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How A Master's In Finance Opens Doors To Top Jobs In Southeast Asia

Two Master’s in Finance students in Southeast Asia explain how they’re reaping the benefits of job opportunities in a fast-growing region


Fri Jun 12 2020

Home to 700 million people, Southeast Asia is experiencing a rapid wave of growth. In Vietnam, GDP grew 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020. Indonesian GDP now exceeds $1 trillion, and Malaysia and the Philippines both boast GDPs above $300 billion.

While coronavirus is expected to impact exports, their markets are expected to recover well, especially compared with the financial downturns of 1998 or 2008.

For Joseph Legasto and Akhmad Nurhidayat, alumni of the HKUST-NYU Stern Master of Science in Global Finance (MSGF), a collaboration between HKUST Business School in Hong Kong and NYU Stern, Southeast Asia has provided the ideal launchpad for their careers in finance.

Joseph Legasto | From a Master's in Global Finance to the San Miguel Corporation

40cd394b762d76f2d7ca3381290fed160102e5f3.png Joseph Legasto: "For me, the MSGF program was a chance to enhance my capabilities in analyzing global capital markets and corporate finance practice"

Prior to enrolling on the MSGF program in 2014, Joseph Legasto had a decade’s worth of experience in the investment banking industry, with former roles at both Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale.

During this time, he became increasingly aware of evolving opportunities in a dynamic finance sector. Understanding the ins and outs of global markets, though, isn’t straightforward.

“Continued developments and sophistication in the finance industry will only become more challenging over time. For me, the MSGF program was a chance to enhance my capabilities in analyzing global capital markets and corporate finance practice.

"Furthermore, I wanted to arm myself with the relevant skills in executing private equity transactions, which remains very nascent in the Philippines," he explains.

The MSGF takes students to New York, Hong Kong, and China, all in a modular format. “The program brings together two superior business schools in two of the world’s most important financial hubs—for me that offers an educational experience beyond the classroom,” Joseph says.

The curriculum includes forward thinking modules in behavioral finance and fintech, which aims to equip students with future-proofed skills.

With a core focus on global capital markets and corporate finance, joining the program provided practical lessons that Joseph was able to apply immediately to his career. 

“I not only was promoted immediately after my graduation, but I also had the opportunity of working in the US to head the strategic planning department of a media company,” he says.

Working for ABS-CBN for two years, the Philippines' largest media conglomerate, Joseph worked on the company’s global strategy.

Now, he’s assistant vice president and senior project manager for the corporate merger and acquisitions (M&A) group of the San Miguel Corporation—the largest corporation in the Philippines, and one of Southeast Asia’s largest investment holding companies.

Joseph works on companies in a wide range of industries on potential investments, acquisitions, analysis of divestment opportunities, and restructuring of current portfolio companies. He says that without his academic training on the MSGF, this role may not have been a possibility.

Akhmad Nurhidayat | From a Master's in Global Finance to CFO

5910e4b8a261501defc1a04fa9eb7dd867763ff9.png Akhmad Nurhidayat: “Right at the beginning of the program, professors outline in detail the complex global situation. This view holds throughout and is so important for understanding the impact of global finance."

For Akhmad Nurhidayat, choosing the MSGF program boiled down to its global reach and the prestigious reputation of HKUST and NYU Stern. Previously amassing close to 20 years in first accounting and finance management in his native Indonesia, he enrolled on the program in 2018.

“I knew I had to carefully balance my job with my education,” Akhmad says. “One of the great things about the MSGF is its flexibility. With its modular format, I was able to continue my work while pursuing the degree.”

Choosing to study at business school can be a costly investment, both in time and tuition. Akhmad was sponsored by his company to undertake the MSGF—testament to the program’s ability to build on valued skills.

“Right at the beginning of the program, professors outline in detail the complex global situation. This view holds throughout and is so important for understanding the impact of global finance,” he says.

The fifth module of the MSGF takes students to NYU’s Shanghai campus, with a module in financial markets and corporate finance in China.

“Having that Asian focus is important. But combining that with modules in New York too really broadens your horizon,” Akhmad says.

That global outlook and the program’s corporate finance modules proved to be a stepping stone in Akhmad’s career.

Towards the end of the program, even before graduating, he was made CFO for a subsidiary of Sriboga Raturaya, a leading corporation within Indonesia’s food sector. 

It’s a top management position at a company he’s been with for the past decade. “As CFO, every financial decision must be based with both global macroeconomics and our own local situation in mind,” he explains.

HKUST-NYU Stern MS in Global Finance | Joining a global network

With an international class—the MSGF had over 15 nationalities in the most recent cohort—the program brings together diverse backgrounds with a multitude of different work experience.

“I immediately entered a network with friends from all over the world—US, China, South Africa, Russia, Singapore—that’s something you just don’t get elsewhere,” Akhmad (right) says.

Joseph agrees: “Being a part of the alumni network of both universities is second to none, as it provides me with continued benefits and engagement with the community,” he says. “It was an extraordinary experience for me since it took me out of my comfort zone to learn and experience something new,” Joseph concludes.

Southeast Asia is proving to be an ideal environment to take their careers to the next level.  It’s convenient, then, that hiring of Master’s in Finance students is on the rise. According to Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 58% of companies in the Asia-pacific region planned to hire graduates in 2019, a 9% increase on the previous year.

For Joseph and Akhmad, the MSGF program has positioned them well for top promotions in large corporations, in a fast-growing region.