Building momentum

Prudential’s flagship development programme recruits globally-minded people who have the potential to develop into senior roles.

Operating since 2007, the Momentum programme aims to recruit high-potential individuals early in their careers and provide them with a fast-track development plan. Through business placements and training modules, participants gain management skills and experience in international business.

“Momentum,” says Laurence Barrett, Director of Group Resourcing and Development, “is about creating a strong talent base for the business.”

The programme is designed to recruit a cadre of globally-minded individuals who have the potential to develop into senior leadership roles. To apply, individuals must have a minimum of two years’ work experience. This is critical because, as Laurence puts it, “We don’t want to teach them how to work. They’ve already gone through that growth and have established themselves in their career with a track record of some success.”

What is perhaps unusual about Momentum as a development programme is the range of experiences that Momentees (as they are known) have had. Included among the 60 participants today are an ex-veterinarian, management consultants, people from the fashion industry and even a former professional hockey coach. According to Laurence, that’s one of the things that makes the programme particularly exciting, confounding the traditional expectations of what a financial services business should be looking for from its talent and leadership pool.

The Momentum programme involves three placements each lasting 18 months to two years. Critically, these are real roles in the business with Momentees given genuine responsibilities from day one. While participants are supported in their career development, by both the HR programme team and their line managers, importantly they are expected to forge connections and identify opportunities themselves. The emphasis is very much on self-starters.

The fourth intake to the programme was in December 2010 and, as in previous years, the number of applicants soared. For the last intake there were more than 58,000 hits, from 142 countries, on the Momentum website, and 2,852 people applied from 83 countries. The latest intake has 13 nationalities.

As well as identifying people with future leadership potential, Laurence says that the programme has a number of wider benefits, not least of which is demonstrating the advantages of talent development across the business. “Momentum is creating a spark for good management development, reinforcing what good looks like. Momentees tend to have a high profile, so the benchmark is very visible.”

Momentum also serves as a testing ground for new approaches to development that can be adapted for use elsewhere in the Group. Laurence says: “The programme allows us to investigate new approaches. For example, we are doing work across the organisation to build a talent network, and a lot of this is down to the initial work we did with Momentees. We can play with new ideas, and if they work with Momentees, who are a critical bunch, the chances are they will work elsewhere too.”

2,852

people from 83
countries applied
for the Momentum
programme in 2010

Diversity for a global business

One of the most striking aspects of Momentum is the diversity of the people currently on the programme. Laurence believes that diversity means much more than simply ethnicity or gender: “It’s about being able to think in different ways and to see things from a new angle. If you want to be a successful global organisation you have to have diversity of backgrounds and approaches. Different perspectives can really produce some interesting thinking.”

MOMENTEES IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Justin Chang

Justin, an Australian national, came to London in 2008 and is part of the third intake to the Momentum programme.

“Having worked in corporate finance for one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms in Sydney, I applied for a role on Momentum in London. I wanted to get involved in a leadership programme and be part of something that would allow me to accelerate my development.

Before finding out more about the programme I had quite a narrow view of Prudential. But looking at the growth of the Asia business really confounds those views.

My role today is Business Finance Manager for Asia and I work, in effect, as a gateway between the Asia businesses and Group Head Office. The opportunity to get close to really senior people is tremendously powerful. You get to see the challenges they face and a real insight into the strategy of the business.

Being on the programme means that we are under the spotlight with a lot of pressure to perform. But I like the challenge, I like the pressure. It helps keep work interesting.”

Jeik Sohn

Jeik joined the programme after an MBA at the London Business School, having worked in the steel industry in New York for four years.

“Momentum seemed much more solid than other programmes I looked at. For example, most of the programmes offered by other businesses are one to two years with a rotation every three to six months. In contrast, Momentum gives you the chance to embed yourself in a Business Unit or Group function, learning about the business while really adding some value. The amount of resource poured into the programme is incredible.

My current role is with M&G, working in product development focusing on alternative funds, which are all quite new to the business. Momentum can take you far, and quickly. If I look at people from the first cohort, there is someone recently promoted to head up product development in our South Korea business. So, you can make significant jumps.

Momentum for me was the trigger to look at Prudential and being one of largest players in Asia is critical for me. Although I was raised in the US, I really want to make my way back to Asia during my career.”

Qitian He

Qitian, from Singapore, joined Momentum in 2009, having previously worked for the Singapore Ministry of Finance and Citigroup.

“Most development programmes target recent graduates, but Momentum looks for more experienced people so it really appealed to me.

The rigour of the selection process shows how committed Prudential is to making the programme successful. Being a Momentee makes you highly visible in the business, and that can be good and bad. But, if you do well, you really get access and exposure to senior people.

I work as an internal finance consultant, across the Asia Pacific region. I’ve spent less than one month in Malaysia, where I’m based, over the last six months. My role involves going to different Business Units, providing consulting services for various functions, and seeing through the implementation, which is extremely gratifying. I think that what the programme has given me is the opportunity to move ahead quickly and to gain general management experience fast. I’ve been with the programme for a year and I now manage a team of 12, so it’s really stretching my people management skills.”

Mark Hopkins

Mark joined the programme having been a professional hockey coach for 10 years. He is currently based in Vietnam.

“Through my involvement in elite sport for 10 years, I am really interested in how you get a group of individuals from very different backgrounds to buy into a strategy that delivers results. I wanted to understand how this works in another environment.

What first excited me about Momentum was that they were prepared to talk to me. When I looked at a lot of other programmes they seemed to expect a very similar background from candidates, same degree, same career path and so on. Momentum didn’t raise those barriers and I thought that was really refreshing.

My first role was as an HR Business Partner in Prudential UK and I am now Assistant Director in the Corporate Project Management Office in Vietnam. Prudential Vietnam has grown rapidly in the last 11 years and my role is to support further growth while ensuring that we have the foundations in place to continue expanding. My role has also grown to support the local CEO to help make Prudential Vietnam an employer of choice, and improve communication throughout the organisation.

I have been asked to lead the redesign of our management training programme in Vietnam and I have been able to draw on my contacts through Momentum. Having a network that allows you to tap into great talent from around the business is a real strength of the programme. My background shows that there is no single type of person that can succeed in business. But, if you’re content in your comfort zone, I think you’d struggle on Momentum. You have to look at every opportunity as a learning possibility with the view to making the most of it.”

“If you want to be a successful global organisation you have to have diversity of backgrounds and approaches.”

Further reading
For more information on the Momentum programme visit
www.prudentialmomentum.com

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