Mentoring a new boss into the banking industry
Mentoring a new boss into the banking industry
Alan and Qian Yan work together at FRANK by OCBC. Qian Yan moved to the department from The Open Vault (TOV) in July 2020 while Alan joined in 2021. Be warmed by how Qian Yan mentored her boss, Alan, when he joined as an experienced marketer who was a fresh entrant in the financial industry.
Alan, what were your early days in OCBC like considering you joined the financial industry after years in tech and gaming?
Being in tech and gaming for all my career, it was a major transition moving into the financial industry. I was advised it would be very different and though I came in with some ideas on what I wanted to do; I kept an open mind.
I inherited a small team and the first thing I did was listen to the team members as they shared their experiences, the good and the bad, the landmines to look out for, the unique processes in the consumer banking sector and the challenges in their daily work. I sponged it all up.
How did Qian Yan help you make the transition?
Qian Yan has been a great help mentoring me in learning the ropes of the financial industry and OCBC Bank.
Firstly, she helped me forge internal relationships which I obviously did not have being new to the Bank and the industry. Qian Yan has incredible relationships and in the early days, I just rode off her established connections.
Secondly, she taught me a lot about processes that were alien to me. She guided me on what to do and where I may face roadblocks. There are strict legal and compliance processes for marketing campaigns in the financial industry. She helped me understand in detail what marketing campaigns for retail banking entails. I didn’t realise it when I first joined, but the regulations surrounding campaigns for the financial sector differ tremendously from the parameters in the tech and gaming industry. The advice I received from her helped us roll out marketing campaigns quicker and without hitches.
Thirdly, I learned by observing her attitude. Qian Yan is an extremely capable and positive person who has a natural ability to connect, collaborate and engage people. I can’t exactly replicate what she does—after all, we are unique individuals—but I’ve learned a lot by observing her people skills.
Alan, did you learn any functional skills from Qian Yan?
She taught me how to market effectively to FRANK’s unique target audience. Our target consumers are young, but I’m not anymore. Generation gaps are real even with my extensive experience in youth marketing. Changes in that segment are rapid.
I’ll give you an interesting example. On FRANK’s Instagram account, there is a campaign which was incredibly successful which features a bunch of emojis of pregnant women in various skin tones. It baffled me. I learned later that the campaign was designed to “trendjack” an album cover by Canadian rapper Drake that had gone viral. If I had thought it through on my own, I would have rejected the campaign. What I learned from Qian Yan is that while I provide leadership and direction, I must let the youth do their thing. As I lead them, I must let them teach me.
Qian Yan, can you share your impressions of working with Alan?
Although Alan is my supervisor, he has a very open character with a positive presence. It is easy to be around him. He is relaxed and we can talk about anything under the sun, including things we do outside work.
While he is senior, he actively listens to everyone he supervises. When he first joined, he made sure to understand the inner workings of our team and everything that happens on the ground. I explained to him, in detail, our end-to-end processes as he absorbed it all carefully. He is a leader who puts in effort to know the ground in order to effectively help the team better circumvent issues before they blow up.
He also has a good habit of paraphrasing what I say. This assures me that he is crystal clear of what I’ve shared and there is no communication gap. This is a skill I’m trying to learn from Alan. I now make sure that I get the story totally clear before taking any action.
He checks in regularly on me and his team. In our conversations, the first five minutes are spent by him asking us how we really are and if we need any help. I love his “Alan’s Weekly” platform which he uses to give thanks and recognition, provide progress reports and keep the team updated on what’s next. This keeps us aligned to his thinking and the team’s direction.
How was it working with a boss from a non-financial background?
It was refreshing. While the industry and tactics may be different, I learned from Alan that the principles of marketing are transferable across industries. He taught me the concept of engagement loops with the customer from his experience in the gaming industry. For example, how to get people to use your product repeatedly. Coming from the gaming industry, he’s very strong at using engagement loops for customer retention and upsell. I’m looking forward to getting all that knowledge from him.
How were you able to help Alan settle in?
The first thing I did was to show him around so that others would get to know him. I shared what the financial industry is like, the products we market and why we do things in a certain way in our team. I also shared the characteristics of FRANK’s target audience and our experiences with marketing to them. He learned fast!
Alan, with your experience in being mentored by a younger, less experienced colleague, what would you advise other leaders?
Remember that as leaders, we were promoted because we were good at doing what we were doing. We got to where we are based on our past successes. It’s quite normal that our natural inclination is to impart that knowledge to others by telling them how things should be done. However, it’s also important to remember that the reasons that brought us to a position of leadership may not be what we need at our new positions.
There is no better way to crush motivation than to claim, “it’s my way or the highway”. That approach can lead to the long, bumpy and painful highway to nowhere for the leader. It is always in the best interest to keep employees engaged and motivated to find new and better ways of doing things.
By listening, encouraging, motivating, and providing autonomy, we can foster mutual learning. which leads to continuous improvement and effectiveness as a team. Giving autonomy to others may not come naturally to us and may be frustrating at times, but as leaders, we need to accept that some mistakes may happen. But we cannot accept remaining static. Providing leadership and giving autonomy are necessary as otherwise the team will stagnate and eventually hurt the organisation. Listening to the young is an essential trait of confident, mature and effective leadership. And I’m glad I have a great team, including a bright, young person such as Qian Yan whom I can learn from. Together, as a team, we all grow.