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A day in the life of a UAE banker

High school students across the UAE spend a day at Emirates NBD

Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News
Moneer Ahmad, Yasmeen Mansour and Jerlyn Reju George were winners of a contest held at the end of the programme.
Gulf News

Dubai: What do you want to be when you grow up? An engineer? A chef? A banker perhaps?

Emirates NBD has created a programme which give hundreds of students the opportunity to work at a bank for the day, with the aim of encouraging more youngsters to opt for banking as a career option.

The programme revolving around the theme of “nurturing tomorrow’s leaders” was launched in April 2011; and since then 403 students from 67 different schools have taken part — hosted by 12 Emirates NBD branches across the UAE.

“It is a social initiative aimed at shaping careers,” said Vikram Krishna, head of group marketing and customer experience at Emirates NBD.

“We at Emirates NBD recognise the importance of young people for our future and we believe that this initiative will inspire students.”

Instead of reading about how banking works during an economics class students get a hands-on experience at an Emirates NBD branch.

“Hopefully this will encourage students to join us at Emirates NBD,” said Moaza Al Merri, senior manager group sponsorship at Emirates NBD.

The “banker for a day” programme consists of students spending a day at an Emirates NBD branch, for which they gain school credits.

“It is aimed at public and private schools all over the UAE to teach students how cash is stored, about customer services, business developments and to see how the technical systems operate; as well as interacting with the branch manager. We are well-known for this programme as it is the fifth session,” said Krishna.

This year’s programme welcomed 118 students from 18 different schools, including the American Community School in Abu Dhabi and the Oxford School in Dubai.

Participating schools had to nominate six students to participate in this programme — the bank then allocated a branch according to the school’s preferred location.

Three work placement models were offered during the students’ day at the bank: structured work placement, work sampling, and work shadowing.

“Students spend 30 minutes in six different roles: the teller, customer relations, processing specialist, business manager, relationship manager and business centre manager,” said Moaza.

Cash prizes

A day at the bank was not all that was in store for these students. After all, what tops cash prizes when trying to motivate young students?

An online competition was also available for participants to submit an essay or PowerPoint presentation about their experience at the bank — resulting in three winners winning cash prizes totalling Dh18,000.

“We choose the winners through an online submission — a panel consisting of bankers and agency partners. The top three are chosen and given cash prizes, and sometimes we give extra awards for outstanding work,” said Krishna.

The awards ceremony announced the winners of the competition — held on September 24 at the Emirates NBD headquarters. The audience included an array of faces ranging from participating students alongside their family members to Emirates NBD senior officials.

The champion of the day, 17-year-old Palestinian Yasmeen Mansour from the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, won Dh10,000 for her innovative iMovie project portraying her time at Emirates NBD.

“I wanted to be an engineer before but now after this experience at Emirates NBD, I definitely want to be a banker,” said Yasmeen.

“I have learnt that banking means much more than giving and taking money. The people are important in running a bank — a bank cannot run without people. The skills it taught me have also helped me in my current life, such as I now know how to start a credit card and how to take out a loan.”

Yasmeen’s mother was among the crowd congratulating her daughter for her well-deserved award.

“I want to thank Emirates NBD bank for offering this great opportunity to the students. As a junior, it gives my daughter good information at her age. She doesn’t know how to save, she’s used to taking money from her dad — but this experience has taught her a lot and I am very proud of her,” she said.

Other awards included Dh5,000 which was won by second prize winner 17-year-old Jerlyn Reju George, from Our Own English High School in Fujairah. The third prize winner, Moneer Ahmad from the Oxford School Dubai, won Dh3,000.

According to Mohammad Hadi, head of branch sales at Emirates NBD, these students are extremely lucky.

“When I first joined the bank, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience real-life banking like these students do,” said Hadi.

What makes the banking sector a rewarding career choice? When asking the students attending the awards ceremony this question, nearly all them couldn’t stop listing positive attributes about the profession.

Before spending the day at Emirates NBD, these students had a vague stereotypical idea of what banking was all about — simply giving and taking money. Now, after experiencing the profession first-hand, they see that banking is much more enjoyable and satisfying then they had pictured. “This has been a wonderful experience. Emirates NBD are spreading the message that they are socially responsible which is very important. Now banking is definitely a career option in the future,” said Jerlyn, first runner-up.

Students need to experience the “real world” face-on to be ready for the working world from an early stage — to avoid any sudden surprises.

“Our benefit is through contributing to society — banking needs new talent and this is our selfish way of improving banking and introducing young minds to the industry,” said Krishna.

“We teach them banking roles because most students have a stereotype of what banking involves. We give them a short flavour of what banking is all about.”

Not only did Emirates NBD welcome these students into their workplaces — they also intend to use their faces as part of their new advertising campaign.

Modelling career

“Students will not only experience a banking career with us, but also a modelling career,” said Moaza.

As well as the required competition entries, students also needed to include a short piece on why they think the UAE should be selected to host the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.

Together, both the students and Emirates NBD benefited greatly from this experience. The plan now is to add to the 403 students and expand the programme geographically.

“We are very passionate about this and want to continue the programme every year because this programme is truly coming from the heart,” said Krishna.

“We really hope they will become bankers one day,” he added.