Understanding the range of benefits experienced by industry participants in the Bank of Beirut internship program in Lebanon

This blog is part of a series sharing lessons and stories from Western Sydney University’s first enterprise internship program in Lebanon. This was an initiative between the Bank of Beirut (BoB), Western Sydney University (WSU) and the World Patriarchal Maronite Foundation for Integral Development (WPMF). 

This is the third blog in the series about the Bank of Beirut (BoB) internship program. The first blog includes background information about the program, discussion of work-based learning in international contexts and specifics about the process of piloting such a program in an area that is considered inaccessible due to risk and funding factors. The second blog discusses the range of benefits experienced by students undertaking the BoB internship program. In this blog, we explore the benefits again but this time from the perspective of the industry partner and its various stakeholders. 

Background 

The BoB has an established internship program for Lebanese undergraduate students. Both the Australian and Lebanese interns were inducted together, providing an opportunity for all interns to learn about the different departments and the history of the organisation as well as to meet their managers and supervisors. Australian students participating in the BoB internship program had the opportunity to join different departments of the bank depending on their area of study and interest. Four students worked out of the Bank of Beirut headquarters in Riad Solh (finance and banking centre of Beirut – similar to Martin Place) in the Finance Department and Capital Markets, Risk Management, and Global Markets Division. Two students worked in Jdeideh in two different areas of the bank: Project Management and Information Technology. Two students worked out of Bauchrieh in two different areas of the bank: Quality Assurance and Transaction Banking Management. One student worked out of Foch in Digital Media. All students worked full time hours for their departments, Monday to Friday.

The Bank of Beirut and its Staff in Lebanon

The Bank of Beirut is an international bank with over 90 branches on 4 different continents. Its head office is based in Lebanon. Employees are typically of Lebanese background, having grown up, been educated and lived predominantly in Lebanon. Staff of the Bank of Beirut have a high level of education and speak multiple languages. In addition, they tend to have loyalty and longevity with the Bank of Beirut: many middle managers have worked with the bank for approximately 10 years. 

Benefits of Internship Programs to Host Organisations

Internship programs provide a range of benefits to the host organisation. Interns bring with them new and more up-to-date external expertise, adding to the knowledge base and enhancing long-term competitiveness. These programs can also benefit the firm’s position in the labour market through stronger bonds with academic institutions, improved visibility within and access to a higher calibre of potential staff and networks as well as being a vehicle for promotion of the company’s image, brands, products and services. The BoB has access to a range of these benefits within its existing internship program for Lebanese students. The introduction of this Australian program takes these same benefits to an international scale. Because of the international component, there are also additional interpersonal and professional benefits to the host organisation and its staff. 

Benefits of the BoB Internship Program to the Bank of Beirut and its Staff

Staff across several different departments at the Bank of Beirut had the experience of working with the Australian student interns. The interns in the program ranged from 19-32 years old, some having lived independently for a long time and others on their own for the first time. They came with different levels of work experience and from a range of various social, cultural and language backgrounds. Interns were from five ethnically diverse backgrounds: Lebanese-Australian, Nigerian, Pakistani, Chinese and Scottish, and brought a diversity of professional and personal experience to the program. Four of the students did not speak any Lebanese or have any knowledge of Lebanese culture. The bank’s employees and managers therefore had the opportunity to develop greater awareness of interpersonal differences, increased patience, increased tolerance and greater acceptance of others. Many of the managers took on the role of mentors for the interns and developed this relationship over the full four weeks of the program. There was a need to refine and develop their skills in communication and negotiation across intercultural lines and through language and social differences. 

One benefit to the host organisation and its staff was an opportunity to receive ‘fresh eyes’ on their processes, strategic approach and modes of doing business. The Australian interns were able to provide insight into the Australian way of doing things in terms of banking, finance and digital marketing. These insights were delivered informally throughout work placement in different departments as well as in the formal reports prepared for the Bank at the end of the program. 

Finally, the Bank of Beirut benefited from the internship program through their Australian subsidiary, the Bank of Sydney. The CEO of the Bank of Sydney and their board members were able to meet the students and spend time with them in workplace training and social settings. Getting to know the interns and their experience provided first hand insight for these stakeholders in a way never before possible. These insights make a valuable contribution to the Bank of Sydney’s own internship program, which is currently in development. In addition to providing relevant input into their own internship program, the students become a pool of potential employees for the Bank of Sydney, with knowledge of their parent company’s systems and processes as well as strong networks with the head office.

The benefits of the BoB internship program were experienced by students, the host organisation as an entity and by its staff and subsidiaries. However, the benefits also extend to the host community more broadly. This will be the subject of the next blog in this series. 

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