In banking, as in other professions, continuing education has become one of the prerequisites of steady career advancement. Employees can't simply rely on good on-the-job performance, but must also develop new perspectives to understand the technical changes and broader forces shaping their industry, if they hope to keep moving ahead.
With that in mind, the Chinese University (CUHK) introduced a postgraduate diploma in global finance in 2007.
Originally, the programme was only for staff of Credit Suisse and tailored specifically to their needs. But from next October's intake, the course will also be open to general applicants who work at management level in the banking and financial services sector.
"The diploma covers the framework of financial systems and instruments available in global markets," says Jeremy Cheng, executive officer at CUHK's Asia-Pacific Institute of Business, which oversees the programme.
"It is for people who want to advance in bank management, and balances theoretical aspects with day-to-day issues and training in how to work effectively."
Cheng says the course lasts 15 months and consists of six main modules. These include the management of financial institutions, corporate governance and strategic management.
There is also an action learning project, in which groups of four or five students tackle an in-depth assignment usually set by the programme director.
Classes are arranged in block mode, running from Fridays to Mondays every three to four months, and are held at the CUHK campus near Sha Tin.
The medium of instruction is English, with most courses taught by faculty members.
Their general aim is to encourage discussion and interactive participation in the classroom and to focus on real-world problems.
To provide additional practical insights, senior executives from leading banks are also invited give talks on topics such as risk management, networking and cross-cultural collaboration.
"Our teaching materials are not tailored specially for Credit Suisse," Cheng says. "But we do make extensive use of their examples and, since they still want to share knowledge and good practices, their involvement will continue."
He adds that demand for places on the course is expected to be high. Therefore, the selection process will consider candidates' experience, their level of seniority, and the programme's relevance to their role and responsibilities.
Among the basic requirements for admission are a bachelor's degree, demonstrated proficiency in English, and a one-page essay outlining personal motivations and plans.
"Applicants should have clear ideas about the direction they want their career to take," Cheng says. "They also need to be independent learners and make sure that they can commit the necessary time."
The programme concludes with a mandatory exam, and standard tuition fee is HK$50,000 for general applicants.
This sum covers instruction and access to university libraries, but not textbooks. Students completing the diploma with satisfactory grades may, if interested, then advance to one of the university's MBA programmes, with exemptions on various courses.
In a sign the diploma offers a winning formula, the government of Kuwait has invited CUHK to develop a similar programme to promote executive education in the Middle East.
"We have signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] and are planning the first Kuwait class for this September," Cheng says. "We hope to create synergy and provide a chance for Hong Kong and Middle East banking staff to work together."