Chenggang "CG" Zhou
Work country: Hong Kong
Job: Managing Director and Global Head of RMB Sales, Standard Chartered Bank
Thanks to my INSEAD EMBA, I’m one of the few finance professionals who can say 2008 was the best year of my life!
Why did you decide to do the GEMBA?
My employer encouraged people to do an EMBA, so I started by looking at US programmes, but INSEAD sounded more practical and focused on human capital, as well as being academically strong. My friends who had done the full-time MBA loved it. So, I didn’t need further convincing. On top of that, the alumni network and my love of Europe, especially France, were huge factors as well.
Was INSEAD what you expected?
I got so much more than I bargained for. It was a completely new concept of learning for someone educated in China. Also at 31, it was wonderful to share a classroom with people who were CEOs in their 50s. Being friends with everyone was an amazing experience. We still fly long distances to see each other. That, to me, is the beauty of the INSEAD EMBA. It brings so many different people together, but unlike MBA students, we don’t have that immediate pressure to look for a job after graduation. This meant we could spend time together, just exchanging experiences and having fun. It was a very special part of my life.
Has the classroom experience been beneficial too?
I didn’t go there to improve academically. Don’t get me wrong, the professors were great. But, I went there for the people. There were over 70 students from 33 nationalities in our class and that gave me the opportunity to understand people from many different backgrounds and experiences.
So was the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) very important to you?
My LDP group has probably been one of the biggest influences on my life. It’s hard to explain, but I felt that my values changed. My perspectives on business, family and my career are all different, and I saw the same thing happen to the rest of the group. Today, the four other members are among my very best friends. We hold a gathering every year. Last year, for example, we had one in Bordeaux.
Was it difficult juggling study with work?
In fact, it worked out well as there wasn’t so much for bankers to do in the office in 2008. It was such a chaotic year in the financial markets. I remember it took some time working out my priorities just after the Lehmann Brothers collapse, but apart from that, it was manageable and I probably had more time to enjoy the human dimension of INSEAD than if the economy had been booming. In fact, thanks to the INSEAD EMBA, I’m one of the few finance professionals who can say 2008 was the best year of my life!
How has INSEAD benefited your career?
INSEAD definitely helped give me more international exposure. The EMBA also encouraged me to take on a more senior role and to work on the globalisation of my home currency which is a great privilege.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
I’m still exploring my future and that’s all thanks to the GEMBA. I’m looking to go beyond counting numbers and making money – and to give something back in some way while I still have some good years left! My current ambition is to teach part-time at a Chinese university, alongside my main job, as I’d like to pass on some of my international experience and show students what’s really going on in the world, as opposed to in the textbooks. Above all, I’d like to use some of the brilliant teaching methods that I experienced at INSEAD and which I use in my job today. If it wasn’t for INSEAD, my presentation skills wouldn’t have become one of my greatest assets today.