Business Asia / Expert Insights

Think Bank

With membership to a growing Asia Pacific financial association, Cambodia recently joined the discourse on regional banking. Varabott Ho, of The Association of Banks in Cambodia, visited Nepal for the latest discussion on one of the big issues in a surging sector.

Think Bank MI5

The modernisation of the Asia Pacific banking history has considerably changed the competitive landscape for both domestic and multinational companies, and those aspiring to make career in banking. A lack of skilled and knowledgeable human capital in the banks at all levels has been the major challenge for the industry in many countries, and has been driven by rampant growth in an industry motivated mainly by short-term profitability and lacking in long-term vision. The pressure for rapid expansion alongside expectations of quick returns and organic growth, combined with low investment in human capital, has led to the knowledge gap and skill deficit seen in the industry today.

The Asia Pacific Association of Banking Institutes, or APABI, meets every two years. One of its main roles is to bring together specialist training institutes from across the region that share the common goal of equipping banks and financial institutions with the capacity to deal with the transformational developments that are shaping the financial sector, through supporting the continued renewal of its most valuable asset–human capital. At the most recent summit, hosted by the National Banking Institute of Nepal, 15 associations tackled the topic of talent development in the industry.

A New Approach

Human resources departments in the banking sector need to change their approach. In order to find top talent and convert it into a workforce of global standards, the recruitment process has to be restructured. Banks should have in place systematic orientation programmes with intense onboarding (learning of relevant skills and systems) and rigorous training interventions. At the top levels of management, succession planning is also critical: without it, transitional periods between managers can greatly slow the progress of an institution.

Going forward, the banking and finance industry should also follow regulator interventions requiring them to invest more in human capital development. Internally, the ideal start would be for financial institutions to provide reinforcement to their HR departments and upgrade the HR head position to deputy general manager or assistant general manager and allow the creation of separate divisions, such as talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, and talent development. This structure is ideally suited for commercial banks with staff size of 600-plus.

These interventions, when carried out, are expected to take the industry to the next level of stability and sustainability, thus ensuring healthy and progressive growth for stakeholders. We expect these changes to contribute to better performance, higher returns on investments, strong compliance and governance, and new lines of business through innovations and technology interventions. History shows that these increases in efficiency and productivity can only be achieved through regular investment in human capital.



The Asia Pacific Association of Banking Institutes was established in 1986 by 11 banking institutes (founding members). It is a semi-formal association and now counts 18 banking institutes in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region as members, with the Association of Banks in Cambodia being the latest addition. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are in the running to host the 2020 summit.

Previous hosts of APABI’s biennial meeting

  • 1986 Singapore
  • 1988 Hong Kong
  • 1990 New Zealand
  • 1992 Malaysia
  • 1994 Indonesia
  • 1996 Australia
  • 1998 Thailand
  • 2000 Philippines
  • 2002 India
  • 2004 Taiwan
  • 2006 Korea
  • 2008 Mongolia
  • 2010 Papua New Guinea
  • 2012 Malaysia
  • 2014 India
  • 2016 Nepal

The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers / The Institute of Bankers Malaysia / Indonesian Banking Development Institute / Korea Banking Institute / Banking and Finance Academy, Mongolia / National Banking Training Institute, Nepal / The Institute of Bankers Pakistan / PNG Institute of Banking and Business Management Inc., Papua New Guinea / Bankers Institute of The Philippines / The Institute of Banking & Finance, Singapore / Institute of Bankers Sri Lanka / Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance / The Thai Institute of Banking and Finance Association / The Bank Training & Consultancy, Vietnam / Indian Institute of Banking & Finance Bangladesh / Institute of Bank Management Financial Institutions Training Institute, Bhutan / The Association of Banks in Cambodia


Contribution by Varabott Ho, General Manager at The Association of Banks in Cambodia