How can leaders opting for executive MBAs (EMBAs) extract the maximum benefit from their investment?
One answer: pick an overseas EMBA in a global city to benefit from the extra exposure – like Christoph Augsburger has done.
“I want to expand my horizons,” explains the director and senior account manager for LGT Bank in Hong Kong, where he was previously head of front office support. “I'm proud of my decision to go overseas for the extra exposure.”
Augsburger, 35, enrolled in the Nanyang EMBA offered by Nanyang Business School (NBS) in April. Every few months, he travels to Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), to attend classes full time for two weeks at a stretch.
“A lot is happening in Singapore's finance space,” he explains. “The EMBA programme structure allows me to benefit fully from this, and from exposure to people from different industries and jurisdictions.”
Beyond experiences in Singapore, the EMBA includes visits to Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, and Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley.
These trips to world-class institutes promise firsthand insights into the US and China, the world’s largest economies – something very few programmes can boast of having, says Augsburger’s colleague, Roman Spirig.
“Other universities are more focused on Asia,” says Spirig, who is based in Singapore. “The fact that NTU’s programme has both powerhouses makes it very interesting.”
The 34-year-old executive director in relationship management hopes to deepen his understanding of how business is done in both nations ‘because these two countries are driving big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and all other trends.”
Shaping global leaders
Augsburger and Spirig are big on international exposure, and for good reason.
Both men speak three languages, and their careers of over 15 years each feature global stops: Augsburger with stints in Liechtenstein, Hong Kong, and Thailand, and Spirig in cities including London, Madrid, and Singapore. Both have helped the bank set up new Asia Pacific offices.
In our hyperconnected world, senior leaders in finance looking to grow their career in Asia and internationally should expect to oversee teams and work with clients across a multitude of nationalities daily. A strong command of cultural nuance could therefore be “what sets apart the good leaders from the excellent ones,” Augsburger says.
NBS, home to the Culture Science Innovations Institute, is a regional leader in cultural intelligence research, allowing EMBA participants to benefit from decades of study around the impact of culture on organisational psychology and consumer behaviour.
The curriculum also focuses on building up essential skills senior leaders in finance must wield competently to drive transformation, including agility, adaptability, and communication.
Says Spirig: “Hard skills are important, but so are soft skills. Adapting and communicating the right way is a crucial soft skill today. You jump on a plane and tomorrow, you're in another country, speaking to people from a different background.”
He cites examples such as his employer, an international private bank’s expansion in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Australia, and the Middle East. “I strongly believe I can be more successful if I adapt to the culture of the person I'm dealing with,” he says. “In the end, it's about relationships.”
Gaining diverse perspectives
Peer diversity is another reason Augsburger and Spirig – both leading client-facing functions – opted for the Nanyang EMBA. With participants hailing from over 20 industries and over 85% of participants in senior management and C-suite roles, the course provides access to a broad and deep pool of peer knowledge.
“People see things from different angles. During breaks we’ll discuss our daily challenges, how we approach things, how the business makes money,” says Augsburger, whose coursemates hail from industries, including consumer tech, cryptocurrency, and aviation.
EMBA participants gain the capacity to identify trends, understand global developments, and come up with solutions as much through contributions from peers as from course material.
“What makes this EMBA programme special is the takeaways you get from the people sitting to your left and right,” says Spirig. “This knowledge helps in discussions at work.”
In particular, Spirig is keen to diversify his network to include FinTech leaders, a field he believes is the future of finance. The digitalisation wave sweeping the industry is just the beginning, with significant developments including the advent of blockchain technology and Web 3.0 yet to make their impact fully felt.
“In today's world, speed is important,” Spirig says, adding that to remain abreast of developments and react quicker than the competition, leaders require knowledge and access to “certain sources such as people and organisations”.
“The EMBA allows for half that access,” he says. The other half occurs “when people in the cohort know someone they can connect me with.”
Then of course, there’s leadership itself – something both men identified as a core skill they’re looking to supercharge in the coming years.
To refine the participants' leadership skills, the Nanyang EMBA offers a talent management module, which teaches leaders to understand performance and craft a comprehensive view of their staff. Leadership coaching is provided throughout the programme.
To future-proof careers, the forward-thinking curriculum also draws on the school’s strengths in technology and innovation to equip participants with interdisciplinary knowledge on the latest developments in rising fields, such as sustainability.
In all, these advantages make the Nanyang EMBA an attractive enough option to set aside study and travel time to Singapore, says Augsburger.
The world is changing, and you must develop with it, adds Spirig. “It’s important to create a competitive edge through personal development. An EMBA is a big part of being successful in the future.”
The Nanyang Executive MBA is a part-time 13-month programme designed for senior leaders aspiring to transform the way they lead. Learn more about the programme here.