According to the GMAC Prospective Students Survey 2023, this preference is particularly strong among Generation Z candidates, with 50% of those surveyed aspiring to launch careers in accounting and finance.
To flourish, especially in major economies such as China, future finance pros must be proactive. We spoke to students and faculty from the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) MBA program, based in Shanghai, China, to find out three tips to help you prepare for a successful career in finance.
1. Diversify and deepen your skill set
There is a huge range of different career paths to pursue in the finance industry including investment banking, asset management, and corporate finance.
Beyond role-specific abilities, you need skills to interpret data, analyze trends, manage risks, and negotiate. The CEIBS MBA program’s Integrated China Strategy Project, which lets students collaborate with companies like Santander and MasterCard, is an example of providing real-world exposure to finance dynamics.
Communication is also a key skill that employers in finance and accounting are looking for today, according to GMAC’s Corporate Recruiter’s Survey 2023. In a career in finance, professionals are constantly liaising with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders so need to be able to communicate complex financial models and concepts clearly.
As the global financial landscape becomes increasingly interconnected, the GMAC report also reveals that in the next five years, the most important communication skills for the industry will be cross-cultural competence, active listening, and multilingualism.
The CEIBS MBA program fosters these abilities, with opportunities like Chinese language courses that help make international students marketable for top jobs in the region.
While an MBA is typically a generalist degree covering all the fundamentals of business, if you want to pursue a career in finance, you may be able to elevate a more specific transferable skill set to prepare for success in the industry.
For example, CEIBS MBA students can choose to specialize in finance, choosing from a range of elective courses such as East Asian Financial Institutions and Economic Growth, Impact Investing, and Advanced Corporate Finance.
“CEIBS offers a robust finance curriculum that equips us with the necessary skills for a career in the industry,” says Angelina Ye, a CEIBS MBA student.
2. Understand how technology impacts the finance industry
Tech is becoming central to finance. To advance your career in this industry, you'll need to familiarize yourself with AI, machine learning and blockchain.
“The future of finance will witness the continued rise of fintech, blockchain, and digital currencies, which will reshape traditional business models and create new opportunities,” says Fang Yu, a professor of finance at CEIBS.
Students should prepare by developing a strong foundation in technology and data analysis, alongside core finance skills, he adds. CEIBS MBA students can choose electives such as Blockchain Business Applications to keep ahead.
In 2022, China’s emphasis on fintech signaled a shift in the industry. As AI and blockchain become staples, finance students can expect new products and services to emerge. Grasping these trends can position you as a valuable asset in the digital financial era.
This move towards a digital economy is also driving the growth and emergence of fintech enterprises that could offer an exciting career path for MBA grads.
3. Engage and network through MBA finance clubs
With a huge range of career paths to pursue in finance, discovering your niche requires exploration. Joining business school clubs for networking events and extracurricular activities can be pivotal.
CEIBS's MBA Finance and Investment Club hosts events like the Investment Forum. Engaging in club events can let you hear from industry veterans, giving you a clearer career path direction.
When pursuing a career in finance, you’ll likely face a competitive recruitment process. Clubs can offer mock interviews with real industry executives, bridging the gap between academic and real-world expectations.
Ellis Li, Club president, underscores the club's mission: “Our goal is to give MBA students interactive experiences that help identify career strengths and weaknesses.”
Clubs also collaborate with renowned companies, offering a sneak peek into industry operations. For instance, CEIBS students visited AIA China, a major insurance player, gaining invaluable insights.
Taking advantage of opportunities such as these during your MBA can help you prepare for any challenges you may face when launching your career.
“The finance industry plays a critical role in the economy, which means that individuals in the field have the potential to make a significant impact on society by helping businesses grow, creating jobs, and contributing to economic growth,” concludes Ellis.