Jardine's scheme grooms high fliers

Caitlin Wong

A bi-weekly column introducing key trainee programmes

The Jardine Matheson Group, with a history dating back to the early 1830s, has its fair share of time-honoured traditions. One of the longest running is the Jardine Executive Trainee Scheme (JETS), which traces its origins to the early days and is regarded as among the best programmes of its kind in Hong Kong.

Recruits for the scheme are taken on from countries where there is an established business presence. The aim, of course, is to give successive intakes of management trainees the skills to be future leaders of business operations with an extensive international reach.

According to Ritchie Bent, the group's head of human resources, the average intake of trainees is eight per year, with a maximum of 10. Competition for places is fierce as only about 1 per cent of applicants are successful.

Mr Bent said that JETS offered more than comparable programmes run by other multinationals. During the three-year training period, there are opportunities to work in different group companies, to have an overseas posting, to receive guidance from five experienced mentors and to qualify as a chartered management accountant under the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) programme. Each trainee is expected to complete this qualification, which is part of the structured development of leadership and general management skills.

'Other multinationals may offer any combination of these, but not all of them,' said Mr Bent.

'We also offer a culture of recruiting, developing, retaining and promoting the best people on the basis of ability and performance. Exceptional candidates will be rewarded with excellent career prospects.'

The group employs about 41,000 people in various businesses in Hong Kong and about 240,000 worldwide, so there is plenty of scope.

He said that having good academic credentials was just the starting point. Applicants also had to demonstrate proven leadership qualities and have an impressive track record in a range of extra-curricular activities.

Priscilla Wu Yuen-kat met these requirements and, now in her third year, is working as a duty manager trainee with Jardine Airport Services. She specifically asked for this role with a view to further career development.

Ms Wu has a master's in engineering from Oxford University and considered several alternative trainee programmes before deciding that JETS had the most to offer. 'I was attracted by the opportunity to gain a CIMA qualification, the [group's] generalist approach to training, and having the opportunity to be transferred around the group,' she said.

She also appreciated being able to choose her final-year posting, which may extend beyond the official training period and thus provide a firm foundation for later advancement.

'It is really good that the programme gives you the opportunity to experience different businesses and find out what you really like,' Ms Wu said.

'What we learn here is very transferable, and I feel that I have grown up a lot.'

Elton Chan Ho-yin, who joined the programme in September 2004, echoed these views. He recently joined Jardine Schindler in Macau, following a stint as the chief executive's executive assistant.

Mr Chan holds a degree in journalism from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and a master's in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University. As someone who grew up on a fishing boat next to Jardine's noonday gun in Causeway Bay, he has been familiar with the company name since childhood.

'But I was also attracted to JETS because it offers wide business exposure,' he said. 'Most other programmes are confined to one business speciality.

'I am also impressed that we got to meet the group chairman soon after joining, and were given responsibility very early on. The exposure is very useful. It also shows the management's trust in us.'