​For Lena Yuan, the digitalisation of banking processes brings exciting opportunities to broaden her skills and pick up new knowledge.

At 55, Lena may be a veteran in banking, but she still keeps an open mind when it comes to picking up new skills to level up at her job. In fact, her exemplary efforts to adapt and transform have even won her the IBF Outstanding Financial Services Professional (OFSP) Award. 

After 18 years with Citibank, Lena was handpicked to be part of a pioneer batch of customer service officers to test and provide new digital services, and after completing a 3-month long Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) organised by Citibank, she was promoted to a Digital Service Advisor.

She recounts the main lessons she has learnt from her years of experience in the industry.

​Overcoming The Fear Of The Unknown

Many mature workers may find learning a new skill intimidating, or are perhaps afraid that they won’t be able to pick up digital jargon quickly enough. But Lena didn’t let her age become an obstacle – she took any challenges she faced in her stride and kept a positive mindset throughout. 

“As with learning anything new, there will always be a certain element of uncertainty, But I was able to overcome that by keeping an open mind.”

Taking every challenge as an opportunity to grow and improve, Lena was able to stay enthusiastic about making the most of her PCP experience. She found that the upskilling process was less about unlearning and relearning, but more about adding on new knowledge to her years of experience to help her better adapt to situations at work. 

Lena’s past experience as a CitiPhone Officer had equipped her with a deep base of knowledge of the products and services offered by the bank. The new digital knowledge she has gained through the programme allowed her to build on these existing knowledge, enabling her to serve her customers faster and more efficiently. 

To better help her effectively apply what she’s learnt, Lena was also assigned a mentor as part of her on-the-job training. This allowed her to receive real-time guidance on how to deal with customers, and put her newly acquired skills to use. 

She and her colleagues also have ongoing sharing sessions, where everyone shares their learnings and provides each other with professional and moral support. These initiatives not only helped Lena develop her skillsets, it also helped her to forge strong bonds with her colleagues which made her new job that much more enjoyable. 

​Putting Yourself In The Shoes Of The Customer

Lena is extremely happy with the skills she has acquired through her PCP training. In addition to more general topics such as Customer Journey Mapping, Design Thinking, Business Writing Skills, and Problem Solving with Emotional Intelligence, there were also sessions that specifically covered the new skills and technologies she would be using as part of her role as Digital Service Advisor. 

“Because of the training and skills that I have developed, I am more empowered to resolve my customers’ concerns,” she confides “I now better understand where the customer is coming from and how to resolve their concerns in the best manner.”

She particularly enjoyed learning about Design Thinking, which taught her to see from the customers’ perspective – something she had since applied to her every day work. 

“Putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes gave a fresh perspective as to their needs and how I can better meet them. It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction to meet my customers’ needs over the phone in real time.”

To Lena, learning and acquiring new knowledge are about enabling us to do our jobs better, and she encourages all her peers to embrace this. “Everyone should take the opportunity to participate in the PCP and any other learning platforms their company might have.” 

​Bridging The Digital Skills Gap

With digital transformation in the banking industry, customer service professionals need to have a strong grasp of digital banking platforms to better serve their customers. "We all have to continually evolve to move with the times," Lena declares emphatically.

Citibank's new co-browsing tool is key to helping Digital Service Advisors like Lena resolve internet banking issues in a more effective way – the tool allows her to view real-time images of what the customer is seeing, allowing her to guide the customer through the right steps more efficiently as compared to describing the actions over the phone. It has made a "truly revolutionary" difference in the way she does her job, Lena explains.

"This is an exciting time at the bank with their continued momentum to digitise," she shares. "I plan to continue upgrading my skills by attending cross-departmental training to broaden my knowledge, and learn how the various departments have digitised their processes too."

​Starting A New Journey

Despite a long career in the industry, Lena is still able to achieve new milestones – in addition to being part of a pioneer batch of digital service advisors at a bank she’s worked with for coming to 20 years, she also won the OFSP award in recognition of her adaptability in learning new skills and willingness to share with others in her team.

Lena believes in being a lifelong learner, and is always open to acquiring new skills that will help her become better at her profession. 

“The PCP process has kick-started my lifelong learning journey. Learning is now integrated into every part of my life, I believe that every day is an opportunity to learn and grow.”

The Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) is to help employers and employees alike tackle the challenges associated with rapid transformation of the banking industry, by providing structured training and financial support. 

Whether you are a financial institution looking to develop your existing talent pool, or a finance professional seeking to take the next step in your career, IBF’s Professional Conversion Programme can help you develop a structured training plan to achieve those goals. 

For her next step, Lena intends to continue learning and upgrade her skills by attending cross-departmental training offered by the bank. The PCP experience has definitely unleashed her passion for learning and she encourages other mature workers to take up the programme, or similar ones, when the opportunity comes knocking. 


This article is part of a series of stories on PMETs who have gone through an upskilling or reskilling transformation journey within the banking and finance industry.