Wang Hongbin: An alternative path to success

At a time when Chinese managers are leaving foreign companies en masse to join local media outlets, Wang Hongbin, former Vice President of Caixin Media, is going against the flow. Two years after graduating from the CEIBS Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) 2012 class, he resigned from Caixin to become the first Greater China President of Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, a London-based financial media group which dates back to 1969.

However, the decision to leave was no spur-of-the-moment impulse. Rather, it was a well-thought-out strategy based on Wang's own observations about globalization and financial media: "The past 20 years have been defined by foreign investment in China, but over the next 20 years, we will see a reversal, with a growing number of Chinese companies choosing to go global. Global businesses wishing to survive in the Chinese market must take account of these changing trends. Chinese companies are set to play a greater role in the global market and may even go mainstream. In many ways, they resemble Western companies which flocked to China during the previous wave of global expansion, and they offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In my new role, I am able to harness global resources and platforms to help more Chinese companies go global. At the same time, I hope that I can offer some useful insights for local media organizations that want to become more commercial."

After graduating from Zhejiang University in early 2000, Wang moved to Shanghai, where he started his first job at Dow Jones & Company. Owing to his dedication and natural flair for sales, Wang Hongbin quickly made a name for himself in the global media industry. In the space of just six years, he progressed from the position of publishing manager at Dow Jones & Company, to Chinese business development manager at the Economist, and finally sales manager at Forbes. The experience he acquired at these top financial media firms also gave him familiarity with how global businesses operate.

Despite his rapid climb up the career ladder, in 2009, when foreign companies were flourishing in China, Wang Hongbin took the unconventional decision to leave Forbes and join Caijing Magazine, which was China's premier local financial media company at the time.

When asked about his decision, Wang is frank, "I was working with Forbes at the time, and I knew a lot about startups and doing business in China. I perceived the seismic changes in the Chinese economy and the growing influence of the Chinese media."

n the autumn of 2009 Wang, who had only just turned thirty, joined Caijing, where he planned to launch his career. However, in November 2009, when Wang was just a few months into his job, the chief-editor of Caijing, Hu Shuli, resigned from the magazine, taking with her most of the editorial team. In December, 2009, Hu Shuli started her own media company, Caixin Media, whose ranks Wang joined in the early stages. Caixin Media would be Wang's first true business venture.

The rise of Caixin

On the subject of his early days at Caixin, Wang admits that he was under huge pressure. As the Regional Manager for East China, his brief included recruitment, channel management, customer service, publication, new media, administration, product design, marketing strategy and even office decoration. Wang says he will never forget his first three months there, when the entire team had to work in a residential building, for lack of a proper office.

Having survived those crucial first few months, Caixin's market share began to grow as the market saw the commercial value in Chinese financial media. It was around this time that Wang spotted the next emerging opportunity: new media. Wang devised a business development strategy for Caixin New Media, allowing the group to transition to the new media model ahead of competitors.

Buoyed by his success, Wang was promoted from the role of regional manager to Assistant President in just a few years. His rapid career progression culminated in his appointment as Vice President of Caixin Group, where he was charged with the China media business portfolio.

Driven by his fixation with business schools and a keen desire to acquire new knowledge, Wang decided to enroll on a study program at CEIBS during his second year at Caixin

CEIBS GEMBA: A Turning point

"I never used to be the straight A's kind of student, and I didn't sign up at CEIBS to learn a textbook answer to everything." says Wang. "In business, there is no right and wrong answer, because the business environment is forever changing. The best you can do is to use sound logic and good methodology to solve problems. I came to CEIBS for inspiration and decision-making guidance, and they certainly delivered."

"My two years of study at CEIBS left a lasting impression on me," says Wang. "By engaging in an open and critical exchange of ideas with my classmates, many of whom are experts and leaders in their own industries, I was truly inspired. This had a profound impact on my subsequent career choices."

More importantly, Wang's studies at CEIBS also influenced his business approach. Prior to taking the course, Wang tended to view companies through the narrow prism of his own job, but after studying at CEIBS, he learned to take a more holistic view, spot macro trends, and think of business more objectively.

Armed with this new perspective, Wang made yet another unusual decision just two years after his graduation: He decided to leave Caixin for Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

A fresh start 
at a global media organization

"For many years, Chinese financial media have been exploring how to manage their digital transition and monetize paid content. There have been some successes, but overall the business environment is quite challenging. As a 10-year media veteran, I have seen more successes and failures in this industry than in any other,says Wang

After graduating from the Global EMBA programme, he enrolled on CEIBS' New Media course where he was elected as class president. Together with his fellow coursemates, Wang is exploring and discussing the future of the media industry in today's fast-changing times.
Outside of CEIBS, Wang works at Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, which he jokingly dubs "the investment banker of the media world". Over recent decades, the group has completed multiple media M&A deals, giving it great reach in the financial industry. Towards the end of the 1990s, the firm completed its transformation from a traditional media outlet, to a corporate group specializing in the sale of data to institutional investors and business leaders.

Wang believes that Euromoney's development model is innovative and sustainable. According to Wang, while most traditional media focus on "generating influence, gaining a voice" and "becoming the market leader", Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC concentrates on providing investment and trade services for institutional investors, and helping customers to create value

Wang thinks that this business model is the future of financial media. By generating revenue from the sale of information to institutional investors, Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC has created a unique value proposition. Brand premiums created by media influence and customer loyalty generated through offline events combine to form a more stable and integrated business model. At a time when the traditional media is struggling to make profits, the London-listed Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC has proven the effectiveness of its business model by generating over $4 billion in annual revenues. 

"With its slogan China Depth, Global Breadth, CEIBS helped me to develop a globalvision. I hope my position at Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC will bring me 'global breadth', allowing me to help more Chinese media companies who want to perform on the global stage, "says Wang.