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Finance Careers: 4 Things You Need To Know About China

With a booming fintech industry and companies expanding abroad, China's financial sector offers a host of exciting new career opportunities


Mon Oct 12 2020


As one of the world’s fastest-growing economy, China is an attractive prospect for many workers the world over. The country’s impressive strides in fintech, and rapid international expansion, form an especially distinctive finance industry.

“China’s financial sector has been undergoing quite significant reforms in the past decade,” comments Dr Seen Meng Chew, associate professor of practice in finance, and associate director for MBA programs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK Business School).

BusinessBecause caught up with Seen Meng to ask what China's finance sector is like.

Here are four important things to know:

1. China is going through significant fintech developments

China is an undisputed world leader when it comes to fintech. Digital payments made in the country are expected to grow by 17% each year, its fintech market was worth $25.5 billion in 2018. 98786ed3476c4927316b12130439ab02374d8334.jpg

“China’s fintech industry is really ahead of many countries,” Seen Meng explains, “it’s very advanced.”

Fintech companies like Ant Financial, Tenpay, and Qudian, are blossoming in China’s extensive fintech landscape. 

Hong Kong is also emerging as a fintech hub, hosting eight virtual banks, including WeLab, and insuretech companies like OneDegree.

These organizations offer plenty of opportunities for professionals with the right skill set, and Chinese business schools play a role in providing them.

At CUHK Business School, for instance, MBA students get the chance to connect with an array of local fintech firms through business practicum projects. Every year, students are invited to tackle business cases proposed by real companies, working with them directly.

“We want our MBA students to have opportunities to work directly on real world projects,” Seen Meng explains.

Previous projects have ranged in scope from market testing to creating scalable business models. 

"These projects are sponsored by leading companies from fintech and other industries in the Greater Bay Area," says Seen Meng.

This experience will prove invaluable to students, as opportunities in this growing sector continue to emerge. 

“I think in the coming years, China will continue to be the pioneer in many different areas in the fintech industry,” Seen Meng predicts. “Many of these fintech companies are currently hiring, and expanding their business.”

2. Chinese banks are expanding overseas

Another distinguishing feature of China’s financial sector is the growing drive to internationalize.

“China is trying to open up its financial sector to the world,” explains Seen Meng. “The sector has been doing very well locally, and the next step is to expand business on an international stage.”

This landscape of expansion is the biggest advantage for finance professionals working in China over the next few years, he suggests. 

Between 2002 and 2011 alone, Chinese banks completed 38 mergers and acquisitions deals abroad. Today, Bank of China, one of the country’s ‘Big Four’ banks, operates in 57 countries. 

These expansion projects are set to continue, and organizations will need workers who are able to navigate cross-cultural collaboration, and leverage new tech developments, Seen Meng believes.

MBA graduates in the region will be well placed to take on these roles. In the CUHK Business School MBA, students get familiar with the Asian financial market through study trips to Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Singapore.

Meanwhile, technology-related courses like Digital Transformation and Innovation, and Fintech 101 familiarize students with today’s tech landscape as it applies to business.

3. The work culture is anchored in personal connections 

When conducting business in China, personal connections are key, says Seen Meng, and the finance sector is no exception. 

In China, Guanxi, which roughly translates to ‘networks’ or ‘connections,’ is crucial for making things happen.

“You need strong connections with the local business sector,” says Seen Meng. 

If you are moving your career to China from abroad, forging these connections locally can be tricky. Fortunately, attending business school can help.

Undertaking an MBA or business Master’s program will give you access to a network of alumni that you can tap into for industry insights and introductions. 

Schools like CUHK Business School also help their students connect with Chinese companies directly, by organizing talks with local executives, and networking events. 

CUHK’s Chinese Language department also offers Manderin courses for international students keen to forge stronger connections by brushing up on their linguistic skills.

4. There are ample job opportunities for MBAs 

There are plenty of job opportunities in the financial sector for MBAs graduating in China, especially in fintech, Seen Meng emphasizes.

“They need people in a lot of different capacities, who are digital-savvy,” he notes. “They also need tech professionals like data scientists and blockchain specialists.”

Despite the current economic slump, triggered by coronavirus, Seen Meng is confident that China’s financial sector will be one of the first to bounce back.

“Because they can largely provide their services remotely, financial companies are a little bit better insulated,” he notes. 

This optimistic outlook, along with fintech developments and international expansion, makes China an appealing prospect for finance professionals the world over.

This article was originally published in May 2020

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