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How My MBA Opened The Door To Finance In China

Jeremy Tai chose to leave law for finance and never looked back. With his MBA, he switched industries and landed a job at one of China’s top asset management companies

It’s hard finding a taxi in Beijing’s Central Business District after midnight. 

Jeremy Tai often worked 16-hour days for a Magic Circle law firm in China. He focused on IPOs (Initial Public Offerings), helping Hong Kong-based private companies go public.

After the business and finance guys hashed out the details, his role was to come in and execute the deals they’d made. Working with underwriters like JP Morgan was exciting, but he was left wanting more.

There was a question in the back of his mind, gently reminding him that something wasn’t right. 

“I realized that professional satisfaction might be found on the more proactive side of business,” he says.


Choosing a new path

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Jeremy decided to move upstream to where the decisions were made. He targeted a career in China’s booming financial sector—finance in China is set to grow by 26% in the next decade, and China is also one of the world’s largest investors in fintech.

To change industries, he says doing an MBA served as a signal, both to himself and prospective employers, that he was serious about making the switch. He chose the Tsinghua-MIT Global MBA Program at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM), located at the heart of China’s finance industry in Beijing.

“Tsinghua is your gateway to China,” says Jeremy. “The university works very closely with the Chinese government; in many cases they work hand-in-hand discussing which way policy should go.

“In a field like finance, where the market is developing rapidly, that proximity to regulators and think-tanks in Beijing is important,” he continues.


China roots, global focus

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At Tsinghua, Jeremy gained first-hand exposure to China’s financial industry.

“One day you would have the head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) giving a talk, and the next would bring Alibaba CEO Zhang Yong,” he recalls. “You could really get past the echo chamber of financial news and get down to the nuts and bolts of the Chinese economy.”

One class was even taught by Zhu Yunlai, the former CEO of investment banking firm China International Investment Corporation, a businessman Fortune once ranked 15th in a list of the 25 most influential Asian business leaders.

More importantly, the MBA kept pace with global developments. 

2019 saw the Federal Reserve hike interest rates, while Wall Street still had a dovish outlook. With speculation rife despite indications of further hikes, Federal Open Market Committee member Robert Kaplan lectured at Tsinghua.

“Mr. Kaplan was very terse when he said that ‘committee voting only represents member views on that day’,” recalls Jeremy. A few days later, the Federal Reserve froze interest rate hikes.


A new career in finance

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The road to a job is paved with internships.

Coincidentally, Jeremy found himself working with JP Morgan again, analyzing China’s rising tech ventures. Now on the front end, he could make judgment calls, assessing future potential for growth.

He got his final internship through Tsinghua SEM’s careers center, working for Harvest Fund Management, one of China’s leading asset management companies. After his MBA, he was offered a full-time role.

Today, Jeremy is part of a team of five working with international institutional investors—large pension funds, sovereign funds, and monetary authorities across Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Everyone in his team has international experience. 

Doing an MBA, Jeremy says, not only provides the knowledge you need but also the network to support your career switch. MBA graduates from Tsinghua also have access to the university’s 190,000 strong alumni community, as well as links to alumni networks at MIT Sloan.

“Today, I work for one of China’s top three asset management funds and many of my colleagues and senior managers are Tsinghua alumni,” Jeremy says.

“It’s cliché to say it, but China is the future. While it isn’t for the faint of heart, those looking for a challenge and upside potential should definitely consider it.”

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