Article: Transforming human capital in Asia, the OCBC way

Employee Engagement

Transforming human capital in Asia, the OCBC way

In a panel discussion at HCLI’s Asian Human Capital & Leadership Symposium 2018, Jason Ho, Head Group HR, OCBC Bank, shared his thoughts on the digital transformation journey of the bank and the importance of public-private partnerships.
Transforming human capital in Asia, the OCBC way

As companies embark on their digital transformation journeys to make human capital effective, what are the challenges and opportunities they face to make human capital more competitive and effective? Also, how can a public-private partnership aid in this transformation process? These are the questions Jason Ho, Head Group HR, OCBC Bank addressed in a panel discussion on ‘Public-Private Partnerships: Making the Shift to Human Capital’ at HCLI’s Asian Human Capital & Leadership Symposium 2018.

Delving right onto the topic as to how reskilling and reinventing is important for everyone, Jason cited his own personal example of how in 2014 his predecessor Cynthia Tan asked him to make the shift to HR from business. While he doubted if he was qualified for the job, yet his boss believed in him. When he took the over the role, Jason revealed how one of his friends joked that ‘OCBC is in serious trouble, they put a trader in charge of HR! However, his own journey is proof that you can reskill to very different roles! 

Leaving no one behind in the digital transformation journey

And it is this transformative impact of his job, made possible by his HR team that has helped him to make an impact.

“I am very fortunate that I have a team that is really transformative. One of the beautiful parts of this job I have is that I feel very enriched as a person that I can contribute to the organization making changes that have a big impact,” he said.

Jason further revealed that for a bank that dates back to 1932, people have always been part of the agenda. He revealed at the bank, people cost is the highest investment after IT cost. 

So when the bank started looking at the bank’s digital transformation journey some 12 years ago, it realized that if you want to be valuable to the customer, you need the best technology but you need best people first. The bank focused on building a digital culture as a foundation to reach out to its customers. Most importantly it was a digital culture which was customer obsessed-everything it built be it a product or a process- was built around the customer.  By being customer obsessed, the bank built products and services from the ground.  

It is also in this direction that the bank took a step further to build a team which handles transformation. The bank also launched a program to reskill its employees and take its employees to the next level of digital. 

Citing another example, Jason revealed how in December 2017, he challenged his learning team to drive a program that has the best content ever. When he approached the group CEO in February about the program, apparently one of the worst months in the banking environment, he took roughly 20 seconds to allocate SGD 20 Mn to the program, looking at the impact it would create, how it would improve the staff to do their job, and make them more relevant for work. 

Revealing more about the program, he said it encompasses four levels of competence-Awareness, Literacy, Practitioner, and Master. Seven pillars were classified as hard skills and two as soft skills. For instance, leadership in digital age fell under soft skill while managing risk in digital fell under hard skills. 

In conclusion, the whole intent was to look at how the program impacted the employees professionally in their lifecycles, irrespective of the fact tomorrow they might their jobs.

“We leave no one behind, that is how people are important to us. Tomorrow, if the person changes his job, we at least have done the best as our obligation,” opined Jason.

The importance of ecosystems and public-private partnership

However human capital transformation does not take place in isolation. Speaking on the importance of the ecosystem, Jason stressed that collaboration with the public sector and the ecosystem players is important.

“I think that the financial ecosystem is something that is very important for us going forward. Any leaders need to understand how ecosystems work. Because you are not talking about collaboration internally, but also a collaboration with outside parties. I think the ability to collaborate on a topic is a key factor for the success of any company who wants to make a difference in the future landscape,” he said.

Jason added that in the finance industry is quite fortunate in the sense that players do have a vast ecosystem that has over time, through crisis and through communication with the banks, the regulators, and the finance authority, has been built. 

“I remember when we started the conversation, we were all looking at numbers-what kind of jobs are going to come? But from OCBC angle, we don't look at job growth, we look at skills. Because to me, we need to pick people with the right skills. Once you get the right skills that are transferable, whether it stays with a bank or stays with the people when they move to another company, it stays within the system,” Jason reflected.

 He also added that what’s important going forward for the ecosystem is to communicate, be honest, be transparent and listen. “I am very grateful that the government is listening to some of the feedback we are giving. It is a far cry you know from 20 years ago when things were not very black and white. Now there is much more consultation and priority given to communication. So I am very positive about what is going to happen.”

 In conclusion, he revealed that when people ask him what has been the biggest change being a business leader moving to HR, he says, “When I am a business leader, I am a trader. I can predict what is going to happen in the interest rate. And when I make a decision based on that, within the next 24 hours, or a week or a month, I know whether I was right or wrong. But when I am doing HR, due diligence is not based on numbers because whenever I make a decision on people, we can never know the results. Therefore, the responsibility is even greater. Because money can be lost and earned. But for a person’s potential, who we will plan and design for, there's a lot to be lost. So that to me is the biggest change.”

Excerpts from a panel discussion on Public-Private Partnerships: Making the Shift to Human Capital at the HCLI’s Asian Human Capital & Leadership Symposium 2018 where Jason Ho, Head Group HR, OCBC Bank was a panelist.

Image Credits: The Straits Times

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Topics: Employee Engagement, #BusinessTransformation

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