Banking on Talent
Source: Focus Malaysia, 2 Apr 2016
“WHAT makes a good bank?” This question, according to Professor Colyn Gardner, CEO of the Asian Banking School (ABS), has an easy answer. A bank just needs to be very focused on the good of its customer.

“Also making a difference are leaderships focused on quality and innovation. These leaders are always looking to find ways to provide better products and better financial services for their customers,” he shares.

It is with this in mind that Gardner hopes to drive change and improve the standards of the banking industry here through the right training programmes.

While ABS may be a new name, its foundation has been around longer. ABS emerged as an independent entity after the former Institute of Bankers Malaysia (IBBM) was restructured. The organisation was officially launched last August.

Today, ABS is moving full speed ahead with the goal to transform the banking education landscape.

Updating skill set
Taking on his new role as CEO, Gardner’s first move is to focus on updating the short skill-based programmes for the industry. Known as public programmes, the courses are designed and developed by the ABS Specialist Training Consultancy Team and it covers a wide range of banking areas. Some of the programmes have also been developed in collaboration with strategic learning partners, including top business schools in the world.

In general, the target market for these public programmes are the smaller banks as their lower staff count does not warrant them to hold in-house training. However, when it comes to the bigger banks, these institutions can then opt to customise the public programmes to suit their own organisation and run them in-house.

ABS has trained about 30,000 participants since 2015.

Tailor-made training
The CEO lets on that currently there is a massive demand for anti-money laundering, compliance and know-your-customer training in Malaysia.

On anti-money laundering and compliance, he believes that these are areas that will be bigger than ever and the demand will go on for several years. He shares that this is not only true for Malaysia but for most of the large banking markets in the world too.

Gardner hopes that ABS can develop its own programmes in these fields to supplement the current ones that have been developed by international consultants.

“This is a really big challenge for us but a really great opportunity that we need to focus on,” he says.

While the year may look tough with fewer banking personnel taking qualifications and examinations, the ever-optimistic industry veteran believes the focus should be on providing more skill-based programmes, which can enable banks to increase their productivity and identify problems quickly.

“The industry is also telling me that soft skills in terms of understanding the way people work, team building, and negotiating skills are also in great need,” he states.

With its current repertoire, ABS provides AICB qualifications-related training programmes in the form of exam preparatory and tutorial classes. In terms of the public programmes, there is a long list of 32 titles, and that is only for the first half of the year.

For the near future, Gardner says the school intends to expand courses into fields such as corporate finance techniques, cross-border mergers and acquisitions as well as wealth management for banks.

Beyond Malaysia
“In time, it is our plan to take what we do to other Southeast Asian countries and eventually, to financial centres in other parts of the world. So the plan is to grow a very significant business which has worldwide reputation,” says Gardner.

This is certainly something that he is familiar with. Gardner has founded and built several companies that have been listed on the London Stock Exchange. This includes the DC Gardner Group plc, which at the time of its listing in 1988, saw the company with offices around the world including London, New York, Sydney, Amsterdam and Singapore. A leading banking training consultancy then, as a brand, DC Gardner is still very much respected today.

Brand recognition is very important states Gardner and he intends to build up the ABS name.

“Things don’t tend to stay still in banking for very long, one way or another. They are booming and expanding all over the world, as fast as they possibly can or they’re contracting, reducing in numbers and getting smaller very rapidly. So the banks are always in a state of tremendous change.”

“As such, the type of training provided has to reflect the economic phase that the banks are going through. When they’re growing rapidly, then training in relationship management, and sales and marketing tend to be more popular. When they’re downsizing, the focus tends to lean towards training in credit and risk management. There is always a demand but the demand changes,” he states.

To stay abreast with industry happenings, Gardner believes in strengthening ties with senior bankers in order to determine the direction of the industry and stay relevant.
The type of training provided has to reflect the economic phase that the banks are going through in order to stay relevant, says Gardner. Photo by Anwar Faiz

The Asian Banking School (ABS) is tasked in raising the competency standards in the banking industry through developing and delivering training programmes that are practical, innovative and in line with the needs of the financial services industry.
After the Institute of Bankers Malaysia (IBBM) was restructured, it was renamed as the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers (AICB) and another entity was formed; the ABS. While the ABS specialises in professional banking education, the AICB is a professional body that focuses on building memberships and cultivating high industry standards.

The ABS is governed by a Board of Directors that consist of senior and distinguished leaders from the industry, and chaired by Tan Sri Azman Hashim.
The dedicated team behind ABS

Training leaders

ABS is not just focused on new entrants in the banking industry; they see the need to provide training for senior management bankers too.

A highlight is its newly-minted Executive Education programmes. In particular, ABS is excited to bring Dr Jean Dermine, Professor of Banking and Finance at INSEAD, for its Creating Value in a Fast Changing Banking World programme.

This programme overview includes:
• Addressing issues in a rapidly evolving banking world from digital banking to Basel 3 regulations on capital and liquidity as well as regional economic integration
• Asset & Liability Management (ALM) as a tool to ensure strategy, decision making, risk-taking and more are consistent corporate objectives
• Discussion on a sound bank valuation model to drive value creation

This three-day course in November 2016 will also allow for participants to practice with ALCO Challenge (a banking simulation tool).
Gardner shares that ABS has a few more new programmes in the pipeline, including additional courses on Global Banking Leadership. He opines that these courses provide immense value due to the fact that banking today is more complex and that courses for different levels of leadership in the industry will play a major role.

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