Redefining Talent: a Conversation with Fiona Kwok

Fiona Kwok is the Head of Talent Acquisition for the Americas at Standard Chartered Bank. I was fortunate enough to sit down with her and have a conversation about the realities of the banking world today, and what she thinks the future holds during an offsite executive seminar at Business Today’s 44th International Conference. Founded over 150 years ago, the company has a vast amount of expertise in the over sixty global markets where they conduct business. In the Americas, the company describes itself as being “committed to building a sustainable business over the long term and upholding high standards of corporate governance, social responsibility, environmental protection, and employee diversity. Standard Chartered's heritage and values are expressed in its brand promise, ‘Here for good’.” The following interview describes Ms. Kwok’s thoughts on the future of recruiting in the banking industry.

BT (Emily Cheston): Being the Head of Talent Acquisition, how do you think of the word “talent?”

Fiona Kwok: Here at Standard Chartered Bank, we are redefining our roles and relooking at the way we use “talent”. For instance, today I am part of “Talent Acquisition”, but we are slowly transitioning into “Resourcing” where the focus will be on hiring processes and onboarding whilst the role of talent will be so much more than simply recruiting. We need to devise a more robust way of identifying individuals who will be a better fit for the company starting from how we brand ourselves and our outreach channels. Diversity is a big part our DNA in Standard Chartered Bank and that’s a good example of where we need to find ways to bring that out more when we recruit. We really take the time to sort through applicants in a way that focuses on the specific role we need to be filled at that time and equally for the future.

BT: What skills do you think the workplace needs more of?

FK: To start off, I think skill evolves. Fittingly, the demands of the workplace are also always evolving. For example, we are becoming an increasingly digitized company and this means we are more and more susceptible to cybersecurity risks. In these situations, you want employees who are willing to learn about newly relevant concerns to the company and new expectations that result from them. Being adaptive and open-minded as an employee only helps the company when it is faced with the challenge of constant changes today.

BT: How do you think the idea of career progression will be redefined in the years to come?

FK: I think that advancement in the workplace still means for many today, about following in the footprints of your boss, i.e., taking his or her job. That is such a traditional mindset that I think we need to break out of. I think career progression should not be limited to “upward mobility”. It is really diagonal, lateral, and so many other moves that contribute to the quality and expanse of a robust career. Any time your position at a company is changing, you are accumulating a new set of skills and this is what adds value to your career. Knocking barriers down related to job titles is also very important.

BT: What allows you to distinguish between two candidates when they appear to be identical on paper?

FK: The way that an individual is able to articulate themselves is extremely important. Though much of what we do can be quite technical, communication skills will continue to be of the highest importance in our industry. Getting an understanding of why they want to be a part of the company can also reveal how much thought the individual has put into how they can see themselves functioning in the role that they have applied for.