The performance of Hong Kong's financial services sector in recent years has been encouraging, with the territory ranking third internationally in terms of financial competitiveness, behind London and New York. Fundamental to such achievement is the availability of a pool of talent equipped with comprehensive financial knowledge and a panoptic international perspective.
Local universities play a pivotal role in the human resources development for Hong Kong's financial services sector. Among these, the School of Business and Management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST Business School) is world renowned for educating highflying business and financial executives.
The school was the first in the Asia Pacific region to be accredited by both the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) and the European Quality Improvement System ¡X the two most recognised business school accrediting agencies in the world. HKUST's MBA programme has also been ranked top by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In addition, the university's joint Executive MBA programme with the Kellogg School of Management is ranked first globally by the Financial Times.
HKUST also boasts significant academic achievements in economics and finance, gaining international recognition for its many research accomplishments. Rebecca Chow, executive officer, Department of Finance, HKUST Business School, adds, "Faculty members at the HKUST Business School are recruited globally. Many have taught at top business schools in the world. Their commitment to excellence is the key driver behind the success of our programmes."
The HKUST Business School is now offering two master's programmes ¡X the MSc in Financial Analysis and the MSc in Investment Management. Both concentrate on the study of finance to nurture financial talents for the local community. The niche of the programmes, according to Ms Chow, is the expanding financial services sector in Hong Kong, which is increasingly demanding more talent.
"Hong Kong is now a key asset management centre in the world. With increasing economic integration with China, our economy has undergone structural changes, evolving from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-centred one. The financial services industry is now a pillar industry, contributing more than 12 per cent to Hong Kong's GDP. It will remain a core economic growth driver," says Ms Chow. There is, therefore, a growing need for quality educational programmes to enhance the level of knowledge and professionalism in the financial services industry, which includes banking, securities, insurance and fund management, to help Hong Kong maintain its status as a regional hub for financial services.
The two MSc programmes aim to provide professional training to participants for careers in the finance industry. "Our programmes are viewed by students as a springboard to career advancement or change. They are widely recognised in the finance sector as premier academic programmes. Such a reputation adds tremendous value to students' careers," notes Ms Chow.
Corporate finance, security analysis, asset management and risk management are the four concentrations of the MSc programmes. Students begin with solid foundational modules in accounting, economics, quantitative and computing skills, asset valuation and financial derivatives. These areas also feature as core subjects of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) examinations.
To ensure contemporary student needs are met, the course content of each programme is continuously reviewed. According to Ms Chow, while the core elements remain unchanged, the two programmes have recently focused more on derivatives due to their growing popularity among investors. Of late, the derivatives market has grown substantially in terms of instruments available, complexity and turnover.
Both programmes are offered part-time to suit the schedules of busy executives. Classes are held on weekday evenings and Saturdays. Weekday tutorials are held in the downtown centres while weekend classes take place on the university's main campus.
An outstanding feature of the two programmes is the "free transfer" possibility. In essence, students may opt to transfer freely between the two programmes during the first year. Angel Li, executive officer, Department of Finance, HKUST Business School, explains, "We hope students acquire a clear understanding of the differences between the two programmes before they decide on their area of concentration."
An interactive learning approach is adopted and knowledge exchange is encouraged between both peers and superiors as students undertake a variety of learning activities including case studies, face-to-face debates, online discussions and project work.
Another notable feature of the two programmes is the impressively strong student profile. The minimum admission requirement is a recognised bachelor's degree. Moreover, Ms Li points out that students have an average of nine years' working experience and the average GMAT score was 600 for last year's intake. "The programme is well received among executives as they realise the benefits of exchanging ideas with people of comparable backgrounds," reveals Ms Li.