Fast track with an MBA
Major banks and financial institutions cut no corners when it comes to hiring recruits with the potential to be corporate leaders. They have a number of key indicators that accelerate the process, making it possible to identify suitable talent and make certain they integrate and perform. And among these criteria, whether the applicant has an MBA - and what the said programme included - generally carries the greatest weight.
'We find that maturity, proven leadership capabilities and business acumen allows MBA students to fast track their careers,' says Edward Hayes, regional head of talent acquisition, northeast Asia, for Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong). 'They can become successful product specialists or general leaders within the bank and possess the qualities - diverse backgrounds, a wealth of experience, and exposure across different industries - to add real value in a truly international business environment.'
In particular, Hayes notes that the MBA training offered by the likes of world-ranked Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School helps to sharpen insights and develop new perspectives. It is one thing to understand best practices and the technical aspects of running a successful business. The top programmes though, go well beyond that by obliging students to stretch their limits and acquire the all-round set of hard and soft skills they will need to make it to the top.
Recognising that who you know can sometimes be as important as what you know, the classroom discussions, seminars and industry workshops also give the opportunity to create an extensive network of contacts to rely on and bounce ideas off as a career unfolds.
'We notice that MBA graduates always have clear objectives and are very results-oriented,' says Hayes, who oversees Standard Chartered Bank's selection of management associates from the world's top business programmes. 'These attributes, with sound managerial skills, are particularly important for a leader to drive a business and power that business on to the next level.'
New recruits are expected to hit the ground running and, Hayes notes, HKUST graduates perhaps have an edge in this respect. They arrive with an international perspective, an understanding of business practicalities in China, and up-to-date views on Asia's changing role in the global economy. They have also heard directly from some of the region's leading entrepreneurs and executives about the challenges of piloting a company through the contrasting challenges of both good times and bad.
'With its Asian roots, internationalised faculty and students from all corners of the globe, HKUST is developing the business leaders of tomorrow,' Hayes says. 'That's why, as an employer, it is important for us to maintain an effective and sustainable partnership with the school and its career services office to ensure better mutual understanding of hiring priorities, synergies and appropriate opportunities.'
Frank Yang, director for direct investment with CCB International Asset Management, is similarly clear about the value of an MBA for recruiters. Indeed, he knows both sides of the story, having completed his own qualification at HKUST in 2008 before taking on interns from later intakes to give them hands-on experience of the banking sector.
'After working in China for six years, I saw the need, on the one hand, to improve my hard skills and industry knowledge and, on the other, to learn more about the Western approach to finance and marketing,' Yang says. 'I felt it was critical to have international insights and, therefore, really appreciated the chance to study at Columbia in New York during the course.'
Yang did his own three-month internship with a major equities firm in Hong Kong. Now, as an employer, he has clear views on how to make such roles work well for both parties. He believes that, while they are with the bank, MBA interns are full-time professionals and he assigns tasks accordingly, such as financial modelling, as well as visiting customers and attending in-house strategy sessions.
'We give close attention to finding roles that are a good fit for each individual - their technical background as well as their specific interests - but we also expect them to show flexibility,' Yang says. 'HKUST is famous for its financial training, but interns can learn a lot about market dynamics and what is behind different investment decisions.'