Since joining Standard Chartered Bank's International Graduate (IG) programme in August last year, Derek Kwan has had many surprises, but so far they have all been positive. When opting to go into consumer banking, he already knew about the induction week in Kuala Lumpur for IGs from around the world. He was also aware that his first two years would include frontline experience, in-house rotations, coaching, and academic courses to learn the technicalities of banking and finance. What he hadn't expected was how soon he would be meeting customers and working on big deals. He is part of a team putting together a bond IPO and is gaining expertise in equity and currency linked products. Previous three-month stints saw him in branch operations handling client inquiries, and working directly with small- and medium-sized enterprises, and resolving credit card issues. 'I've enjoyed every rotation,' says Kwan, who graduated from Cambridge University with a master's degree in engineering. 'There are so many opportunities to learn and line managers expect us to find areas for improvement and to propose new ideas for the bank.' Though excited by the fast-moving nature of the capital markets, he sees his medium-term future in relationship management for priority banking. 'The role allows interaction with customers every day, which is something I really enjoy,' Kwan says. 'I've requested that and I'm sure it will be possible.' In contrast, Shannon Ma, an IG who started last year, has decided to focus on human resources, which the bank designates as one of four specialist functions, along with finance, corporate real estate services, and group internal audit. She too has been impressed by the speed with which she's been entrusted with responsibility. Having focused on marketing and HR for a business degree at Chinese University, Ma is already looking after the needs of managers and staff in consumer banking, supporting them with relevant HR 'products'. 'I act as an interface between business managers and different specialists on the HR team who look after rewards and training,' she says. 'Previously, I did reward analysis, but now I'm dealing with concerns like attrition, recommending strategies, and putting in place training plans for a fast-changing environment.' She says one of the strengths of the IG programme is the ability it gives participants to choose an area of specialisation from the outset. There is still full involvement in the academic phases, workshops and networking events to ensure an understanding of the broader business, and encourage regular interaction with colleagues across the organisation. The door also remains open to international assignments or a change in position later on. 'If you know where you want to be, you can make a quick start getting the necessary expertise,' Ma says. 'I've noticed that people who choose the Standard Chartered programme usually know early on what they want to do and have the right sort of mindset to get there.' That description fits IG Genevieve Chung, who opted to pursue wholesale banking from the outset. Joining with an economics degree from New York's Columbia University, and experience as a research assistant in psychology at the University of Hong Kong, she is certain this is the field for her. Having just begun a rotation in commodities, she is now getting to grips with the terms and technicalities of agri-business origination, client coverage, financial statements and credit applications. 'There is a lot to learn,' she says. 'But I spend time with the metals, oil and other commodities departments and get training in the trade flow and what to watch for.' During the past year, Chung has appreciated the help of her assigned buddy - usually someone a year older who can give practical advice and friendship - and a more senior sponsor to guide career decisions. 'I've been very impressed by the support everyone gives,' she says. 'In the academic phases, when we are studying things like currency options or interest-rate derivatives, the bank gets us through. And if your background is not in finance, other IGs will always help teach you the material.'