Global banks have now expanded their talent searches to include mainland institutions like China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Peking University, and Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management.
However, financial-services recruiters say an applicant with an MBA from a big-name Western school will usually stand a better chance of clinching a position with an international firm in Asia.
“Most of the financial institutions, if they’re looking for MBAs, are still ideally looking for MBAs from top tier schools, mostly from Western countries,” says James Carss, a director at Hudson.
But despite their brands not having the same pulling power in the job market, the course content of Chinese MBAs suits bankers who want to work in the mainland, says Deborah Sawyer, managing partner at Odgers Berndtson.
“Another upside would be the strong network Chinese MBA’ers would have. This is important when soliciting business,” adds Sawyer.
Singaporean Clarissa Tan, who is doing an MBA at CEIBS, agrees: “You can get an internationally recognised MBA from Oxbridge, Wharton etc, but then what? How will you compete with a Chinese national from these universities? Your Chinese won’t be as strong as theirs, and you have no contacts here in China. You have no network of professors and classmates who are China-focused,” explains Tan.
Will banks around Asia ever drop their preference for Western MBAs? “Yes, again based on the need to have talent schooled in the way business is done in China. But we’re not there yet,” says Sawyer.