Great pull of China
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Kenny Chan spent one year as an assistant civil engineer and two years as an auditor at a Big Four accounting firm, where he specialised in auditing financial institutions.
But Chan was not happy with the nature of his work and wanted a job in investment or asset management. When the subprime mortgage crisis hit in 2008, he decided that an MBA would best pave the way to a career switch.
He quit his job, reasoning that his “opportunity costs” were at their lowest due to the financial crisis, and enrolled in a full-time MBA at the China Europe International Business School (CEIB) in Shanghai. He is now an assistant investment manager at UBS SDIC Fund Management Company.
Why did you do an MBA on the mainland and not in Hong Kong?
As I was born, and did my BA, in Hong Kong, I preferred to further my studies elsewhere so that I could experience a different culture and learn to be more independent. The mainland is well-recognised as a growing superpower, so I could foresee the great potential growth of its financial markets. In contrast, Hong Kong was experiencing a strong economic downturn in 2009, and the financial markets shrank due to the crisis.
As a Hongkonger, my understanding of the mainland was far from adequate, especially my knowledge of its culture, lifestyle and social politics. Experiencing life on the mainland cultivated my sense of belonging to China, broadened my personal network, and facilitated my future career.
What were the reasons behind your choice of school?
The main campus of CEIBS, where the full-time MBA is offered, is in Shanghai – one of China’s most important cities and financial centres. The advantage of this location is that it helped me build a strong network and also helped me benefit from Shanghai’s fast-growing financial market, which is driven by the government’s target of making it a global financial centre by 2020.
The CEIBS MBA programme is highly ranked by several well-known publications, such as the Financial Times, BusinessWeek and Forbes, and has long been recognised as the number-one business school in China. CEIBS has a great network of about 12,000 MBA and EMBA alumni, who are a combination of successful entrepreneurs, top executives, government officials and professionals.
CEIBS has strong teaching and academic resources. Most of the professors have extensive experience teaching at other leading international business schools and are able to bring their global experience to the classroom. This is complemented by the ability of the faculty at CEIBS to provide in-depth China knowledge. The school has several renowned Chinese economists on staff who are available to share their insights.
The student profile at CEIBS is really diverse and international, with about 40 per cent of students from overseas. We were able to share our comment and insights with classmates from different industries and countries.
How did you expect to benefit from the programme?
Before I went to CEIBS, I expected to learn more about management theories, enjoy my life as a student, make more friends, and hopefully get a job in the investment field. But there were a few surprises. The programme was very demanding and I had a busy schedule, packed with coursework, discussions and networking.
How do you think you benefited from the programme?
The experience made me stronger and more willing to express and defend my point of view. My classmates and I often enjoyed group discussions till midnight. We had several parties and networking events with alumni, plus we built solid networks and learned a lot from local mainland Chinese students.
The programme also cultivated my management knowledge and I learned many concepts and frameworks which are very useful for analysing business situations. I use these in my job as I have to analyse data, not only from a financial aspect, but also based on competitive-advantage and business strategies.
Thanks to my CEIBS MBA I got a job as a research analyst in an asset management company with assets under management of over US$5 billion. I was one of the fastest employees in company history to be promoted to the level of assistant investment manager. I have benefited a great deal from the education and opportunities that CEIBS provided me.