Matthew Choi was born and raised in Hong Kong. He completed his early education and bachelor’s degree there, before landing a job as an auditor for Ernst & Young (EY). It sounds like a dream career path, but four years in, Matthew realized he wanted a change. He was keen to explore career opportunities in corporate finance.
At the time, he was already studying for the final exams of the CFA and CPA, but knew an MBA could help him shift careers and reach his goal of landing a top finance job in Hong Kong. He’s not alone—27% of respondents in a survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in 2019 said that switching industries was one of the reasons they wanted to pursue an MBA.
Matthew chose the MBA from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School. The school’s program ranks 22nd in the world on the Financial Times Global MBA ranking, and would give Matthew the networking opportunities he was after.
Though he already had a strong network within accounting from his time at EY, he wanted to meet people from a variety of industries—oil and gas, consulting, marketing. The HKUST MBA gave him the chance to “start networking with professionals in the city from day one.”
Build your business knowledge
You don’t just learn from professors on an MBA. Your classmates are a valuable source of cross-cultural and cross-industry knowledge. Among students on the HKUST MBA, no one industry comprises more than 30% of the class. In an average class, students hail from sectors like finance, consulting, operations, marketing, and general management.
Additionally, 96% of students on the MBA program at HKUST come from outside Hong Kong, with a wide range of countries and cities represented, as Matthew can attest.
“I have friends from India, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia, Taiwan,” he says. “Through working and talking with them, you get to know the culture of these classmates.”
The MBA curriculum at HKUST covers business basics but also gives students the chance to customize their program with specialization covering high-tech concepts.
Only a quarter of courses are core modules—the rest of the curriculum is made up of flexible cores and elective modules, and credit-bearing practicums. Students can pick and choose modules from five career tracks that include consulting and strategic management, business technology and analytics, finance, general management, and marketing.
“The curriculum at HKUST allows you to acquire knowledge on AI, technology, consulting, strategy, as well as interesting investing topics like ESG investing and value investing,” Matthew explains.
Use your network
Matthew’s networking and communication skills, developed during the MBA, helped him land his first MBA internship at A1 Capital Partners, a boutique merger and acquisition advisory firm.
“I saw a posting on the MBA website, and then I networked with one of the associates working there who happened to be a HKUST alum,” Matthew explains.
He secured a six-month internship at the company, and further networking led him to his next opportunity. The founder of A1 Capital Partners knew the founder of Zerobridge Partners—a boutique private credit platform—and they were looking for interns. The founder of A1 Capital Partners recommended Matthew for a position at the firm.
HKUST has a strong tradition of guiding MBA students to the finance industry. 22% of graduates of the program land a job in the sector, with an additional 3% finding a position in fintech. “In my experience, when I was doing the MBA, there were lots of job postings every day,” Matthew confirms.
Land a top finance job
After just three short months of his internship at Zerobridge Partners, Matthew received an offer to join the company as a full-time associate at the end of his MBA. In his day-to-day, he largely works on advising clients on restructuring debt and raising capital, as well as communicating directly with investors.
Matthew says his diverse education on the MBA has come in handy when approaching different companies. “You need expertise from all kinds of industries,” he says.
“I also don’t know everything,” he admits, “but you can rely on the network you’ve built up on the MBA program and ask friends from the program in different industries for knowledge.”
Matthew advises prospective students looking at a financial career in Hong Kong to consider the best professional certification or graduate business degree for their industry.
“If you really want to get a job in hedge funds or equity research fields, having a CFA would be helpful,” he notes. “But in Hong Kong, it’s also helpful if you get an MBA alongside one of the other licenses.
“Along with all these professional certifications, you should demonstrate your personality and your understanding about that particular industry. These are the keys to landing the job you want in the finance industry.”