All Over The Roadmap

There is no ceiling on the range of roles Standard Chartered Bank employees can progress into in Singapore, as long as they undergo one of the bank's 80 learning and development programmes to hone their skills.

It is not uncommon to hear of employees who have been with Standard Chartered Bank Singapore for a couple of decades, and of careers that have taken some rather unconventional trajectories for the finance sector.

Take Franky Tanudjojo for example, the bank’s Head of International Banking, whose career with Standard Chartered had from humble beginnings.

Having joined the financial institution some 17 years ago as a personal financial consultant at the Battery Road branch, Tanudjojo was quickly promoted to Branch Manager of the Holland Village branch, where he was placed in charge of operations.

During this time, he enrolled in several internally-conducted leadership classes, and received on-the-job training from more senior and experienced managers, all of which he says made him a better team lead.

Having demonstrated his capabilities as a leader, Standard Chartered then appointed Tanudjojo as the Head of Virtual Banking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2007. There, he was tasked with setting up a contact centre.

Tanudjojo was also given the opportunity to take on a more technical portfolio, despite his lack of experience in call centre operations or IT. What mattered more was his appetite for constant learning and development, a quality highly valued by the organisation. It was ultimately this quality that helped him to complete the assignment successfully.

This success, along with his willingness to up-skill, led him to yet another different portfolio in 2010, becoming General Manager of Standard Chartered's Indonesian offices, before finally landing in his current position.


Total number of employees at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore: 7000

Size of HR Team: 70

Key HR Focus Areas:

·Talent Development

·Talent Acquisition 

Crossing functions

This is a common practice at Standard Chartered, its Head of HR Charlotte Thng, who herself started out as a country HR Business Partner 13 years ago, tells HRM Asia. There are many employees who have grown into new portfolios a world away from their initial job functions.

That is because extensive talent development opportunities and flexible career progression paths form the foundation of Standard Chartered Bank's employee value proposition, she says.

Varied career trajectories like Tanudjojo's are possible because of the bank's simple and transparent policy on movement.

Employees are able to specialise in a spectrum of fields, on the condition that they have acquired the necessary competencies, undergone the relevant learning programmes for the role or job function, and demonstrated their ability to apply these lessons.

What this means is every employee, whatever their educational background, can take on a wide range of portfolios. They simply need to be ready to don their training wheels and put in the hours in classroom and on-the-job training.

To ensure equal opportunities across the organisation, HR has now formalised this practice. It provides all employees with a transparent job function-specific career and learning roadmap, that is published on the employee intranet portal.

The roadmap methodically displays what stage of their career employees are at through “job grades”, and what knowledge or skills they currently lack to advance to higher grades, or to be eligible for new roles.

All staff members are able to see for themselves what corresponding courses of study they have to undergo to advance into more senior positions, or to also move laterally across functions.

And they are advised to do so regularly, Thng says.

An Investment Adviser, for example, can take the typical path toward becoming a head of their department. But they can also choose other paths, such as a move towards a Product Manager, Relationship Manager, or Investment Strategy role. A Product Analyst can choose the path towards eventually becoming Product Head, but has other options including roles in the Process and Delivery area.

All they have to do is leverage on a few of the bank’s 80 learning and development programmes to prepare for the move.

“We are very open about the internal job grades because we want people to look at the higher job grades and aspire to reach them,” says Thng.

“Whether you want to be a sales manager, an acquisitions specialist, or a business banking person, it doesn't matter. There are various career paths you can go into.”

Career conversations

Should employees (literally) not make the grade, all is not lost. Managers will sit down one-on-one with such team members to give advice or recommendations on what they have to do to continuing moving things forward.

In fact, line managers have a set five “key conversations” with each of their reporting staff annually.

At the beginning of each year, line managers set job objectives with team members. This is followed by career conversations, where employees share what their ambitions and long-term goals are.

But it is the learning and development conversation that is most pivotal, Thng says. “This is when managers analyse a staff member's strengths and weaknesses, and have honest discussions about which courses they should undertake to brush up on their weaker areas.”

Tanudjojo attributes his own personal success to such conversations with his mentors and bosses, as well as being afforded such a wide range of opportunities through the bank’s significant investment in learning and development.

“We're guided by the aspiration to be an employer of choice”, says Thng.

“Our philosophy is that we should not just take care of the high-potentials, but we should take care of everybody.”

Holistic learning

To differentiate its talent development strategy, Standard Chartered deliberately adopted a holistic approach to learning and development, with both soft and technical skills celebrated.

The bank categorises skills development into four main “pillars”, Thng says. These are: Professional Development, Business and Function Learning, Leadership Practice, and SkillsFuture programmes.

Professional Development trains individuals on soft skills, such as how to become a better presenter or the art of negotiation.

The other three pillars are classified as technical learning, designed to impart expertise relating to a particular field.

Classes under each learning pillar are then further segmented according to the bank's business divisions: Corporate and Institutional Banking, Retail Banking, and Information Technology and Operations. 

For example, under the Business and Function Learning pillar, the Corporate and Institutional Banking arm will train its corporate relationship managers who have to meet with clients, treasurers, and financial controllers, on the latest technical analysis and financial tools.

One of the bank's newest tools is called cognitive financial planning, which helps managers in this division examine financial numbers without cognitive bias.

With a staff population of 7,000, Standard Chartered naturally has many people managers. Thng says it was therefore necessary for Leadership Practice to be created as a standalone component of the learning and development roadmap.

First-time managers undergo the “New Manager Programme”, before later taking on the higher-level “Management Mastery Programme” a few years down the track.

As managers progress to the highest job grades on the roadmap, there are programmes like “Leaders Drive Performance”, which trains senior-level staff on factors beyond simply being good people managers, in order for them to also become experts in driving the business.

In August 2016, Standard Chartered also launched its S$2 million SkillsFuture@sc programme.

This specifically covers both transferable soft skills that employees are able to apply across different roles, as well as the essential technical and industry-specific skills required by Standard Chartered’s operations, says Thng. Under SkillsFuture@sc, staff are not just able to take up an approved course under the Singapore government’s SkillsFuture umbrella, but also any one of the 50 organisation-sponsored courses that have been carefully identified and sourced for.

To further encourage and incentivise Standard Chartered employees to take up more training, each staff member is entitled to three days of paid training leave per annum, Thng says.

“We tell our people that at the very least, we want them to attend two things – one technical or professional development course, plus one SkillsFuture course per year,” says Thng.

Brown bag lunches

Mentorship from the highest ranks of the organisation also serves as a form of learning for Standard Chartered employees.

This even includes CEO Judy Hsu, who speaks regularly with talent through scheduled phone call sessions. During these, all employees are able to dial in and ask any questions they like, from requests for career advice to what is happening across the business.

HR also organises cross-functional “brown bag lunches” for country managers and team heads to meet with rank-and-file staff from other departments. These events allow both groups to chat about their work and career issues in a casual setting. Thng says these are kept deliberately cross-functional because that allows individuals to have a better idea of where they stand in the organisation's ecosystem.

Today, there are some 240 employees who have been with Standard Chartered Singapore for more than 25 years, with one employee even having worked with the bank for 49 years.

Thng says that with all these investments and effort put into talent development, this number of long-term stayers can only grow.

“We find that people do want to take these courses up and they do find time for training,” she says. 

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