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Peter Chen pursued a successful career in finance after graduating from the MSc in International Banking and Finance. It's the perfect course for someone seeking a high-flying career in finance

Sharing from Peter Chen, MIBF graduate



The year 2008 marked the peak of the great global financial crisis. It was a time when belief in the value of assets disappeared, liquidity dried up, and the world’s banking system teetered on the brink of catastrophe. September of that year was also when Peter Chen, now Chairman and CEO of AJ Securities, began his studies on Lingnan University’s MSc in Banking and Finance (MIBF) programme - and when Lehman Brothers went bust. Though this concurrence was painful for Peter at the time - he had invested heavily in the failed US investment bank - it has proved invaluable in his future career.


“In one night, I lost almost everything,” Peter explains. “And I learned never to put all your eggs in one basket.”


The next day, after picking himself up, he went into class at Lingnan. “Dr Lai was sharing his views about the Lehman Brothers collapse, and my classmates were analysing why the collapse had happened.”


Studying real-world cases is a key element of the MIBF programme, and Peter and his fellow students had the opportunity to not only learn about the instability and risk-taking that had led to the global crisis, but also, uniquely, to examine its effects in real-time.


Born in Mainland China, in the town of Ningbo, two hours drive south of Shanghai, Peter had gone on to study business administration at undergraduate level at Simon Fraser University in Canada. After graduating in 2006, he spent two years working as a research analyst for a Canadian firm. Even so, he still felt he lacked adequate financial knowledge and skills.


Hong Kong seemed to be the ideal place to go for someone with his background who was seeking a high-flying career in finance. What’s more, he could see that Lingnan’s MIBF curriculum was comprehensive and was taught by professors with impressive academic credentials. Completing the programme at Lingnan would also give him the right to work in Hong Kong.


Peter was familiar with Hong Kong from previous visits and he found an apartment to share near campus. “Around 70 percent of my cohort came from Mainland China and the rest came from Hong Kong, or countries like the United States and Turkey.” Some had experience in banking or other industries, and some had done what he had, and studied abroad at undergraduate level.


As well as strengthening his fundamental understanding of finance, banking and macro economics, Peter says the fact that real-world cases from Chinese companies were used on the programme, and that he and his fellow students got to hear from industry experts operating in the region, was very important to him. In contrast, his bachelor’s degree had, unsurprisingly, focused on North American businesses.


In the run-up to graduation in April 2009, Peter and his classmates knew getting hired at such a difficult time for their industry was going to be a challenge. “The Dow Jones had hit its lowest point in March,” he points out.


However, along with his own personal attributes, Peter found that in interviews the insights he’d gained into the causes and effects of the financial crisis impressed prospective employers. Eventually, he found work in Hong Kong with state-owned brokerage firm, GuoTai JunAn Securities HK. And in 2011 moved on to be working in CITIC Securities.


In 2017, he left to co-found AJ International. With over 40 employees, working in offices in several Mainland cities, as well as Hong Kong, the business holds licenses that enable it to offer a wide range of financial services. During recent years, AJ International has been developing its asset management business by establishing funds with some of the world’s largest asset management companies.


Peter believes getting the basics right has been key to the success of the business: working with mainstream players, doing fundamental research, hiring good people and maintaining high ethical standards. Building up long-term relationships with high-net-worth clients, by offering them the best service they’ve ever had, is an important goal, he says. “We’re very professional and, because we’re not that big, we can target our resources to add value for our clients.”


Peter’s links to Lingnan, and the MIBF programme, remain strong. He stays in touch with his former MIBF classmates who’ve remained in Hong Kong, and he regularly returns to the university to speak to current students. But perhaps most telling about this ongoing connection is the fact that he has hired a number of graduates from Lingnan’s MIBF programme to work with him at AJ International.


“To serve clients you have to be very solid on the fundamental skills and you have to be very humble.” Peter says that Lingnan students, and those from the MIBF programme in particular, meet this criteria. “They are very down to earth and can deliver. The way you carry yourself, the way you deal with your clients, matters a lot.”