Rand Merchant Bank is constantly on the lookout for bright young minds to grow their talent pipeline. One of their initiatives is the RMB COUNT CA Experience which introduces recently qualified, talented Chartered Accountants to the world of Corporate and Investment Banking. The initiative, first introduced in 2014, gives selected candidates the opportunity to meet some of RMB’s leaders and top talent to gain first-hand experience of how they can use their CA skills in various areas of the bank. It’s an intensive day-long programme during which candidates are introduced to career paths they might not have previously considered. The day is designed to open up candidates’ minds to future careers that can be explored as CAs in a Corporate and Investment Bank. RMB is committed to playing an active role in the economic transformation of Africa, and is also for the first time this year, inviting candidates from Nigeria, Namibia and Botswana to apply. If interested CAs meet the selection criteria, they go through a simple application process before they are chosen for the RMB COUNT CA Experience, which takes place in three cities – Cape Town (10 May), Durban (17 May) and Johannesburg (1 June). Details are available here. David O’Sullivan spoke to the Chief Financial Officer at Rand Merchant Bank, Markos Davias, about the RMB COUNT CA Experience.
Markos, sketch for me, the background to the RMB COUNT CA Programme. What is this initiative by RMB?
In 2013 we started the Programme to expose individuals (who hasn’t been exposed to corporate and investment banking before – particularly CAs who weren’t in FIST (financial institution) articles, to corporate and investment banking. We introduce the candidates to our team and let them interact with them to learn about the bank and what we do. This interaction has developed quite nicely into a Programme that feeds our own internal CA Programme, which we call our RMB Careers Programme. In addition, we’ve hired a number of people off the back of the Programme. While the Programme has been quite successful from a recruitment point of view, it really is all about sharing what we do and the opportunities available for CAs within the banking world.
Are you looking at Chartered Accountants who have recently qualified or could it be somebody who’s had a ten-year career, but hasn’t considered corporate and investment banking?
It’s much more targeted at newly-qualified or recently-qualified individuals who are returning from post-article offshore programmes. These candidates are coming back and are looking for opportunities that are available in the SA market. We hope to offer new opportunities to individuals who are either looking for front office-type roles or support roles. On the day you will find that most people only know about the front office opportunities in investment banking, when in fact there are a number of support – credit and finance – types of roles available for CAs as well.
Are you targeting CAs from other countries? I know you are looking to play in that role in the economic transformation of Africa. Are you looking at South African CAs or have you widened your net?
We have widened the Programme this year to also include applicants from Nigeria, Namibia, and Botswana. We will be running sessions for individuals from these regions who want to participate and understand what we do.
Give me some practical examples of what the selected candidates do in terms of interacting with RMB’s leaders – RMB’s top talent – in the bank.
We basically arrange for them to come as a collective group – representing all spheres, big or small audit firms, and from various TOPP programmes in the country. During the first session they get to meet the CEO who gives them background around RMB and what we do. Then there’s a presentation from the likes of myself doing the finance-type stuff. We give them background to all the various front office areas in investment banking that hire CAs. Then we also look at credit and the other support areas that hire CAs. We either use management board members to do the presentations or if they’re unavailable, we use staff who work in the area to give the candidates an ‘on the ground feel’ of what the day job feels like, and what it takes to make it in our world.
You’ve been doing this for the past three years. This is the fourth year of the programme?
Give me a sense of how successful it has been over the years since 2013.
To give you a sense of numbers: In 2013 we had 56 applications with 12 people shortlisted. Out of that shortlist, we hired three. We also look for a lot of diversity in applications in the hiring programme because the idea is to really start grooming young talent to take over leadership in our CA-type roles. In 2014 we had 107 applications (almost double the number) with 41 shortlisted and 12 hired. In 2015 we had 125 applications, 42 shortlisted, and 12 hired. In 2016 the number doubled again to 267 applications, 73 of which were shortlisted and we hired 11 off the back of that Programme. The hiring part of the Programme is actually less than what we target on the day as it is relative to the individual’s experience. The day also offers a great opportunity to network. Many of the candidates will contact me on LinkedIn post the event as they now have the connection.
It’s quite an intense programme for one day and it also puts a bit of pressure on you at RMB to ensure that you are selecting the right people to further their careers at the bank. Give me a sense of your approach in recruiting the right talent for RMB.
‘The right talent’ is an interesting word because of the number of criteria you look for. We generally look for people who are a cultural fit for the bank. We take our culture and open entrepreneurial Traditional values. Innovative ideas philosophy quite seriously, so we really do look for people who are unique in the way they think and operate. During the networking sessions, it’s quite interesting because everyone brings their own flavour to the discussion. In shortlisting for the day, we are really looking for people who have achieved well in their pre-article careers and results, and then also at good references from their firms. We look for diversity. We also don’t limit our searches to one audit firm because then you will get a very similar like-minded individual. We welcome candidates from both small and large firms, but really it comes down to the individual and how they engage on the day.
It’s quite interesting. Even when you look at some of the conversations, you have to catch some of the introverted individuals one-on-one and then you can have an unbelievable engagement. We hire many of them because there are many opportunities for their personality types in the bank as well. The extroverts – clearly – are always the ones you know because they ask many questions when they’re trying to find who they can talk to on the day.
We talk about a day. You’ve got one of the days in Cape Town, which is the 10th of May. In Durban, it’s on the 17th of May and Johannesburg is on the 1st of June. Just to reiterate what people need as minimum qualifications: they need to be a recently qualified CA, less than six months, post-articles. What else do they need in order to participate in 2017 COUNT CA experience?
We generally shortlist them according to candidates with first-time board passes. Anyone who fits into the published criteria can apply. The applications then go through a process with HR and get screened.
But people who want more information…Can I direct them to the RMB website?
That’s correct and they can just search for COUNT CA and it will bring up all the information on application details.
Markos, have you got any advice for somebody listening to this podcast who is keen to get involved?
I guess the only thing I would note is that if you really are interested in learning something about banking and in particular, corporate and investment banking, then apply. There’s no harm in applying. Go through the process. It’s good learning, either way. If you come to the day when you’re shortlisted, we promise to try to make the experience as enjoyable and exciting as possible. It’s a great opportunity to network and meet some of the senior and successful CAs in RMB.