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Lives Forever Changed - Gaelle Cohen: A European in Asia

Volume 4, 2015

By Janine Coughlin


Gaelle Cohen was working at ING Bank while doing her MBA at HEC in France when she had the opportunity to do a semester abroad. Born and raised in Belgium, she was eager to gain work experience in Asia, which she believed offered many career opportunities.  She was right. Today, after stints in Singapore and Tokyo, she is based in Beijing, working for an international provider of financial services.

When choosing the school that would get her a foothold in Asia, she turned to the many Chinese students at HEC for advice. “They advised me to go to CEIBS. I chose CEIBS because it is the best in China,” she says. The other selling point was the location – Shanghai, a place she had always longed to go.

The only hurdle was how she would pay for her semester abroad as she took a sabbatical from her job at the bank. She was thrilled when she got a BMT Exchange Scholarship which would cover her expenses at CEIBS. Looking back, she has fond memories of her time as an inbound exchange student in the CEIBS MBA programme. “It was beyond my expectations, in terms of classes and teachers, and also in terms of other students and networking. After that semester I got exactly what I wanted,” she says. “Thanks to the fact that I was studying at CEIBS I had an opportunity to work in Asia.”

Once she completed her MBA in 2012 she joined Allianz Global Assistance in Singapore as a Project Manager for the APAC region. She transferred to their Tokyo office for a short term assignment, and now works in Beijing as the Head of Planning and Controlling. “I work in the Finance department and report to the CFO of China,” she explains. “It is more the strategy side of finance, like financial planning and analysis.”

She is looking forward to continuing to build her career in Asia. “The region is very important for me,” she says. “In terms of my job it’s a great opportunity, but I also like to travel and discover new cultures.”