Mastering East-West connections
Financial contagion has become the greatest fear of politicians, bankers and investors. The 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2007-2009 great financial crisis and, more recently, the sovereign debt crisis - these upheavals have demonstrated the importance of global financial services to all economies.
Finance professionals with a strong understanding of the inter-connectedness of the world's major financial systems are best placed to be promoted to senior managerial positions, in order to implement appropriate strategies for protecting the financial interests of their organisation when times get tough.
'While there have been job cuts in the financial services sector, employment prospects remain cautiously optimistic,' says Lancy Chui, managing director, ManpowerGroup Hong Kong, Macau and Vietnam Operations. 'For candidates with both relevant work experience and the appropriate academic background, job prospects are much keener.'
Two postgraduate qualifications specialising in global finance that may provide a forward-thinking executive with an edge in a flat job market are the postgraduate diploma in global finance - offered by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - and the master of science in global finance (MSGF) - offered by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
CUHK's postgraduate diploma in global finance was established in 2007 and developed with the assistance of Credit Suisse to provide the investment bank with an effective way to train its most promising managers in Asia Pacific.
'The diploma programme enhances students' understanding of finance in the context of China and the global economy,' says professor Leslie Young Wei-lun, professor of finance and programme director of the postgraduate diploma in global finance at CUHK.
'It allows participants to interact with finance professionals from around the world. It will help them deliver more skilled and thoughtful leadership for their company in the future,' says Young.
Lectures are delivered by senior faculty members from the OneMBA programme and are complimented by guest seminars by speakers from Credit Suisse.
Programme content is continually kept up-to-date to ensure that students understand any new significant developments in global finance.
All lectures are scheduled in intensive study blocks every four to five months so that they can be accommodated more easily into an executive's busy calendar.
The programme analyses the strengths and weaknesses of both Western and non-Western financial systems, and offers specialisations in China finance and Islamic finance and banking.
Its 'action learning projects' involve groups of students in identifying strategic management issues in consultation with the top management of a sponsoring financial institution and a CUHK faculty member.
There are also study tours to Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur, where students get to meet with local regulators and management practitioners. 'The study tours bring students to real situations in different financial markets,' explains Young.
On completion of the 15-month programme, students are eligible for exemptions from some courses in the 'general' and the 'management of financial institutions' streams of the OneMBA global executive MBA programme also offered by CUHK.
Applicants are required to have a recognised bachelor degree and, preferably, three years of work experience in finance. The cost is HK$82,500, excluding airfares and accommodation for the study tours.
The MSGF at HKUST is co-offered with the New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business, and provides students with a solid foundation in finance, by offering a balance between technical and global financial issues that is not usually achieved in MBA programmes.
'The MSGF is like an EMBA but focuses on finance only. It is based on in-class learning taught by professors from two of the world's top finance departments, and also provides a superb learning experience in the largest emerging market in the world,' says Mark Seasholes, professor and academic director of HKUST-NYU Stern masters in global finance programme.
'Participants study with other international professionals and senior executives. The classroom becomes a platform for networking and exchanging ideas,' he adds.
This one-year programme requires students to complete 10 modules and a group-based integrative project drawing on students' experience in global banking and financial markets.
It enables students to gain experience in three of the largest business centres in the world - New York, Beijing and Hong Kong. While most of the learning modules are taught in Hong Kong, there are intensive modules taught in New York and one at Tsinghua University in Beijing, including a number of company visits.
The integrative project encourages participants to apply what they have learned in each module and culminates with a presentation. The focus of the project is on problem-solving processes and highlights the relevance of what programme participants have been taught by their teachers in the classroom.
'The MSGF programme is a quantitative programme for which participants must be academically prepared. While a background in finance can help, it is the motivation to pursue studies that counts,' says Seasholes.
'We look for students who understand how their current jobs fit in with society as a whole. We value students who have a vision as to where their industry is headed and what challenges lie ahead for them,' he adds.
Applicants must be bachelor's degree holders with good GPA results and have at least five years of full-time work experience. A good TOEFL result - or equivalent, such as IELTS - is required if English was not the language of instruction in an applicant's education.
The cost of the course is US$61,500 (about HK$478,000).