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Commercial banks eye foreigners for senior positions

Update: December, 21/2012 - 10:52

by Minh Thi

HA NOI (VNS)— In recent years, commercial banks, especially non-State-owned commercial joint-stock banks, have been recruiting foreigners to work in senior positions as divisional heads, advisers and most recently, chief executive officer (CEO).

The most notable examples of banks recruiting foreign CEOs are Techcombank and Maritime Bank, which announced the appointment of their new CEOs early this year.

Although Techcombank did not pioneer the recruitment of overseas CEOs - the first bank known to have done so was Mekong Bank - but the introduction of its new boss, Simon Morris from the UK, attracted some attention because it meant that the former Vietnamese chief had to leave a position he had held for 12 years.

Two months ago, Vietcombank, a State-own commercial bank, announced the appointment of Yukata Abe from Japan as deputy CEO and member of the board of directors.

According to Nguyen Thi Van Anh, chief executive officer of Navigos Search, a recruitment company, the reason banks were looking offshore was the competitive pressure among commercial banks.

She said many banks were going through restructuring to develop their core systems, reposition their brand names and seek better international co-operation. This meant they were under great pressure to find quality human resources.

In response to concerns that too many banks were following the trend, Van Anh said this was unlikely because banks had to pay a much larger amount of money to employ a foreign officer.

She said if there were an adequate number of Vietnamese qualified to work in senior positions, banks would probably choose them.

"If a foreigner is employed in a senior position, that person must be considered worth the investment," she added.

Hoang Trung Dung, chief executive officer of M-Talent Human Resources Management company under Maritime Bank, said senior foreign officials were known for their knowledge, good leadership and diversified experiences.

"In addition, these officers have such important qualities as decisiveness and acute observation to make radical decisions when needed."

Van Anh of Navigos Search said the employment of senior foreigners enabled bank employees to learn from their rich experience and knowledge. "This way, a new group of competent Vietnamese successors will be developed," she said.

Dung held similar opinions, saying that foreign professionalism would help subordinates, who wanted to perfect their skills, including their ability to communicate in a foreign language.

Techcombank's CEO, Simon Morris, who has worked in Brunei, the Philippines and Indonesia, told the media that a foreign CEO working in Viet Nam was no surprise in today's global era.

"Cultural differences are obviously present, but as a manager in a global context, you need to be sensitive enough to have your own perception and consideration of the regional characteristics so as to adjust your management approaches in an appropriate manner," Morris said.

He said he felt he had no disadvantages working in a foreign country, except for the language barrier.

Morris said income was not the only motivation behind his decision to come to Viet Nam because there were many great business opportunities in the country.

His opinion was shared by Maritime Bank CEO Atul Malik, an Indian, who said on the bank's website that he decided to work in Viet Nam as he found a lot of potential in the country's financial market.

Dung from M-Talent said that after more than six months working as Maritime Bank's CEO, Malik had managed to fit in with the working environment quite well.

While acknowledging the benefits of hiring foreigners, Van Anh of Navigos Search said banks should not expect foreign CEOs to improve everything.

She said foreign officers were often employed with a term limit of three to five years. — VNS

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