Citi’s Singapore CEO explains how to get a graduate job at the bank

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From student to Citi

Citi is one of the latest recruiters of students and graduates in the Singapore banking sector. In 2015, for example, more than 350 interns passed through its ranks and a similar number are expected this year.

What does it take to get a graduate job or internship at Citi? We turned to Han Kwee Juan, chief executive officer of Citibank Singapore and a 25-year veteran of the firm, for advice.

What key skills are you looking for in new interns and graduates?

It’s not necessary to have a business or finance background to join Citi – we look for candidates with a strong interest in banking who have the right mindset and motivations. Important competencies include the ability to embrace innovation and deliver results, personal effectiveness, relentless drive, and the ability to work across teams.

When challenges do you currently face in your campus recruitment in Singapore?

One key challenge continues to be the war for talent. Not only is Citi competing for the best people against other companies in the financial industry, the war for talent has now extended in scope across all industries. Another key challenge is the entrance of the millennial generation into the workplace. Understanding their needs and taking into account their preferences is essential in ensuring their successful assimilation into the workplace.

How do you try to overcome these challenges and build your graduate workforce?

We have a comprehensive campus engagement strategy which has various programmes offered to university students at different points in their academic journey.

For example, the Citi Banking 101 Foundational Programme, which has involved about 450 students over the past two years, and Citi Student Mentorship Programme, which has 140 participants, cater to students from years one and two. They help them build their professional network and gain an insider’s knowledge of banking industry that they wouldn’t get in the classroom.

We also offer structured internship programmes to students in their penultimate year to help them gain a deeper insight into what it’s like to work in banking. The top students who perform well during their internship are typically accelerated to the final rounds in the selection process for full-time graduate programmes.

What’s the most important thing you want to learn about a candidate during a job interview?

I like to understand how they define and achieve success – their motivation for success and their journey towards a successful outcome. This allows me to understand the core of the person, their values, and their fit with Citi’s values and culture.

You joined Citi as a graduate yourself. What was your first year like?

I was attached to the markets business in my first year on Citi's Management Associate Programme. It was a fast-paced environment with sales and trading across various financial products and instruments.

While it was a steep learning curve for me, having specialised in a non-business field at school, I was able to broaden my product knowledge and gain insights into the intricacies of the business through on-the-job and classroom training. This experience was instrumental in helping me to develop an in-depth understanding of trading markets and risk management.

Tell us about the current Management Associate Programme in Singapore

The programme recruits between 16 to 20 budding bankers each year. It accelerates their career development by placing them in leadership positions and giving them broad yet in-depth exposure to front, middle and back-office roles across Citi's businesses over a 36-month period. The objective is to develop the multi-dimensional managerial talent needed to lead Citi in the years to come.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your career?

I wish I’d been told about the pace of the business. It was moving at the speed of the trading market and for a fresh banker, that was a lot to absorb. I would advise all young bankers to have the courage to suggest and try new ideas, and to not be afraid of making mistakes along the way.

Image credit: DragonImages, iStock, Thinkstock

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