How to get a job in an international bank

How to get a job in an international bank

Stephen Shen CPA (Aust.) hasn’t followed the typical career path of an international banker.

Since completing a Bachelor of Money and Banking at Southeast University in China, Stephen has gained international experience in banking and financial services, industrial corporations and business management roles for companies including ICBC, GE Capital and Standard Chartered Bank.

On top of this, Stephen has also completed a Masters of Accounting (CPA Extension) at Macquarie University in Sydney.

But he says banking has always been his true passion.

“When I graduated from university, banking was quite a hot choice for students. So I was lucky that my first position was at the world’s largest bank, ICBC, as a Foreign Exchange Accountant,” Stephen says.

The 37 year old is now General Manager of Personal Banking at ICBC Asia (Chinese Mercantile Bank), in Guangdong, China, helping to serve some of the bank’s 150 million customers who live around the world.

Stephen says while it is a challenging role, it is one he enjoys because he has to keep up to date with industry trends. 

“When you look at banking over the past decade, the Chinese economy has grown significantly and the operating model of banks has changed a lot. So I am quite lucky to be part of this.”

Besides taking on a senior management level position at ICBC Asia, Stephen says one of his biggest career achievements was being awarded the CPA designation in 2010.

He says the designation has turned him into a business leader and he’s noticed that his colleagues and customers have given him more respect.

“The CPA designation has given me a more professional standing amongst my colleagues, not just in accounting but also in other parts of the business. It has also provided me with a good network of people that I can draw from.”

Stephen is a strong believer in helping the next generation of banking and accounting professionals, so he volunteers at the Australia China Alumni Association (ACAA).

The ACAA supports Chinese nationals who have returned home to China after completing their studies in Australia.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to give these university graduates exposure to the business environment in China. They get to hear from industry professionals and learn about what they need to do for their future development.”

Stephen is also a CPA Australia South China Founding Committee member, where he helps to promote the CPA Australia designation and drive member engagement and discussion.   

Advice on how to get an international career:

Stephen Shen CPA’s (Aust.) top tips to students starting their careers:

  1. Plan your career by finding your inspiration and key strengths
  2. Learn about the market and your employer’s competitors
  3. Check your relevance for the position and get the necessary soft and hard skills
  4.  Set clear goals for the next six months, one year or five years

As for Stephen’s future, he has reached a point in his career where he is more concerned about what he can contribute to others rather than chasing a higher title.

“I am really keen to look at how I can help ICBC Asia, in the future as well as what I can do for society in general and for CPA Australia in my region.” 


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