Monday, June 27, 2011


There is this standing mindset (especially amongst bankers in foreign banks) that the local banks are a notch below. The Liga Perdana to the Liga Super, where of course the big boys go to play. Oh come on don't deny it, I was one of you.

I recently made the switch to a local bank, despite it being one of the biggest local banks I still had some reservations. The salary offered was good, but the benefits package was very much subpar to what I was used to. But I decided to join anyway because it was for a regional position and the manager was someone I felt I can work with. Well here I am about a month in, and I can already dispel some of the notions I had previously.

My old bank prides itself on being a major global player, and as such kept telling us that we were lucky to be part of the organisation. Well I did felt lucky earlier in my career there. We were paid very well (for a fresh graduate that is), the benefits provided were some of the best in the industry if not the country, and as a management trainee were accorded some extra privileges like rubbing shoulders with the top management (CEO included, mind you) regularly in both formal and social settings, and were also provided the best training one can offer. Four weeks in UK, three in Hong Kong, that's pretty damn good I must say!

After 2 CEO changes later, things were not looking good. The new CEO is a very brash man who doesn't practice any subtleties and niceties that people loved with the previous CEOs. When asked why aren't the bank trying to compete in the market by increasing the salary since many talents leave year after year for the bigger bucks elsewhere, he just responded 'if you want more money, then you can leave too'. Talk about tact. True to fact, a lot of people left and in time I too became part of that movement =P

Anyway enough about the old place, let's talk about the new bank. Honestly I expected the worse. My first day did nought to dispel that. I reported to the HR and was asked to wait in a room full of other first day joiners. Most of them fresh faced and eager to be a banker, some like me looked wary already after a few years on the line. Filling up a stack of forms was next, it wasn't as organised as I would've liked but that's life kan? The we were taken to our respective floors. I was given an archaic old PC (CRT monitor yo!) that takes ages to startup, and soon realised that IE6.0 and Lotus Notes 7.0 is the current system standard. The warning lights in my head all came on, and all the key words people usually associate with local banks come to the front - old school, slow, lazy, bureaucratic, lethargic, etc fills my head. Man I was scared, here I was a pampered foreign banker jumping into this backwater called local banks. Plus my boss was away that day, so I had the whole day to rethink my decision oh the agony.

The next day my boss comes in and things started to change. She asked someone to replace my PC straightaway and I got a spankin' new Lenovo with a 19'' LCD within a few days (unfortunately, IE6.0 and LN7.0 is apparently still the bankwide standard, bummer). She briefed me a bit about the department and the bank, and it was reassuring. She was a former foreign banker as well, and most my department either comes from HSBC/Citi/Stanchart triumvirate or from the Big Four. She explains how things work, and though she laments the pace as being a bit slow, it is improving over when she first joined.

Old school? Some departments maybe, but mine is alright. Especially since more than half of the guys here are mid 30s and youngers. Slow? I agree with this, don't expect a response to your e-mails within a day or two (even with chasers), try a week. If this like what my boss said is 'improving', I pity those who joined way back when. Bureaucratic? Yes. I need to go through twice the number of approvals I need previously for a business case. Lethargic? Not here. Probably because we are of a younger subset, I don't know. The place is definitely more friendlier, I have more space to my cubicle than I know what to do with, I have a pantry that's bigger than my old big boss' office, the lifts faster and most importantly kids, some local banks pay a whole lot more than you think ;)

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