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Tech Groups Bet On Business Schools As MBA Careers Pickup In Asia Pacific

Technology groups are leading growth in recruitment across Asia Pacific. Companies from healthcare to finance are tapping business schools for talent to fuel Asian expansions.

Thu Apr 23 2015

Technology groups are tapping MBA students to work in Asia Pacific as the balance of recruiting power tilts slightly to the east. Global finance and healthcare companies are also placing MBAs into the region, as Asia Pacific countries benefit from robust economic growth and social change.

Amazon and Microsoft are both strong recruiters of MBA graduates in the region, particularly China. Telstra, the Australian telecoms business, is compiling a white paper on its potential MBA talent pipeline.

The MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance Conference in Hong Kong last month gathered recruitment executives from across sectors at corporations including HSBC, Credit Suisse and Tencent, the Chinese investment holding group.

Recruiters who attended the event spoke of recruitment expansion in Asia, with plans to hire MBAs to work at locations including China, Singapore and Malaysia.

Pauline Ma, talent acquisition director at Amazon China, said there was a strong trend of hiring MBAs not just into Amazon’s retail business, but its vendor and product management divisions, too.

For Amazon the focus is on boarding students from Asian and US schools. The online retailer is also looking into the broader Australasian markets.

Amazon has been one of the strongest recruiters of MBAs and is a top-ten employer at most leading schools – among them Michigan Ross, Berkeley Haas, and INSEAD, which has a campus in Singapore.

Angela Williams, associate director of the MBA Career Center at Georgetown McDonough School of Business, said that the school has seen strong demand from Amazon for MBA students for roles in China and Japan among other countries.

Deb Findlay, recruitment lead for diversified industry at Saïd Business School, said: “Amazon has been one of Saïd Business School’s top three MBA recruiters over the past three years.”

MBA students are increasingly looking for international roles with a wide area of impact, and cross-functionality. This is driving the popularity of online retailers like Amazon, said Paula Quinton-Jones, director of career services at Hult International Business School: “The impact they [MBAs] can have is immediate,” she said.

Microsoft is a strong recruiter of MBA graduates in Asia Pacific, according to Tracey McClurg, head of MBA careers at UWA Business School in Australia.

Microsoft has in recent years expanded recruitment, hiring around 300 MBAs for full-time roles and 75 for internships per year. Talent will help in its transition from a software company to a new-style devices and services group through brands such as Xbox.

Schneider Electric, the European-listed energy management group, is hiring a number of MBAs for senior positions as the company looks to electrify its expansion in Asia. Schneider’s chief executive, who has an MBA from ESSEC Business School, is based in Hong Kong.

It is recruiting for senior-level positions in dealmaking and strategy as well as in finance – all based in Beijing, the Chinese capital.

Candidates must speak fluent English and Mandarin Chinese, and this is often a stumbling block for MBA students hoping to work in China. But there is a strong demand for native language speakers on the mainland and in Hong Kong – this has driven up jobs, according to the Emerging Markets Institute at INSEAD.

Richard Bisset, a career consultant at global business school CEIBS, based in Shanghai, said that speaking Mandarin is an advantage for MBAs in the city, but it is not essential.

Tracey at UWA said that China is in the most demand among MBAs generally at the school but that utilizing alumni networks would be key in securing jobs in the nation.

Wendy Nicholls, regional director at recruiters Hay Group, noted that high on companies’ agenda is the re-balancing of economic power in China, which will change careers.

Urbanisation in China, with 350 million inhabitants expected to have moved from China’s countryside into regional cities by the end of this year, is expected to open business opportunity in infrastructure, housing, healthcare, and education among others – areas that will grow due to population demands.

The consultancy, finance, healthcare and industrial energy sectors – and retail – at brands including Burberry and Porsche – are already hiring strongly in Asia Pacific, according to business school careers managers.

A growing middle class has already buoyed the luxury market in China which, although slowing, has been a sound recruiter of MBAs. “We’re receiving more growth [in luxury] in areas like greater China and in the BRIC countries,” said Chris Higgins, assistant director at INSEAD’s Career Development Centre.

Credit Suisse in Singapore is another big employer of MBAs, according to Tracey at UWA. The Swiss bank typically recruits for its investment and private banking units, although it is expected to scale back its investment banking outfit further under a new chief executive.

Billy Zhang, vice president of strategy and development at Tencent, noted at the Alliance Conference that the company is focusing on attracting MBA talent into its Malaysian and Singapore offices.

Liberty Mutual, the Singapore-based insurer, has been recruiting MBAs in Australia for its country leadership program across Asia Pacific, according to John Gurskey, director of the Melbourne Business School Career Management Centre.

“The [other] markets in these regions are growing much more rapidly than Australia and require multilingual leadership talent,” he said.

Many banks are pushing their wealth management operations into emerging market countries. The focus is on locations with notable private wealth growth such as Asia, said Tony Somers, director of the Career Management Center at HEC Paris.

Deutsche Bank’s wealth management recruitment, for example, has been focused on Singapore, the bank said in November.

Finance recruitment is particularly strong in Hong Kong – where approximately 70 of the world’s top-100 banks have established a presence, according to Professor Jitendra Singh, dean of HKUST Business School.

“We are ideally placed to meet the recruitment, training and development needs of such a vibrant industry,” he said.

University of Hong Kong works with corporate partners including Citibank and New World Development, the property investor, according Eric Chang, dean of the university’s Faculty of Business and Economics.

He said that the business school is “riding on Hong Kong’s status as one of the largest financial centres”.