Sums add up as studies lead to financial sector

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 January, 2011, 12:00am

After working in the airline industry for eight years and holding a variety of managerial positions, Alan Kwan Ngar-lun felt he needed a different focus in his career. With a strong interest in financial services, he decided to enrol on an MBA programme to effect his career change.

'I wanted to move into the financial services industry, but I didn't have the experience or the technical knowledge needed to make this type of career change,' Kwan says.

While he knew the general area he wanted to move into, he was interested in exploring the range of possibilities.

'One reason I had for doing an MBA was to learn more about the opportunities out there from the other students. I knew that the networking possibilities of an MBA would expose me to a variety of people from different industries, including finance,' he explains.

As most MBA courses demand a large commitment in time and money, and having to fund his studies himself, Kwan needed to make sure he chose a course that would enable him to get value for money and achieve his career goals.

'While local universities provided MBA courses with some specialisation in finance, most programmes seemed to be more generalised in nature,' Kwan says. 'I also knew that my work demands would make it difficult for me to meet the weekly commitment of attending lectures and workshops. I didn't want to be going to classes tired from working all day and having to absorb their content.'

After doing his research, Kwan chose to enrol in the global MBA offered by Manchester Business School Worldwide at the University of Manchester in Britain.

'I needed to balance my studies with my work and family commitments. I needed to travel a lot in my position as regional commercial development manager and I also needed to consider the impact my study would have on my family. So I decided that a part-time programme from overseas would give me the flexibility I needed to maintain that sense of balance,' he says.

'I chose the Manchester programme, in particular, because of the very good reputation the university has, the high placing of the programme in the Financial Times rankings, the quality of the teaching I thought would be there in face-to-face sessions and the fact that I would be able to network with students from different countries.'

The programme had a 'blended study method' that allowed him to combine studies with his work. Blocks of time were set aside before each workshop for quality time to just focus on case studies and other reading materials.

He could complete all the reading and case studies beforehand and formulate questions he wanted to ask during the workshops, thereby achieving a stronger understanding of the theories of each module.

In addition to these face-to-face workshops, students were able to conduct online discussions with course instructors and other students.

Besides being taught by experienced instructors from Britain, the course enabled him to put theories into practice through the use of case studies, presentations and group or individual projects.

'I benefited greatly from working with high-quality instructors and the teamwork required to solve business issues in the workshops and group projects. Working with students from different countries, with at least five years of management experience from a range of industries, broadened and deepened the learning experience,' Kwan says.

While most people wanting to make a significant change to their career path may have to wait until after they graduate, Kwan was able to move into the financial services industry before he completed his studies.

After resigning from his position, he was appointed project management manager for the Asia-Pacific region with Western Union Financial Services. He held that position for two years before moving into his present position as Asia-Pacific head of marketing (investment and advisory) with Thomson Reuters.

By choosing an MBA programme that had a very strong specialisation in finance, Kwan was able to develop a solid knowledge base of financial issues and financial markets. This enables him to effectively promote his company's financial products and services.

'In my current work, I am more than able to speak the same financial language as my clients. I no longer feel like an alien in my discussions with them, as a result of doing my MBA,' he says. 'An MBA should be looked at as being a life-enriching experience, as well as being a way to network with other experienced professionals. Doing the programme gave me the confidence I needed to handle complex business issues in a precise way and present effective business cases to senior management that include some relevant legal arguments I learned.'

As he reflects on his MBA, Kwan looks back with great satisfaction in knowing that he chose a course that provided him with a new set of managerial skills and enabled him to move his career in a new direction without placing undue strain on other parts of his life.