Standard Chartered's management trainee programme is not just about finding the best possible bankers - it is about picking the best people to fit in with the bank's culture, says Anna Sampson, head of the bank's resourcing and talent management in Hong Kong. 'Talent is important. But at the end of the day, if I can quote my director Peter Wong, 'we are not recruiting just good bankers, we are recruiting good people who are responsible citizens of the world',' Ms Sampson says. Standard Chartered takes it for granted that those chosen for the programme will excel in the banking environment, prompting the organisation to put as much, if not more, emphasis on candidates' personal qualities. 'We look at whether a person is giving back to the community. Do they take an interest in issues outside of their studies? And are they aware of global issues such as HIV? We think these are important traits of a 'good' person.' The bank defines a 'good' person as someone who, besides being talented, believes and lives by the same five values as those at the core of the bank's culture: responsiveness, courage, internationalism, creativity and trustworthiness. 'The ideal cultural fit is someone who has the drive to succeed. Someone who cares about people, who is a good team worker, and who has the integrity and values that we believe are important,' she says. The programme targets fresh graduates in any discipline and those who have a maximum of two years' work experience. It is open to all who have the right to work in Hong Kong. The ability to speak Cantonese or Putonghua is not a programme prerequisite. 'We have taken on trainees with degrees in English and international studies, although most of them have a degree in accounting, finance or economics,' Ms Sampson says. 'A number of engineers have also joined us.' Competition to get into the programme is tough, with thousands applying each year. Ms Sampson stresses that the bank is committed to finding the right people and that it bases its decisions when recruiting on the calibre of the applicants and not on numbers. A structured, competitively remunerated, two-year programme awaits those who make it through the two online assessments and the two face-to-face interviews. Ms Sampson says new recruits can expect to work hard and learn a lot during the programme. She adds that the bank's fostering attitude ensures that trainees receive support from all levels, including the chief executive, Mervyn Davies, the board of directors, and the chairman, Bryan Sanderson. Trainees will also be appointed a 'buddy' (someone who has been through the programme), and a senior manager mentor who is not their boss but someone they can talk to if they need to. Given the international nature of the bank's culture, it is no surprise that this outlook extends to the new recruit programme. 'In the first three months, all trainees go through an orientation programme in their own country, plus an international induction week, where all trainees from around the world gather.' This gives graduates the opportunity to meet the bank's top managers, and it also gives them an insight into how the bank works. It also offers a cultural experience and a first chance to tap the networking mentality favoured by the bank. The first three months are described as a 'survival kit', where trainees learn how the bank works, continue to network, and gain a good picture of the bank's different business functions. It also gives them the time and space to reconfirm that they are happy with their choice of business stream. When applying, recruits are asked to choose between consumer banking, corporates and institutions and global markets. Learning about their strengths is another benchmark of those first three months, with Standard Chartered priding itself on its strength-based approach rather than one that focuses on improving employees' weaknesses. 'Take someone who is good at analysis. We don't say: 'Go out and do more selling so you can be a better sales person.' We just say: 'You are good at this. Why don't you become a specialised analyst?' 'And that person will excel at being an analyst because it is what they enjoy and what they are good at.' Trainees spend the rest of the first year in a number of work placements, lasting anywhere between one month and six, to get a feel for what areas they are interested in and to see where their strengths lie. They also spend time in the classroom and on the bank's e-learning site to hone their generic skills in the areas of credit, risk, project management and interpersonal skills. 'We look after them in a very intense way in year one,' Ms Sampson says. 'They have jobs to do, but they don't have a full-time job where they are accountable and have to show results. It's okay for them to make mistakes and learn along the way.' The responsibility heats up in year two, when trainees become more aware of their interests and select a full-time role. It is here that they will be stretched, and will be expected to deliver results. They are also given a project sponsored by a senior manager that requires them to work with their trainee peers in other parts of the world. The bank's nurturing stance does not mean the organisation babysits employees' careers; rather, it emphasises that trainees should chart their own paths. 'They start developing their careers from the beginning, when they discover what their strengths are, have been through their work placements, and identified their interests. But they are in charge. We don't tell them what to do, we just guide them along,' Ms Sampson says. At the end of the programme, trainees are given the opportunity to discuss their interests, and positions are created for them if appropriate or necessary. 'For example, one of the trainees who has just come out of the programme decided he wanted to be an analyst, so we created a position for him in our product area.' As far as possible the bank strives to keep its programme 'individualised'. Many graduates find this aspect appealing, Ms Sampson says. 'They tell us they like our programme because it allows them to own their own destiny, and that we don't try to mould them into typical corporate trainee types, with everybody going through the same training and ending up doing the same job. 'At the end of the day we want to say: 'We are developing you because you are you, and not just a Standard Chartered employee'.'