China's foreign exchange officials to study at London Business School

Guardian of mainland's non-yuan cash reserves to send officials to London Business School

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 1:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 4:41am

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), the manager of the mainland's US$3.66 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, will send executives back to school as it seeks to diversify its holdings.

The foreign exchange division of the People's Bank of China signed its first official partnership agreement with a foreign academy yesterday.

The overseas study programme is being viewed as a pragmatic move in the face of cut-throat competition for financial experts in a complex global environment.

The London Business School will train mid-level executives from SAFE, who have an average of eight to 10 years of working experience, in a fast track of its master's programme in finance.

The school, which admits 140 people a year to the programme, will reserve several of those places for SAFE executives, Fiona Sandford, the school's director of career services, said in Hong Kong yesterday.

Sandford said the postgraduate programme aimed to offer a balance between sophisticated financial engineering and general finance for its students, who typically obtained managerial jobs on graduation.

The mainland has a long history of sending top officials and elite scholars to the West for further studies. In 2002, Li Yuanchao , then party secretary of Nanjing , was sent to Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government for a public administration programme designed for leaders in developing countries. Li, who was the head of Organisation Department of the Communist Party - a secretive but powerful unit that guides the placement of officials throughout the government - now serves as vice-president.

"Critical thinking and interactive learning are the things that the well-educated Chinese students are looking to develop when they come back to campus," Sandford said.

The school expects its cohort of Chinese students to expand as it seeks similar partnerships with other government agencies on the mainland and its major banks.

Apart from building a war-chest of brain power, the bigger goal for SAFE is to gradually trim its reliance on low-yielding US dollar treasury bills amid concern about America's ability to repay its debt.

The mainland, the second-largest creditor of the US government after the US Federal Reserve, held US treasury bills worth US$1.2773 trillion at the end of July. Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said last week the US should at least make interest payments until it can redeem treasuries that become due if it defaults.