REMEMBERING MY FIRST JOB

It’s been a year and a month since I left my first job upon graduation! (July 8, to be exact, was my last day with the bank last year. Don’t ask me how I remember dates… I just do.)

I’ve been wanting to write a little tribute on my time with the company since, but never got around to do so. It’s a super delayed post, I know… but thought this was one of the chapters [in my life] that ought to be penned down. After all, I believe that at each point of our lives, we are where we are partly attributed by our past experiences.

In January 2011, I joined CIMB’s management trainee programme, or more widely known as The Complete Banker (TCB) programme.

I remember having applied to at most 5 companies upon graduation – 4 of which were home-grown or locally-founded companies that have built a presence and name for itself in the country and region. In a way, I considered myself a “proud” Malaysian, whom despite having graduated overseas, aspire to be part of the country’s development with a local growing outfit, what especially with my first job.

The irony was, I had not in mind at all to touch banking as a career (it was sort of like a negative industry in my list). Well, I chose not to major in Finance in university for a reason (little did I know then that banking was more than just finance)… But, I applied to CIMB anyway – the only bank I applied for – as some friends of mine already in the programme had good things to say about it. The interview and selection process was structured and organized, and I was pleasantly taken in throughout the process.

I took up the offer in the end, though admittedly I was stuck in a dilemma for a bit deciding between other offers that came along, as these were well-thought of applications and choices. My parents, who never imposed on me anything and allowed me the freedom to pursue anything, gave a little of their input that CIMB’s TCB seemed like the optimum choice (for a fresh grad) as the programme in itself is structured. It was also at that time that I heard DSNR speak on BFM one morning and thought, what a charismatic and visionary CEO! Very importantly is also the fact that I know I very much needed to a fill a “knowledge/ exposure gap” in my life then, i.e banking, which revolves around everyone’s everyday’s lives (Note: Not everything is investment banking ok, there are also the retail and commercial segments).

TCB gave me the kick-start I needed as a fresh graduate. What I liked about it is that it was well-planned, from the learning modules during the two months classroom training, to enabling us to assimilate into the working world through rotations in various departments in the first year, to being able to meet some of the higher management in the capacity of a trainee, and that there was a career counselor to speak to throughout.

This, of course, coupled with an organization that has a larger than life vision, great culture (one that practices meritocracy), one that is forward thinking and open to innovations. I can still remember my parents’ words; joining a company that is growing offers opportunities to its employees who shine. CIMB then was not as small as some, neither was it as big or established as the global banks.

Till today I still receive requests from friends to provide information or insights to the programme to either their juniors or family members. And I do it with a whole lot of goodwill still.

Anyway, allow me to rewind to the beginning.

In the first year of the programme, I went through two months of classroom training and got to meet 15 other batch mates. Oh, the day-to-day during this period was not easy!

There were [super express] classes on different modules of universal banking from consumer to investment banking. We were slammed with tests everyday (written and oral), projects after projects (some at the same time), and a few presentations IN a day literally. Grueling, literally, but worth it. If I could have a take-away from this classroom training, it’d be the importance of team work (able to work in a team, divide tasks according to each’s strengths etc), time management, and discipline.

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TCB 18 after one of our very last presentations

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Thereafter, I was rotated to Group Marketing and Communications Department where I was exposed to the bank’s social media platforms and branding works.

Preferred Banking Business Development was my second rotation where I assisted in marketing campaigns and in boosting the strength of the relationship managers (team came up with a little video competition to pick the best RM in articulating what was preferred banking and also came up with a knowledge booklet for all!).

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For my third placement, I was posted to Bank of Yingkou, China; which came as a huge surprise to me. As a trainee, there wasn’t much tangible work I could contribute, but I’m glad to have learned a thing or two from their international business/ trade finance unit, and to have been part of a cultural exchange between two countries/ organizations. I’ve blogged about my 3 months stint here.

And finally, private banking sales back home where I was exposed to investments (though just the ice cream of the cake) of the high net-worth, and PB business development thereafter.

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However, where I’ve really grown in depth is my second year spent in commercial banking. It really is not as easy as what it looks or sounds. As a “One RM”, where the role of doing sales and being a credit analyst is combined, we were managing about 30 over 40 medium enterprises in our portfolio. Day in day out, we had to push (aka write and submit) various credit papers; whether it’s a new loan, enhancement, annual reviews, or just requests from customers (oh, those bank guarantee extension ones… or a change in T&C in the offer letter…).

The job role is such that you have to liaise with the back-end peeps such as the trade finance processing department, or credit disbursement unit, legal unit, various levels of credit committee (who decides if your paper is approved or not) and the front-end who are the customers. All these while managing theirs and the bank’s expectations. It was a good stint, though, albeit with frustrations in between, but I learned a lot; and it did make my transition to business journalism (my current job) very smooth, if I may say so.

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With CBC KL3, my commercial banking colleagues during my farewell lunch 🙂

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I actually penned down some of my “learning(s)” in this one-year spent in CB, for it is here that I considered my first “real” job (vs rotations which were 2-3 months long). Will share it in a different post altogether someday.

Now, I have to highlight that not all was perfect, of course. There was one placement where I did not quite deliver to that superior’s expectations (contrary to all my other rotations). It was a combination of not utilizing my strengths well + lack of chemistry with the three-person team. It was partially my fault, as I was the one who chose and requested for the unit as part of my rotation, and I was given a chance to; yet, it did not quite work out.

Thinking back, I’m glad it did not – not only was it a mismatch in personality and role – for if it did, I would not have met commercial banking (where I spent my confirmation/ subsequent one year with).

It was through this experience that I realized, working environment is so vital. Yes it is crucial to like the work you do, but it also just as important to be comfortable with the people you work with, for you to be able to truly shine. Oh, and, also knowing that if something doesn’t work out, it’s okay, move on! Key thing to note here also is that while the bank and HR counselors can be kind an empathetic towards your well-being as a trainee, you also have to be careful and sure with the choices you pick and work out your end of the bargain, i.e. deliver.

Now before I go on… It’s not all just work and no play in the bank! Though I have no comparisons to how other companies manage their internal recreational activities, I gotta say, as one who equally enjoy work and a “life-outside-work-within-work”, CIMB has done well.

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Had the chance to participate in two MIBA (Malaysia Investment Banking Association) games; quite fortunate to have gotten first place in the first year (2011) and third place in 2012 in mixed doubles (it was all my mixed double partner, really). Got to go Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam for a trip with the other sports champions for seizing first place in 2011.

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That aside, I also got to compete in a social competition in Malacca with the badminton team and in two internal recreational club tournaments. But the best among all had to be the CIMB SEA Games held in Bangkok in Sept 2012.

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CIMB Malaysia badminton team – we got 2nd place!

(Again, it was the team’s efforts, really)

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A great 3 days 2 nights spent with great hospitality from CIMB Thai.

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Now, to wrap things up.

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If I wanted to pursue banking as a long-term career, I would have stayed with this organization. In the first paragraph of my farewell email (YES, I STILL REMEMBER, DON’T LAUGH), I likened one’s first job to one’s first love. Cheesy, I know… What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic person in nature too.

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Nonetheless, I’m glad to have been attached to this bank as my first job. As is with life, this is just another chapter closed, but not forgotten. I will always be thankful to the company, including that of good friends made (you know who you are), HR, previous bosses and colleagues I’ve worked… and to those who has seen the potential in me and who has definitely made my time in CIMB so much more rewarding.

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‘The best is yet to come’, I’d always like to believe. This saying first came from my chemistry teacher in high school as he wrote that in my report card, then from my mummy on my graduation gift/ book that she presented me.

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2 thoughts on “REMEMBERING MY FIRST JOB

  1. Passerby says:

    I remember such dates well too. Haha. I started work on an 11th June. Ended my previous job on a 15 July. Anyway, in terms of the journey, what I remind myself is, always take on more because that will make one grow more and for the same number of years, the experience gained would be more versus someone who is not willing to take on more learning opportunities, or difficult/uncomfortable/challenging situations. All the best!

    PS: Wai-Seng here

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