Usually, when an MBA student asks her professor to explain an investment product, she will be taught how to understand the financial principles and the statistics involved. When she puts the same question to a bank executive, she will be told how it works from the viewpoint of the client or investor. However, as a member of the Chinese University of Hong Kong's MBA Elite Mentorship Programme, Ada Lu finds herself able to learn both the classroom theory and the practicalities of the real world of banking all at the same time.
Under the scheme, business leaders become mentors for MBA students and provide coaching and guidance based on real-life experiences and insights. The programme's committee chairman Armstrong Lee says the unique feature is that all 40 current mentors are alumni of the university's MBA course and have gone on to important positions in industry. The voluntary one-on-one coaching is carried out during a student's full-time studies and allows close contact between students and mentors, who jointly decide on the topics to cover.
Ms Lu considers herself fortunate to have Anna Wong, managing director and head of private banking for BNP Paribas Private Bank, Hong Kong Branch, as her mentor. "She has taught me about the real operations of private banking and explained how to sell bank products, serve clients and deal with customer feedback," Ms Lu notes.
She also describes Ms Wong as extremely generous with her time. "The replies to my emails are always fast and provide much useful information," she says. On one occasion she asked Ms Wong for details of certain bank products and, instead of receiving an email or phone call, she was invited to a lunch to meet Ms Wong's previous mentees and to discuss how those products worked for clients.
Practical advice has also been available, such as to study a company's background before attending a job interview, to be ready to present details of business projects undertaken and to explain how problems were overcome. In addition, Ms Wong has pointed out that a job applicant must not only have outstanding academic results, but also possess leadership potential, good communication skills and be able to get on well with colleagues. For Ms Lu's all-round development, she has helped her to make new contacts and encouraged her to read more widely. "I find that all these things have helped me to lead a more balanced life," says Ms Lu.
Ms Wong says she is committed to the programme as a way of helping young people in Hong Kong compete with mainland and overseas graduates in a dynamic business environment. She regards the scheme as rewarding for her and says that all her mentees have become friends.
"I hope that by understanding my work, they have got a feel for the banking industry and can take home some tips," she adds. "It is important, though, that they take the initiative to ask questions since that will guarantee they learn more."