Banker blunder: Hong Kong trainees caught hiking instead of working at home

PHOTO: Instagram

A group of young management trainees at Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong have courted controversy by going hiking and posting their photos online - while they were supposed to be working from home as part of company measures against the coronavirus outbreak.

One picture showed the employees, in jacket and jeans, posing for a group shot at the Red Incense Burner Summit of Braemar Hill, with the sun setting in the background. The Instagram photo was tagged "best WFH activity", referring to "work from home".

Another picture, tagged "men in the wilderness", showed the group on a hillside, cheering at the camera.

While the post went viral on Monday and drew admiration from users, bank management was not amused, saying the act was "not excusable". But it noted the employees were new and might not be familiar with the work-from-home arrangement.

In a statement, a spokesman for the bank said: "We are aware that there have been online discussions relating to the matter. We view the matter with grave seriousness.

"The bank has an established mechanism to deal with such incidents and we will continue to strictly follow up on the matter."

PHOTO: Instagram

Hang Seng is among banks and other businesses in Hong Kong that have closed branches as the city comes under the grip of the coronavirus. The government earlier extended its work-from-home arrangements for civil servants to February 16.

Since this month, "non-service critical staff" at Hang Seng were told to work from home, while frontline employees were required to have their temperature checked daily, and those who had visited mainland China were asked to work from home for 14 days.

It is unknown if the management trainees in question had visited the mainland recently.

The bank operates about 280 branches in Hong Kong, with more than 9,000 staff members.

Recruitment consultant Alexa Chow Yee-ping, managing director of AMAC Human Resources Consultants, said the incident exposed the inadequacy of monitoring by bank management.

"The supervisors should have given those working from home some specific assignments and asked them to report back on what they have been doing while at home," said Chow. "Not many people in the banking sector would have tried working from home before. So, proper guidelines from supervisors are needed.

"That said, the employees should bear the full responsibility. The essence of working from home is still working, albeit not in office," Chow said.

"The trainees have demonstrated they lack discipline and that they may not be suitable for a managerial job. In some companies, this can result in serious disciplinary action."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.