New research into Vietnamese women who completed Australian development scholarships in the banking and finance sector provides some of the strongest evidence to date of alumnae making positive contributions to economic and public diplomacy outcomes.
For more than 60 years, the Australian Government has offered scholarships to countries for applicants to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia and return to their countries endowed with the skills and knowledge to make significant contributions.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2016 commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to investigate the long term outcomes of these programs through an Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility.
The most recent case study from the Facility focuses solely on Vietnamese women who completed Australian development scholarships between 1996 and 2005. It describes their experiences in the banking and finance sectors in Vietnam after its transformation by the socioeconomic reforms of Doi Moi.
The research found that alumnae have contributed to the development of accounting standards for Vietnam, improved auditing standards, policies and quality control of government expenditure; developed codes of conduct to improve transparency and reduce corruption; and supported training and capacity-building in the whole sector.
From 1986, Vietnam experienced a time of rapid socioeconomic development known as Doi Moi when a program of reforms was made, one of which was the relaxation of foreign trade and investment laws. The Vietnamese and Australian Governments selected the best students and employees to undertake undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships and gain much-needed specialist technical and management skills to contribute to reforming state and foreign-owned enterprises.
During Doi Moi, many international businesses and institutions became established in Vietnam. The ANZ bank opened office in Vietnam in 1993 and RMIT University is currently the largest Australian investor in Vietnam, with campuses in Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi.
Feedback from the eight alumnae who participated in the case study revealed they returned to Vietnam at a time when their recently expanded technical and soft skills were highly sought after. Those alumnae who studied undergraduate degrees were able to apply for and swiftly secure positions in multinational organisations in Vietnam, looking for local staff with banking and finance expertise as well as English proficiency. Alumnae who returned to their positions with the government sector found that their scholarship led to career advancement and leadership positions.
According to one alumnae, CEO of Morgan Stanley Gateway Securities in Hanoi, Ms To Minh Huong, ‘When I came back to Vietnam, at that point in time, we were one of the first students who graduated from a Western country, and when we returned to Vietnam, there were only a few international banks… at that point in time. So when we applied for the position, I think we immediately got admitted.’
Alumnae Ms Phan Thi Thanh Binh, Head of Wholesale Banking and Transformations for Vietnam’s largest private sector bank - Techcombank, recalled that alumni from Australia were in high demand ‘because not many people at that time had that kind of background knowledge or training or qualifications’.
The case study also shows that alumnae were well respected and were often promoted quickly. There were more opportunities to lead projects and contribute to their organisations because of their unique skills and knowledge.
Transparency is one of the central challenges with the financial and banking sector in Vietnam. Many alumnae stated that they have had an active involvement in the development and enforcement of codes of conduct within their areas of expertise to ensure transparency.
Ms Hoang Thi Nguyet Chinh, who studied a Bachelor Economics at La Trobe University and is currently the Sales Operations Director at Castrol BP Vietnam, said, ‘ …[in the past] we rarely talked about corruption … In Vietnam, business was: you go with whatever to deliver the result. You can bribe the government to get control. But one good thing I learnt [was to] understand the value of integrity and the value of good corporate governance in business.’
Alumnae were able to train and mentor their colleagues to build capacity within their organisations. Dr Nguyen Anh Thu is an award-winning lecturer at RMIT Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. After completing her studies, she returned to Vietnam and worked in the private sector but was drawn to teaching business at RMIT Vietnam. Dr Nguyen is committed to ensuring ‘students are well prepared for the workplace.’
Alumnae interviewed demonstrated that they were able to help fill capacity gaps in order to transform the banking sector, modernise the economy and make a positive impact on the development of their country. ■
Find out more:
To read the full Vietnam Case Study, visit the Australia Awards Global Tracer Facility website.