Developing world-class talent for banks
Source: The Edge Malaysia, 15 Feb 2016
For several decades, the Institute of Bankers Malaysia (IBBM) had provided professional qualification programmes and entry-level training courses for the country’s banking industry. However, a restructuring exercise saw a training institution complete with a new identity, mandate and focus emerge as an independent entity from the professional body.

Launched in August 2015, the Asian Banking School (ABS) is tasked to enhance professionalism, productivity and capability of banking talent. According to Professor Colyn Gardner, CEO of ABS, this can be done through the development and delivery of relevant, practical and innovative training programmes for bankers at all levels.

“ABS is built upon the legacy of IBBM; the professional body for bankers in Malaysia. It was established to develop highly qualified knowledge workers in the financial services industry. The overriding objective is set by Bank Negara Malaysia and that is to build professionalism in the banking sector with a competent workforce that is aware of global banking practices relevant to Malaysia,” says Gardner. During the same restructuring process, IBBM was rebranded as the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers (AICB) to focus exclusively on membership and professional standards for the industry.

To better serve banks in meeting the challenges of a dynamic global landscape, Gardner will broaden and deepen the training programmes offered by ABS. “ABS will continue to offer both professional qualification and certification programmes, together with shorter training courses for early career professionals. The latter is what I call our display window or shop window products. These are courses on specific banking topics. Smaller banks tend to send their employees to us for these courses while bigger banks often times request for these courses to be taught in-house at their premises,” says Gardner.

His immediate plans are to review ABS’s shop-window courses and evaluate its relevance to the current banking environment. “These shop window training courses have been offered for quite some time and content has not been refreshed as often as it should be. I am regularly meeting with the banking community to check if these programmes are what they want. I also aim to find out what they do want and will improve our courses to fit their needs.”

In the past, these entry-level courses used to be available throughout the year but Gardner plans to reduce this period to sixmonth intervals. This will enable ABS to review and update course material. “This review period allows us to reflect a more intelligent understanding of what banks need in the fast-changing dynamic financial services landscape,” he says.

Besides improving on the existing courses, he also plans to enhance ABS’s value proposition by developing customised courses that meet specific requirements of individual banks.

“At the moment, not all the banks are turning to ABS for specific training needs. The frequent practice is to bring in foreign banking consultants often at a significant cost. There is no reason why ABS cannot fill this role and develop customised training programmes that are on a par with what is offered by global banking consultants,” says Gardner, who has years of experience in developing and customising training programmes for banks around the world.

“In my experience, this type of training is very effective as content is tailored specifically to the bank’s strategies, as well as its operating environment, business scenarios, processes and data,” he says.

Another training solution that Gardner would like ABS to offer are courses that cater for a banker’s continuous professional development. These are management-training programmes that are based on specific areas within a bank. “These training courses allow a bank to up skill its employees. Leading a bank is very different to leading companies in other industries and bankers need leadership training courses that take into account the area that they are in and how it fits into the overall business strategies of a bank. For example, the work done in corporate finance is totally different from the work done in retail banking. How the leaders of such units work is also different.”

“Effective leadership courses at this level are subject specific and the challenge for ABS is to develop programmes for bank managers and team leaders that caters for the differences and nuances of each banking business,” says Gardner.

ABS has also begun developing Executive Education programmes, which will be a key part of their new business proposition. Through strategic learning partnerships with some of the top business schools in the world, ABS will be able to offer courses to benefit senior level bankers.

For ABS to become a highly regarded, successful training organisation, Gardner is building an in-house team of training consultants to develop and deliver their learning solutions. “Finding talent is a huge challenge and we are looking for subject matter experts, i.e. thought leaders in their areas of expertise. I believe that ABS has a good value proposition for career bankers that are looking for a change. It is a unique career opportunity and they can always return to the industry at some point in the future, as working for ABS requires them to stay up-to-speed with the latest products and trends in their fields of expertise. Up to a third of their time is spent on getting to know everything in this area, as they are required to incorporate global banking knowledge relevant to Malaysia in to their course material.”

“The training consulting team at ABS is also required to network and maintain relationships with banks, so it is very likely that they will be more informed, updated and connected than their peers working in banks and occupied with daily operational issues,” says Gardner.

He adds that the banking industry can look forward to more vigorous quality control from ABS. “As we work towards increasing the performance of our banking clients’ staff, we will be improving our own standards in development and design of training programmes. One of my objectives is to make ABS financially sustainable and I am very happy to be given this challenge. Being relevant to our clients and being financially effective is a far better practice than running programmes that may or may not be needed,” says Gardner.

The name Asian Banking School reflects its long-term aspirations of training banking professionals across the region. For now, Gardner is focused on developing the ABS to enable it to build the knowledge, skills and competencies of the talent in the Malaysian banking industry.
Colyn Gardner has a long illustrious career in the global financial services sector. Having worked for several banks in the UK, he founded and built several companies that eventually listed on the London Stock Exchange. “I have been a practising banker, a banking consultant and a corporate client of banks throughout my career. My area of expertise is largely in training and development of people in the financial services sector,” says Gardner.

His banking consultancy firm, DC Gardner Group plc was the largest in the world with offices in London, New York, Sydney, Amsterdam, Singapore and other locations, when it listed in 1988. During this time, he also conducted executive development programmes for senior directors of leading global banks, presented at international banking conferences and was an adviser to numerous financial institutions. Gardner was also editor-in-chief for some sixty distance learning workbooks on banking subjects.

In 1992, Gardner sold the business by which time it had grown to include three residential training centres, the UK’s largest outplacement consultancy, Coutts Consultancy Group; and the UK’s 2nd largest accountancy training business, ATC.

“I retired when I sold my company but quickly realised that I am a person that never wants to stop working. By being at ABS, I feel that I can bring real value to the Malaysian banking industry. Plus, I also like living and working in Malaysia,” says Gardner.

Prior to ABS, he worked as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Sunway University Business School before being invited to be a member of Bank Negara Malaysia’s Financial Services Talent Council, a think-tank focused on developing talent for the financial services sector in the country. He was recently invited to be a Visiting Professor at Cass Business School, City University London in the UK, which is ranked in the top one percent of business schools worldwide. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University and Bangor Business School, Europe’s No.1 ranked Banking and Finance Faculty.

Gardner has also co-authored two books: Sources of Corporate Finance in Western Europe and Europe’s Short-term Money Markets, with James Maycock, director of the Institute of European Finance.

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