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How AmBank, Citi, Maybank and Unilever develop graduates in Malaysia

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Hiring fresh graduates is never easy. HR leaders and professionals in charge of hiring must be able to contend with their unrealistic salary expectations, while screening out the unmotivated – and that’s only the first step. Organisations also have to figure out how to effectively develop them into productive employees and perhaps even future leaders.

To provide some food for thought into developing strategies for the new year, Human Resources pulled together four case studies showcasing the achievements of winners and finalists at HR Excellence Awards 2017, Malaysia – from the category Excellence in Graduate Recruitment & Development.

AmBank Group

In order to reach its goal of being the top four employers of choice in Malaysia, AmBank Group knew it had to focus on its people, process and structure, service level, technology, and employer brand. It was through these points the AmGraduate programme was created.

The structured and centralised 18-month graduate programme was created in collaboration with the Asian Banking School to offer developmental modules for graduates and expose them to various functions across the group.

AmGraduates rotate through three six-month postings, with a performance review at the end of the first year and the end of the final posting. Thereafter, they are assessed for readiness for promotion and given a final placement as they graduate from the programme.

So far, AmGraduates have shown consistent performance, hitting a performance rating score of at least 3.5/5 and above.

Throughout the 18-month process, AmGraduates are engaged via monthly check-ins; undergo technical and leadership development programmes; and assigned individual coaches and mentors.

So far, AmGraduates have shown consistent performance, hitting a performance rating score of at least 3.5/5 and above. At the same time, all 16 of the current batch have been receiving favourable remarks from their supervisors in terms of attitude, performance, and discipline.

Looking forward, AmBank plans to introduce additional initiatives to provide these young graduates the necessary resources to sharpen their competitive edge in the market.

Currently in the works are initiatives including senior management sit-downs to allow graduates to understand what it takes to be a leader and sharpen their business acumen; career pathing workshops to help them understand their future roles and to maximise the right career and mobility initiatives for them; and pre-onboarding engagement to further inculcate the feeling of inclusiveness, and encourage faster assimilation to AmBank’s culture.

Citi Malaysia

With a long history of producing leaders, Citi Malaysia’s comprehensive graduate recruitment and development programmes have been in place for the past decade. The vigorous, structured programmes Citi comprise an all-rounded experience to expose, stretch and grow the associates and analysts it hires fresh off campus.

These include the Citibank Berhad Management Associate (CB MA) – a cross franchise programme designed to let the management associates (MAs) experience the breadth of the bank and graduate with a keen sense of how the business ticks; and the Operations & Technology Management Associate (O&T MA) – a programme designed to grow future leaders of operations and technology regionally through an intensive two year rotation within the various back office engines of the bank.

In 2016, 70% of Citi’s MA hires came from its summer analyst alumni pool.

The bank recruits candidates for programmes via three key platforms: campus and job fair hiring; inter-linked career portals ( and; and, summer analyst (intern) alumni, a 9-10 week structured internship designed to give graduates a preview of the programme. In 2016, 70% of Citi’s MA hires came from its summer analyst alumni pool.

The selected MAs are welcomed with an intensive week-long programme encompassing various business leaders’ presentations, engagement with senior management, soft skills training, and a formal graduation.

They are then developed through highly structured rotation programmes that include rounded experience, cross border projects, stretch assignments, personal development, technical skills courses, mentoring, and more.

Those who meet the required performance criteria will graduate as managers and are expected to accelerate further through various specialised talent programmes such as the LEAD programme and regional leadership development programme (LDP).


In 2010, Maybank introduced a series of graduate development programmes with the aim to strengthen its entry-level pool to ensure constant feed to its overall talent pipeline. Among the various programmes introduced, the bank’s signature entry level pipeline programme is the Global Maybank Apprentice Programme (GMAP).

The GMAP is a specially-designed, two-year on-the-job programme for graduates to experience different functions within areas of their choice via job rotations, including a three-month international assignment to encourage cross-border exposure and networking.

Throughout the two years of a GMA’s life they will constantly seek three groups of people for bearings in their career path – their coaches, their assignment managers, and their mentors. The GMAs are placed on a steep learning curve through hands-on job training supported by formal learning provided to make learning as experiential as possible.

The bank saw an increase in retention rate from 60% under the old programme to over 80% under GMAP.

As Maybank doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, development is tailored and the bank gives GMAs the autonomy to design their own career, from the path to their destination. The responsibility for development is shared between GMAs and the bank. In the beginning of the programme, they will chart their own path and slowly take up more responsibility and ownership for their own personal and career development while contributing back through their rotations.

GMAs are taken in all year round and start at different times. Yearly, Maybank recruits about 1,000 to 1,500 entry level positions and sets aside RM15 million to build entry-level talents from scholars, pipeline talents, to GMAs.

In 2012, the bank took another revolutionary approach in its graduate recruitment stance where it introduced an international case challenge to unearth hidden talents (students and graduates) across the globe. It is an annual affair designed, developed and executed by the GMAs around the world within Maybank.

With the enhanced programme, the bank saw an increase in retention rate from 60% under the old programme to over 80% under GMAP. Additionally, the bank won the silver award at the HR Excellence Awards 2017, Malaysia.

Unilever Malaysia

Unilever’s ambitious strategic vision is to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact. To do so, the company understands it needs fresh talent with the courage to make big decisions to challenge its current way of doing things and bring new ideas to the table.

As such, in Malaysia, Unilever strives to develop young local talent to be recognised leaders locally, regionally and globally.

It does so via two key graduate programmes:

  • Unilever Future Leaders Programme (UFLP) – a global graduate programme to grow Unilever Future Leaders (UFL) and enable greater talent mobility within the organisation globally.
  • Young Manager Programme – a locally developed two-year programme to grow local talent in customer development (sales) and brand building (marketing) with rotations within the function.

Moving away from the traditional way of hiring, Unilever pioneered a new Digital Selection Process which redefined the profile of Unilever’s future leaders, with a selection criteria more targeted towards behavioural attributes and future potential. Thus, Unilever no longer evaluates applicants based on their academic results or CV. Instead, Unilever made it such that the first three steps of its selection process – online application, profile assessment, and digital interview – are done online, allowing candidates to complete the steps anytime, anywhere.

Unilever’s new digital selection strategy garnered over 2,000 applications for its UFLP positions.

These new approaches saw huge success with Unilever’s new digital selection strategy garnering over 2,000 applications for its UFLP positions and candidates expressing amazement in the move towards a digital, on-demand and candidate-centric hiring journey.

Unilever UFLP and Young Manager graduates have also gone on to take on greater roles within the organisation in various functions and even outside of Malaysia. Additionally, the firm won the bronze award at the HR Excellence Awards 2017, Malaysia.

Moving forward, Unilever plans to continue enhancing this process to drive a more impactful, simple and human experience for its applicants, thus strengthening its employer brand and gaining a competitive edge in the selection space globally.

Photo / StockUnlimited

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Jerene Ang
Senior Journalist
Human Resources Magazine Singapore
From knowing almost nothing about HR to being able to hold meaningful conversations with industry leaders, Jerene reads, writes and sources for HR stories when not spending her time sleeping or playing with her dog.

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