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Hong Kong Bank Builds A Global Network And Braces for 1997
At 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, Hong Kong Bank's regional training center in Hong Kong is still humming with activity. Bryan Neal, director of training for 16,000 managerial, professional, technical and administrative staff, describes the prevailing work ethic:
"We keep up quite a pace here," he says. "Nearly everyone works a 12-hour day: eight hours at a job and another three or four hours in training. Our staff seems to be on a never-ending search for knowledge, and we like to work and train together. We've made a massive investment [more than $1 million in U.S. dollars for 14,800 operations staff in 1988] in training because we want to take advantage of new technology, be more customer oriented and improve our staff's English."
This investment in training is reflected in the bank's classrooms. Employees, most in their 20s and 30s, hone their cusomter service skills in mock branch offices equipped with teller windows and platforms. Others labor over English or use brand-new computers to enhance their transaction-processing skills. Clearly this is a bank alive with energy, enthusiasm and just plain hard work.
Hong Kong Bank's managers and staff have little choice about working harder and smarter these days. With the People's Republic of China regaining sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, they're preparing for what may be the bankhs most turbulent decade. Many in the international financial communicty believe Hong Kong Bank has hammered out a sound strategy as a global player with significant worldwide holdings. It's also the front-runner for becoming China's central bank.
Today, Hong Kong Bank has 1,200 offices in 55 countries, a senior management team that troubleshoots for failing branches and usually turns them around, an enviable data processing system, and a showcase headquarters building designed by British architect Norman Foster. Built at a cost of $1 billion, it is one of the world's most expensive buildings.
With its fabled inner reserves (estimated at $3 billion), and its reluctance to follow standard banking disclosure procedures, Hong Kong Bank remains a mysterious presence in …