Students lag world in business skills

Nora Tong

Lack of ability to think outside the box puts brakes on opportunities for advancement in Hong Kong's vital financial sector

Hong Kong students have fallen behind their overseas counterparts in 'creativity, global perspective and communication skills', according to a financial industry leader.

The comments came as the Advisory Committee on Human Resources Development in the Financial Services Sector and Hong Kong Polytechnic University this week organised a three-day jobs fair consisting of exhibitions and talks. The event, attended by 40 financial institutions, is open to the public and ends today.

Chan Tze-ching, chairman of the advisory committee and a member of PolyU's council, said the financial sector, now employing about 180,000 people or 5 per cent of the workforce in Hong Kong, suffered from a shortage of staff at a time when more talent was needed in financing and investment.

While local graduates performed well in most jobs in the sector, companies had had difficulty identifying suitable candidates for higher value-added work, such as investment banking.

'Financial courses in Hong Kong are very well run. But students do not fare as well in creativity, global perspective and communication skills compared with those studying abroad,' he said.


Mr Chan, also the head of Greater China corporate and investment banking for Citigroup, said 'the basic quality of local students isn't bad' and that they needed an opportunity to show their ability.

He said while academics worked towards nurturing elite students, industry should provide more internship opportunities. 'It's important for students to develop a better understanding of the industry,' Mr Chan said.

A hedge fund director who did not want to be identified said Hong Kong students were not assertive enough compared with students studying abroad. Assertiveness and self-confidence were vital qualities in grabbing opportunities, he said.

'Hong Kong students are not focused enough. There are too many distractions here,' he said.


Judy Tsui, a chartered accountant and dean of the faculty of business at PolyU, said students needed to improve their communication and analytical skills. 'Hong Kong students don't think out of the box,' she said.

But Professor Tsui said she was optimistic that local graduates would soon make the grade for higher value-added financial jobs.


Universities had been striving to equip students by improving their English standards and broadening their horizons through student exchanges and internships, she said, adding that PolyU students were required to complete 300 hours of internship.

The university this week organised a dinner at the Hong Kong Jockey Club where about 100 students of business had the opportunity to meet corporate executives. About 20 students have also been selected to attend a workshop run by Swiss bank UBS on interviewing skills and business etiquette.