The MBA Alum Facing Retirement
How much time do you spend thinking about retirement? It’s a question we all increasingly face with age. Whereas some individuals put off planning until tomorrow, Clinton Wong is one such rare individual who thinks about it more than most – every day in fact!
The CEIBS MBA 2018 alum has carved out a niche career in the senior living sector across China. Read on to see how a meeting with his presidential namesake set Clinton on a path to pursuing a career with purpose as he shares his CEIBS story with MBA Admissions.
In the fall of 2013, Clinton Wong was working in New York City on the internship of a lifetime at the Clinton Global Initiative. The non-profit organisation was established by former US President Bill Clinton to inspire action on the world’s most challenging problems. Researching impact investment strategies for the foundation at the time, Clinton vividly remembers building up the courage to have his first conversation with the former president.
“He was one of the most charismatic individuals I have ever met,” recalls Clinton. “I asked him why he wanted to get into politics and he told me how he felt it was his purpose in life to enable others to have better stories. He went on to share how challenging it was as a politician to lead a life under the microscope every day. But, if you have a career with purpose, he said, even the toughest days will be more tolerable.”
Inspired by the words of his namesake, but still trying to find his own purpose in life, Clinton undertook a five-month long consulting project in Uganda to identify challenges and opportunities in the food supply chain which led to recommendations that would improve food security and public health in the region. It was during his time in East Africa that the economics major saw first-hand how public health policies and demographics interact to drive market developments. Thinking closer to home, and of the challenges facing Asia, his mind turned to senior citizens.
“China’s heterogeneity makes for a very dynamic healthcare market as it is largely defined by a set of diverse socioeconomic factors and cultural values. Given how nascent China’s healthcare reform is, the economic powerhouse is ill-prepared to tackle the challenges of a rapidly aging society,” says Clinton. “Elderly people actually have so many stories and teachings to impart on the younger generations. Collectively, we should influence the perception that growing old is something to be celebrated and aging has the potential to bring out people’s fun side and give them the ability to enjoy life in new ways.”
Coming to CEIBS
Having grown up in Hong Kong and received his education in the US, Clinton knew he could amplify his purpose-led career by doing an MBA at the heart of where the action is.
“By 2050, nearly 350 million people in China will be over 65,” says Clinton. “The market potential for senior living here is enormous, and where better to experience the challenges of a rapidly aging society, than the rapidly changing mega city of Shanghai.”
Attracted by CEIBS mission to educate responsible leaders versed in ‘China Depth, Global Breadth’, Clinton was eager to grasp every opportunity to put into practice what it actually meant to be responsible in a business context. One unmissable opportunity was joining the overseas elective in Malaysia that focused on leadership for social responsibility.
“The purpose of the module was for us to learn core leadership skills,” he says. “Specifically, effective communication and compassion, by positively contributing to, and serving, those in need.”
In the classroom, Clinton encourages incoming students with similar mind-sets to leverage the MBA-led Social Impact & Responsibility Club to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.
“The impact investment elective was fantastic,” Clinton says. “It wasn’t the buzz word it is now back in 2017. But through the club, we were able to invite industry practitioners to campus for a forum, to share their wisdom on blending profit with purpose.”
By the second year of the MBA, and with all the core modules under his belt, Clinton’s focus turned to taking specific electives that would help build his understanding of the healthcare sector in China.
“Elderly care has now become a top national priority for China, and coupled with a rapidly rising middle-class with increasing disposable income, these developments are propelling private healthcare operators to provide high quality medical and nursing care for increasingly sophisticated consumers,” says Clinton. “Healthcare service is inherently a very complicated industry involving multiple stakeholders. CEIBS’ healthcare electives got me up to speed with the multitude of regulatory frameworks and business models. It’s a lot of content, but the great part about CEIBS is the faculty and their connections in the business world. Many classes were interwoven with talks and workshops from industry veterans. This really breathed life into the case study method. Moreover, it was through a professor’s introduction that I landed my post-MBA job at a private equity platform focusing on healthcare real estate.”
Leading with purpose
Joining the Shanghai office of Columbia China Healthcare, Clinton’s first task as a Business Development Manager was to tackle a feasibility study on the senior living market in Shanghai and Zhejiang province.
“Because of how deeply rooted the concept of filial piety is in Chinese culture, many people think that it is frowned upon for children to send their parents to live in retirement homes. But this perception is misconstrued,” says Clinton. “Our study actually showed that more than 70% of senior citizens responded positively to moving into an institutional care setting. The problem is an outdated perception, and suspicion, around the quality of care and the quality of experience at these institutions.”
The results of this initial market feasibility study, coupled with two more years leading the Growth Strategy and Operations team for Columbia China, have led to Clinton’s unshakable confidence in the future of the industry.
“As more quality operators enter the market, we will see a paradigm shift in people’s perceptions towards senior living. Not as a late in life last option, but as vibrant, human centric communities that allow their members to lead progressive and engaging lives,” says Clinton. “I truly believe it is on track to be the largest senior living market in the world.”
Having worked across Business Development, Investments, Strategy and Operations for the group, Clinton was lured back to his native Hong Kong in 2020. There, he was approached by the CEO of a new senior living management company to join the founding operations team of a portfolio of luxury retirement community and rehabilitation centres.
“I really enjoyed my time in Shanghai. The intricacies of doing business in China needs to be learnt and understood from the bottom-up. It’s not something you can develop from reading a textbook or watching a YouTube video,” reflects Clinton. “Now, in Hong Kong, I’m leading Business Development and Sales and Marketing for a highly-anticipated luxury retirement community expected to open in 2022. Fast-forward eight years from the day I met President Clinton, I feel incredibly blessed to have found my calling in creating better retirement experiences for elderly people in Hong Kong and China.”
Three years on from graduation, Clinton still has time to catch up with his former classmates on a regular basis. As he continues to develop his purpose-led career, he has been charged by his fellow MBAs with another purpose: to one day create a retirement village in a scenic part of China to share with his fellow MBA Class of 2018.