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Here's How An MBA In Hong Kong Helped Me Kick-Start My Career In FinTech

Eike Willms discovered his passion for financial technology during an MBA at Hong Kong's CUHK Business School, landing a top job at EY after graduation


Tue Oct 9 2018

If you’re a prospective MBA with your sights set on fintech, it’s unlikely that you haven’t considered programs in Asia.

Particularly in the ‘gateway to China’, Hong Kong, fintech is a fast-growing area of industry that’s attracting mammoth investments from private benefactors.

According to Lattice80, private investments in Hong Kong fintech firms reached $546 million in 2017—more than double their 2016 total. As for government investment, that looks set to total a $60 million over the next five years according to their 2018 budget.

But for MBA students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School, fintech activity in Hong Kong itself is just the tip of the iceberg.

The school offers a Finance and Technology concentration in its MBA program, versing students in everything from the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning in finance, to analytics, to portfolio management.

For Eike Willms, a 2017 graduate of the CUHK MBA, the program inspired a growing interest in finance technology.

“I was working in a bank as a chief executive assistant and was mainly dealing with board activities and customer complaint management,” Eike recalls. “I wanted to get a proper business education, and I wanted to see something [new]—a different continent—so that led me very quickly to the MBA in Asia.”

Eike chose Hong Kong because of its status as a former British colony: on the cusp of mainland China, but with enough independence that it could act as a gateway to the rest of the world.

“The tech hub of Shenzhen is also right next door,” Eike adds. “I was really amazed at what’s going on there, and [how] the fintech scene is becoming much more popular in Hong Kong itself—usually [people think of] Singapore, but I think Hong Kong is gaining back some ground on that point.”

Though Eike had been interested in fintech before his studies, it was at CUHK Business School that his intrigue in the subject flourished.

“I knew that banks needed restructuring, and then when I worked on the MBA I [discovered that] what I want to do is help banks to process services and implement fintech,” he says. “It’s still the case that startups have great ideas but limited funding. The banks have enough resources to fund those activities, and they need the fintech, so I think it’s a good combination.

“Now I’m in the transaction department [at EY in Germany], and we still do traditional transactions with banks when it comes to mergers, acquisitions, cost restrictions, but at the same time we deal with a lot of startups—I think that makes a difference.”

One thing that stands out to Eike from his time on the MBA at CUHK is his trip to the Innovasia fintech summit in Hong Kong, an annual showcase of the latest fintech developments in the region.

“Most of the fintechs that were presenting there were actually from the mainland,” Eike says. “That gave you a very good idea of what’s going on [in the Chinese fintech scene], and I was amazed by what was possible—especially because here in Europe we have so many data restrictions, and [the things they were showing us] were already in the market, not just a concept.

“It had really been proven that it worked in the mainland environment, and now I see it here for my job at EY. We’re the fintech lead in Germany, and we’re talking with clients about [things] I saw in China two years ago, so that was really impressive.”

The Innovasia summit trip is just one example of how CUHK Business School is pushing for fintech education even beyond the curriculum—indeed, their efforts extend even beyond the bounds of Hong Kong.

This year, students embarked on a field trip, which included visiting the tech hub Singapore. While there, they heard about the latest trends in fintech ventures during field visits to Cyberport, Block 71, DBS Innovation Group, and Finlab.

They also received practical lectures, for instance one delivered by Mr. Raymond Cheng, COO of HSBC Group Asia Pacific, on the development of fintech in Hong Kong and Singapore.

For Eike, the experience he gained through the specialized modules on the MBA and the field trips that are offered as part of the course helped him stand out to employers—not just in Asia, but around the world.

“I think with a degree like that, you become [more than] the standard applicant,” he says. “That makes [your application] interesting—you always have something to talk about and the concentration [I chose], finance and strategy, was also a door-opener in this field.”

So—would Eike recommend the MBA at CUHK Business School to fintech enthusiasts like himself?

“Definitely,” he says. “Without any doubt—and I would recommend that they visit Shenzhen from the very beginning. It’s amazing what you can see over there, and it’s just a train ride away from campus.”

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.