Bhavan Sarpal, an Economics & Finance graduate, has always wanted to be in the finance industry. He also loves a challenge, which is how he became the Global Champion during the 2018 Maybank GO Ahead. Challenge, Maybank’s award winning international case competition which is opened to students all across the globe, providing them with a holistic platform to compete against and work with each other in a series of challenges that stretches one’s creativity and intellect. His claim to fame? Beating almost 10,000 participants from across the world!
Winning the competition then opened another window of opportunity for Bhavan – the opportunity to be part of the Bank’s coveted Global Maybank Apprentice Programme (GMAP). This two-year specially designed on-the-job rotation programme aims to provide graduates with a strategic platform to jumpstart their career in banking. What’s interesting too is that it is not limited to only graduates from business and finance but also from other academic backgrounds so long as they show potential. Global Maybank Apprentices (GMAs) rotate across different departments to learn the ins and outs of the Bank’s various businesses, which includes an international assignment at any one of Maybank’s regional offices.
“Having won the competition back in 2018, I was privileged to be offered a chance to join the programme,” says Bhavan. “After doing a little bit of research and comparing all the other management trainee programmes, GMAP’s flexible rotations, the opportunities to work on special side projects plus an international assignment, which can burnish one’s skills, deepen experiences, and widen our networks, all these truly enticed me to choose this programme.”
Bhavan’s introduction into the banking world began with a rotation at a Maybank branch, which helped him understand and learn the on-ground activities of the bank. “In an era where everything is moving to digital, a branch rotation can be really humbling and we get to understand the true scale of how going digital is not something that will happen overnight,” says Bhavan.
He then moved on to a Business Centre where he was taught how to do preliminary screenings and background checks for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) borrowers. Following the second placement, GMAs are free to choose their rotations after discussing it with their reporting managers. For their international assignment, which allows them to work on special projects in a regional country of their choice, Bhavan believes, “it can be an eye-opening experience as it allows us to learn and assist with regional issues and at the same time brush-up on our interpersonal skills.”
Aside from the real-work experience with the rotations, GMAs are also constantly exposed to self-development programmes known as FutureReady Programmes aimed at preparing them for the future and to develop them to be more agile and data driven. “We are constantly encouraged to participate in learning exercises such as Python programming which is widely used in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, data analytics, strategic decision making and more. These learning and development programmes are flexible, and can be completed at our own pace, making it easier to cope with,” says Bhavan.
“It’s also rewarding being able to meet and network with different, like-minded people (from different departments), who are all passionate about their jobs and are eager to learn and share knowledge. Regrouping and exchanging experiences with other GMAs makes the programme all the more fun,” he shares.
One of the main objectives of the GMAP is to build complete bankers, and from what Bhavan has experienced, he believes that he will successfully achieve that. “Structured programmes no longer work. A more tailored, personalised and individual-centric model is needed. After all, only when candidates are allowed to explore what they like, instead of being forced into a structured rotation, will they be able to grow and learn. GMAP incorporates this at its core and envisions a different, customised path for all the GMAs. No two GMAs go through the same career path.”
How has being in the programme changed his view of the industry? For one, he’s exposed to the current disruption the industry is going through thanks to his rotation in Group Digital. “I learnt a lot about the speed of disruption that is present out there and how fast banks are being displaced from our traditional, core banking proposition,” he shares. Ultimately, it’s given him a more complete view of the future of banking, the possibilities of how banks can be and how this will influence his own development and career success. “Banks in the future may no longer just limit themselves to banking. They can evolve, be redefined. Just like us. The sky’s the limit moving forward,” says Bhavan.