Graduate Programmes


by Graduan


Here is an important fact you should know when it comes to young graduate hires at RHB Bank Berhad:


In 2011, the bank hired 129 new graduates. This is a good sign if you are interested in a career in the financial industry. “RHB Bank is on the lookout for fresh blood,” says Kenneth Hendroff, Vice President, Group Human Resources. “RHB Bank is essentially an ‘old’ bank; we have so much history behind us. The fact is our customers are getting younger, and their needs are different. Having two different generations trying to serve each other will not work.”


Hence the reason why RHB Bank is strongly advocating its graduate development programmes and making a few significant changes to ensure they get what they are looking for: quality hires. “One thing I have noticed is that many times, associates are not up to standard,” says Hendroff. “Previous associates are not specific enough and to a large degree, they have become unmarketable. In fact, many of them have to learn from scratch again even after completing their stint.”



Which is why this year, RHB Bank has set off on a different approach with its graduate development programmes. For starters, the bank brought in two sets of young graduates, one for the management training programme and the other a first-time ever business-driven graduate associate programme. Under the two programmes, graduates are given an overview of the bank as well as the group. They are also profiled, whether it is via interviews, observations, psychometric tests and more, to ensure they are assigned to roles and divisions where they would have the best potential to develop.


Management associates spend 18 months with their programme while graduate associates are on a fast track of just six months. Why the difference? “While the business is very supportive of management trainees, unfortunately we can’t wait that long for them,” explains Hendroff. “The bank needs an infusion of new hires ASAP. Hence, the rational of hiring graduate associates who are specialist hires. Their roles are very specific. For example, we have graduate associates specifically for our Islamic banking roles and corporate banking division.”


Management associates spend six months in classroom training while graduate associates spend only three. In the classroom training, associates are taught about the bank’s policies, products as well as soft skills, leadership and communication skills. Outsourced training providers are also brought in to lead programmes such as negotiation skills and Six Thinking Hats. Associates are then assigned to specific departments whereby their learning has been planned since day one. 


This training batch will also work on an exciting project Hendroff himself has imposed on the associates, in particular the management associates. Hendroff explains that management trainees were given a project linked to the bank’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. “They have to pick out an orphanage that is the least funded from the Department of Social Welfare, work closely with the social workers at this orphanage, and come up with a business case on how to make the particular orphanage financially sustainable after three years.


“It is going to be groundbreaking. It has never been done anywhere before, not even in other countries. This is something RHB Bank can benefit from, as it will bring publicity to our corporate social responsibility division,” says Hendroff.



Before you say ‘where do I sign up?’, Hendroff has this reminder for potential associates: “My targets for graduate hires have risen because the needs have increased. Therefore, the type of people I hire are going to be very important as they are going to be testimonies to the business.


I only want people with potential. Not just now or during the programme, but potential for the future. I will look at how an individual will perform as the manager or supervisor. I am looking at two jumps later in their career. Don’t expect to be spoon fed; expect to roll up your sleeves and do some work.”




“What attracted me to RHB Banking Group was its ambitious vision to be the top three financial institution in the region. That is aligned to my ambitious personality. It is also a very competitive bank, with one of the highest growth rates in loans, assets, deposits and ROE in the country for the past few years.


Also, RHB Banking Group provides a challenging work atmosphere. There is no typical day for me. I get up at 6am so I can arrive at work early to pick up on news from other parts of the world. So far, I’ve been attached to the risk, corporate banking, Japanese desk, corporate finance, DCM, equities broking, and investment management divisions. I also underwent training whereby I learnt about the bank’s products and financial modelling. Each job function for management associates changes every month since we are on rotation for a new departmental role. Our job doesn’t really involve a lot of decision making because as juniors in the company, we should learn to be good leaders by first being good followers. The banking industry is a huge industry. A bank derives its income through various means, whether it is the traditional loans and deposits or the more sophisticated investment services. Joining the management training programme gives a good perspective of how many departments there are in a bank and offers management associates the opportunity to discover what it is in the bank that we ideally want to do.


The constant challenge of wanting to know everything in the shortest period of time has proven to be quite challenging. But because I am always up for learning new things and seeking new information, this is ideal as I will never be bored with what I do. I always believe in doing above and beyond what is required of you; this way I learn more than the average Joe and I am able to stand out in a crowd.”





“I started RHB Bank’s graduate associate programme mid of 2011. It took about one to two months before I was accepted into the programme as there were many initial interviews as well as presentations that I had to prepare for my application. After being accepted into the programme, with the rest of the graduate associates, I attended two months of classroom-based training in our training facility centre in Bangi.


What I like about this programme is that I have a choice of where I want to be. Of course, with the help of my mentor and supervisor, I get a better understanding of what to expect. Not only that, they are able to make a sound judgment based on their review as well as observation of my performance to know exactly which division to place me in for me to excel and perform based on my strengths and weaknesses. We are also quickly immersed into the business. I would have to say that the programme has made me a more matured person. Back in university, I was more playful. But since joining this, I have grown up tremendously. With this programme, I am given the opportunity to meet business leaders so therefore I have to conduct myself properly. This way, I have become more focused, more business driven. Also, I am given the chance to improve my knowledge on the business by attending seminars, studying specifi c courses, all arranged for by the bank. This programme will defi nitely build us into better bankers with solid foundation.


I feel that a lot of young graduates are very picky when it comes to their career. I have always dreamed of working in a bank since my university days. But when I graduated, it proved to be very hard to get a job. I had to settle for something I wasn’t that interested in fi rst. So my advice to young graduates would be this: Don’t just look at the amount of money you will be paid. You should look at what the job can give you in terms of development as well as exposure. Also, make sure you are involved in extra-curricular activities during your university days. It will make you a better person.”





“My function is to assist with the Syariah advisory for the bank. There is plenty of research to be done, and ideally, I should be one of the first people in line to know all about Islamic banking, from knowing how to penetrate the market as well as product development.


I definitely feel that I am at the right place for my career. This fast-track process is indeed a challenge but it has taught me a lot of things, not just in terms of my career but also soft skills. I also believe that I can improve further but the programme has given me a lead.


What I really appreciate about RHB Bank is that they view human capital as the wealth of the company. They are all for you to develop yourself, whether it is through courses, seminars or additional training. The programme sees that you know everything about the bank. Because of the nature of the business, you have to learn how to make decisions in a timely manner. It also helps you to become a better communicator as well as help you open up your mind.


How you interact with people is very important so I would advise all young graduates to improve on their communication skills. You need to learn how to express yourself well. It is not just your academic results that future employers will look at; it is also your character. I believe that humility is the best character one should have. If your superior praises you for a job well done, don’t immediately think you are already there.”




“I found out about RHB Banking Group’s management training programme via Job street. Applying for it was a normal application process – I had to go through three rounds, which included tests as well as interviews. I have a Bachelor’s Honours degree in Accounting and Finance, as well as a Master’s degree in Accounting and Finance too.


I started out with the programme by going through classroom training whereby we were taught about banking products and banking basics, which also included RHB Banking Group’s international banking divisions. There were non-banking training subjects too, such as communication skills and soft skills. At the end of the training, we were all subjected to a test where it was imperative that we scored at least 85 per cent.


My batch is different compared to the previous management trainees. This time round, we were given more specialised and streamlined roles in particular divisions. I was put in the global financing banking division whereby I learnt all there is to know about international banking and businesses. My responsibilities were to form strategic planning and formulate strategies to grow our current businesses overseas.


As RHB Banking Group is exploring regional businesses, I was given the chance to work in Vietnam for a while. There, I learnt all there is to know about opening a bank branch, from the first step to the very last step. I was given a lot of exposure to the business and was getting both local and international knowledge as well as experience.


The thing with this programme is that you are given the opportunity to see the whole picture and you gain a wide exposure when it comes to banking. You have to wear a few hats in a day, and today’s challenge may not be tomorrow’s. Personally, I feel that I have enhanced my soft skills as well as my level of professionalism. I have better time management skills and people skills.”




“I am in a slightly different division of RHB Bank’s graduate development programmes. My role is catered towards the bank’s risk and audit division. I started out with three months of classroom training, and from there I spent three weeks per department. My focus is on Islamic finance and banking. I find the programme to be very beneficial. Before, I only had theoretical knowledge on Islamic banking. But with the right experience and exposure, I now have a deeper understanding as well as a scrutinised view of Islamic banking. I now know what Islamic banking is all about – the policies, the procedures, the cases to deal with. Needless to say, I am exposed to a lot.


The best thing about the programme is the constant learning of new things. Every day is about learning new things. It is also very challenging, and you have to absorb as much as possible in such a short time. But the hands-on approach is a very valuable experience. My seniors have been very eager to teach me things and spot red flags if I am doing anything wrong. I have learnt so much. My level of professionalism is better, I do more work more efficiently, and I have learnt to be sharper and more focused. Also, my enthusiasm for my career has also increased.


I would most definitely recommend this programme to future bankers. You get an overview of what banking is all about. Also, the company is very aggressive right now in wanting to be the best in what it does. It has a robust policy in terms of developing its employees to ensure results. You know you will be in good hands.”




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