A fortnightly column introducing key trainee programmes The sustained boom in the financial sector and general optimism about its outlook has made the finance profession a popular career choice for young people. Yet, despite fierce competition for talent and the continuing short supply of finance professionals, employers in the sector, with the exception of some major banks and multinational finance houses, generally lack the initiative to organise management training programmes. This is due largely to concern about staff volatility. When Hantec Investment Holdings embarked on a programme to groom its own management trainees in 2004, it received quite a few inquisitive looks from its counterparts in the sector, said Gordon Tsui Luen-on, the company's deputy general manager. Three years on, more than 70 per cent of the first two batches of graduated trainees still serve in the company. 'It is a bonus if the trainees stay with us. In fact, apart from adding to our manpower, they have injected new chemistry into our workplace. But if they choose to leave, we take it as a signal that we may have inadequacies on our part. This gives us an opportunity to review ourselves,' said Dr Tsui. He said positive word of mouth about the programme had resulted in a rise in applications from 400 last year to more than 500 within just one week of the recent recruitment launch for this year's intake. Hantec will cap its annual intake at 10 to ensure the quality of trainees. Academic qualifications in finance-related disciplines were not necessary. 'It will help to have a relevant education, but what we really look for are all-rounders with creativity, a positive attitude and a global perspective. Having the right cultural fit is also crucial because we want good team players,' he said. Applicants will be put through a multi-round selection process comprising a written test, interactive group debates among themselves and, finally, a panel interview. Those recruited will be rotated to different positions in the company and given training abroad during the two-year programme. The training puts a strong emphasis on honing soft skills, including communication, presentation and management. 'This is a training programme for young people with passion, perseverance and a pragmatic and responsible attitude towards their career,' said Dr Tsui. 'They must be prepared to invest time in learning, and work with commitment. In return, we offer a promising career in a challenging field. There will be no cutting corners; only hard work will take you there.' Steve Ip Sze-shing passed up options to join a bank to become a trainee with Hantec last summer. The Chinese University graduate in economics said he was glad he made that choice. 'We have a wide range of services and products here. The broad-based exposure is really exciting,' he said. Mr Ip said he felt grateful to have been entrusted with different responsibilities as a newcomer. For example, he has been assigned to produce two publications as chief editor. He has also taken an exchange trip to Switzerland which he said greatly extended his horizons. Unlike Mr Ip, Kenny Chung Kin-yat worked briefly in personal finance servicing before joining Hantec last summer. His training has so far been related to wealth management, and he hoped it would expose him to equity trading at some stage. For his exchange visit, Mr Chung went to New Zealand. 'The trip gave me a lot of insight into how companies with different corporate cultures are run differently,' he said. 'But more important are the things I've learnt about the right working attitude to have, which is all about commitment, perseverance and a constant quest for knowledge.'