships last 12 months and you spend the whole time in the team that hired you.
“We think this works much better than a traditional programme as our trainees get properly immersed in the department and learn more in-depth skills in that area,” Clowry explains.
“I think it takes at least six months to get up to speed in any new job and if you’re doing a rotational programme – with three to four-month stints in each team – that’s not enough time to do anything very useful.”
Meanwhile, Asian internships at SocGen last between one and six months and don’t always take place over the summer. “We fit them around the individual and their study needs,” says Clowry.
Popular grad jobs at SocGen in Asia
SocGen’s global markets business “gets a lot of applications”, says Clowry. “A lot of grads in Asia still want to become investment bankers.”
Applicant numbers are also high for technology roles. “Despite computer science and engineering graduates having a lot more career options than 10 years ago, graduates are starting to see that banks have embraced the latest technologies, development methodologies and culture,” says Clowry.
“I think the message is starting to resonate that tech roles at banks can be as exciting as working in a big tech company or a fintech.”
SocGen is also changing the way it communicates with technology students. “For example, from October we’re inviting students from Hong Kong universities to actually sit in on presentations where our tech teams update the business on their progress and new initiatives. We want to make it more dynamic than simply listening to HR.”
Hiring top graduates in Asia comes with its challenges, however. “For me the main one is that we’re not quite as well known in Asia as we are in France. If you mention Soc Gen in France people always know who you’re talking about. In Asia we’re competing against some organisations that are more well known,” says Clowry.
SocGen’s Asian recruitment process
SocGen recruits primarily from local universities in Asia, says Clowry. The hiring process varies between departments, but typically there are two interview rounds with the team and one with HR. The firm doesn’t use psychometric testing.
“The department will focus on your technical skills, and in the HR interview we’ll examine your values, personality traits, interpersonal skills, and way of thinking.”
Clowry says he likes to pose “multifaceted questions which ask three or four different things”. “This tests your ability to listen and then logically set out your answers to each point one by one.”
“I also ask people about what they think SocGen stands for. When answering you could give an example of a recent success we’ve had or talk about our market penetration in different areas.”
So what questions should you ask a graduate interviewer at SocGen?
“You could give an example of a significant deal that SocGen has worked on recently – then give your view on it and ask questions about it. But if you haven’t done your research it soon becomes obvious that you’re just going through the motions and it’s just another interview with another organisation.”
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