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THE CHINA COLUMN: Just how important is Western experience to a career in Chinese banking?

“There are definitely more opportunities in Shanghai and Beijing now,” says Daniel Wang, a graduate of Columbia Business School and Cambridge University who returned to Shanghai to found his own private equity firm. “Asia is where the future lies. It’s time to go home.”

The current trend: Go to the West, but come home quickly

More and more overseas-based Chinese financial professionals – who have language skills, international exposure, specific industry experience and a domestic network – are coming back to China.

What’s the main driver behind this? Not push factors such as visa headaches in the West. Bankers are instead motivated by China’s robust economy, its growing capital markets, and the increasingly attractive remuneration packages on offer there.

“There is recognition of the fact that the world is shifting in terms of economic growth and importance, and the regions here [in Asia] are going to be very relevant in terms of the level of activity,” says Farhan Faruqui, head of global banking Asia Pacific at Citigroup.

Nowadays, as China’s capital markets become increasingly active, with more listings and M&A deals, banks are demanding people with skills such as valuation analysis, due diligence and financial modelling.

Financial centres like London and New York are home to top bankers who handle large IPOs and M&As, so naturally Chinese bankers in these cities, who have expertise in these fields, are becoming targets of large Chinese financial institutions.

In addition, when foreign banks expand into China, they prefer to hire those with both overseas experience and local networks.

The future trend: Asia gives you just as good experience as New York or London

But having said that, the traditional notion that it is better to begin your career in London or New York is slowly starting to erode. Overseas experience need not be in the West.

In a rapidly shifting economy, launching a finance career in Singapore, Hong Kong, or mainland China itself can potentially get you just as far in the industry.

“I don’t think there is the need, if you are starting your career, to go to New York or Europe. Asia’s M&A sector has gone from a small, financing-focused product just five years ago to a significant part of a bank’s business in the region,” says Ronnie Behar, head of South East Asia M&A at Credit Suisse.

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