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Meet The Team: Lawrence Chan, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Get into the Greater China area as early as possible if you’re serious about a career there says MBA Recruitment Director at Chinese University Hong Kong


Tue May 24 2011

We caught up with Lawrence Chan, Director of marketing and student recruiting for the MBA program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the city's biggest MBA program. Chan tells us why Hong Kong is a better place to do an MBA than Shanghai or Singapore, what you need to get into a Chinese investment bank, and what sectors are hiring these days.

A bit of background on the CUHK MBA...  90% of students are international, though many of these are “the new international”, namely students from ever-growing mainland China.

There are plenty of Europeans too, coming from Germany, Italy, France and the UK, as well as the Czech Republic and Poland. Chan praises European students for adapting well to the demands of Hong Kong’s China-influenced internationalism, and is actively seeking more applicants from Europe

Students on CUHK’s MBAs tend to have eight or nine years of work experience.

Now for the questions!

Why study in Hong Kong as opposed to Singapore or Shanghai?
If you want to focus on the Greater China market, Hong Kong gives you greater market access, career opportunities and more networks than Singapore. Singapore is a great location if you’re interested in South East Asia: it depends on your career goals.

In Hong Kong you’ll learn the Chinese language and Chinese business culture.

There are some great schools and multinational firms in Shanghai, but for a western student it’s easier to start a career in Hong Kong, especially if you don’t yet speak good Chinese.

What sets CUHK’s MBA apart from other MBA programs in Hong Kong?
Each school has its own character and personality. We have the biggest MBA intake – 100 full-time students and 120 part-time students this year. And we’re all-rounders: our students come not just from finance but also from marketing, entrepreneurship and family business backgrounds.

We also have the biggest number of business professors of all the Hong Kong schools which means we can offer more electives.


Hong Kong’s economy grew 2.8% in Q1 2011, compared to growth of 1.8% in the US and 0.8% in the Euro zone

What are the opportunities in Hong Kong outside of finance?
There are of course many opportunities in finance, both in international and Chinese institutions. But in Hong Kong you also see a lot of general business development, the major consulting firms, Fortune 500 leadership programs, and luxury brand marketing.

People who graduate from Hong Kong are considered adaptable and flexible: they can work in China, Singapore, Taiwan and of course in Hong Kong.

Recent MBAs from CUHK have worked in strategy for hi-tech companies like Dell, luxury brands like LVMH, BCG, McKinsey and HSBC. Our program develops strategic thinkers who can work in many different industries.

Do you need to know Mandarin or Cantonese to build a career in Hong Kong?
Learning Mandarin is a lot more important than Cantonese from a professional perspective. It’s spoken across the Greater China area. But a lot of graduates are able to get jobs in Hong Kong without knowing either Mandarin or Cantonese.

That said, speaking one of the local languages is always an advantage and we have some international students, from countries such as Italy, Germany and Japan, who speak excellent Mandarin.

Which sectors are hiring in Hong Kong these days?
2011 is going well. Some of the key recruiters are JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, and BNP Paribas.

There are marketing opportunities with luxury goods and creative brands. For these roles recruiters are typically looking for someone with experience in franchise development, business partnership development, branding, online marketing, experience with a big branding agency and an understanding of the greater China market.

We’ve placed people at Kimberly Clarke, P&G, Nike and Puma.

We’re seeing a lot more opportunities with Chinese investment banks. The investment banking arm of, for example, Bank of China is doing a lot more M&A and IPO advisory work.

What’s your advice to students who want to get into Chinese banks
They’re looking for students with good analytical skills. About 25% of the people they hire qualified as accountants at a Big Four firm before doing an MBA.

Chinese banks are expanding and hiring a lot of people, many of them former bankers ate major US firms. Their hiring process is similar to Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley – you have to go through eight rounds of interviews and tests.

You also need knowledge of Chinese business culture and the Chinese language. Chinese citizens who have been away for too long in the US or the UK don’t have a good understanding and will have a challenge: a Hong Kong MBA will prepare them to transition back to China.

Chinese banks are looking for people who know the mainland and who have access to information, clients, markets, and networks. If you want to make it in China you need to get into the region as soon as possible.

You need to bring value and tangible return from the outset. They are different to western banks, which give you training and exposure. You need direct experience, and to be able to deliver to customers straight away!

We have students who have worked for institutions like HSBC and BNPParibas internationally, and we’ve helped them transition to a China-oriented career with help from alumni, coaching and mentoring.

What else is new at CUHK?
We’ve opened a campus in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which is home to one of the two stock markets in mainland China (the other is in Shanghai). 80 per cent of the world’s mobile devices, including the iPhone and the iPad, are made there. We’re building links to the South China area and there should be 10,000 students there within two years.

How much is the full-time MBA at CUHK?
Students need to budget a total of 60,000 euros for tuition, travel, living plus a few trips e.g. company visits to mainland China, Japan and Korea.

Student Reviews






One of a kind

I studied Bioinformatics at CUHK last year. It was the only Master's degree in Hong Kong in this field. This program developed my analytical skills and equipped me to be a Bioinformatician in a very practical way. I enjoyed my year here and met classmates from different parts of the world. If you are thinking to enhance your profile, this degree program would be a good option.




On Campus

general education courses, unique college system, large campus

The university facilitates multi-dimension and interdisciplinary learning. In social science faculty, we need to choose courses as our faculty package from other departments (architecture, psychology, sociology, etc.) to learn more than our major required courses. We are also required to finish general education courses, which aid our critical thinking and humanistic sensibilities. I do recommend the social science broad-based program, and the professors I met so far are all responsible and erudite.





The faculty of law is relatively new. You do not need to have a LLB to pursue a LLM, which is special. The taught programme is great for mature students who want to obtain legal knowledge. CUHK has good teaching staff too.




Amazing Campus and Great Educational Environment

Not only is CUHK's main campus breathtaking, it provides for a good educational environment for students. The university is well-equipped with modern and up-to-date facilities to help students with their study. We have 8 libraries in total around the campus; one for media, one for architectural studies, the medical library and the law library. The Professors are always helpful and are happy to talk to students when needed. Moreover, the college system within the university brings forth the uniqueness of CUHK. Each student belongs to a different college, and in that students are able to meet different peoples from different countries and students from different faculties. I think CUHK provides for a well-rounded university life for all students.





One of the most down to earth places in HK. A great opportunity to learn and embody the local culture. Also had one the most beautiful campus in Hong Kong up on the hillside. Glad to have graduated here.




Innovative and Supportive

My university provided me with all the support I needed, and encouraged me to be up to date with all the new developments in the world. They also provided me with the incentive to excel at what I do, and they take much pride in my achievements. I have had a very rewarding university experience.




Small, New But Friendly Law School

To being with, I think the campus of CUHK is the best and the biggest in Hong Kong, with fresh air and trees everywhere. I am an undergraduate Law student at CUHK and I think the teaching here is great, with very friendly and nice professors and the new Lee Shau Kee Building. In terms of the courses offered by CUHK, as one of the largest universities in Hong Kong, CUHK is an all-rounded university, offering a wide range of courses to students. Students may take the introductory courses of discipline other than their own major, or even declare a minor. For law electives, due to the small amount of intake, the variety of law electives are not that huge. However, the Faculty is offering some international programmes, which can be treated as law electives, but at the same time, provide us with an opportunity to travel and know more about the legal system of another country. The career support from the Faculty of Law is also amazing. The Faculty will organise CV Sessions and talks on how to get an internship from law firms or mini-pupillage from barrister's chambers. Each student will also have a Distinguished Professional Mentor, which is a current legal profession, providing us with practical advices and updates of the legal field. Finally, from my personal experience, I think the students in CUHK are friendly and genuine. As Law students, competition is inevitable for grades, GPAs, vacation schemes and training contract. However, I think the competition in CUHK Law School is a positive one, in a sense that help us grow together, instead of fighting with each other no matter what. That is the biggest reason why I am having a very good time here in CUHK Law School.




A place to explore your interests

As a law graduate from CUHK (both undergrad and post-grad), I realise that I had many opportunities to explore my areas of interests (legal and non-legal both). The faculty/university requires us to take a certain number of non-law electives, and offers a plethora of courses to choose from. Personally, I took 3 modules in Korean --I can't say it's made me highly proficient, but it's definitely given me a good foundation (I can walk into a Korean restaurant and confidently order food, at the very least). The fact that language courses are offered also provides students who are more financially constrained an opportunity to learn a language without having to shell out a premium for a decent language course. On top of that, we have a range of law electives as well. I know of classmates who have developed lasting interest in different areas of law because of the electives they took in school. The two electives that I would say have changed me is (i) mooting and (ii) family law. I think my experience in an international commercial arbitration moot competition has helped tremendously in formulating legal arguments and legal writing. On the other hand, taking a family law elective has made me very interested in the family law practice, especially in terms of child rights. For these experiences which I have gained, I'm grateful for the opportunities provided by the school. One main issue most students I know have is with the way our GPA is calculated and the lack of transparency in terms of how the honours system works. As our GPA is marked on a curve. it's highly unrepresentative of what we have achieved as individuals. Given that our GPA is the only criteria that is looked at when we apply for the compulsory post-graduate law course (mandatory should we want to practise law and/or be trainees in Hong Kong), it will put our own students at a distinct disadvantage when we compete for limited spaces with students from schools where GPA is not on a bell curve.




On Campus

Valuable time in CUHK

I like the learning environment and people at CUHK. Surrounded by hills and Tolo Harbour, CUHK provides a balance between nature and hustle. You can always escape from the busy study life and meet your friend around the big campus for different activities.