Craft Beer Champion on Landing His Global Role at Fosun Group
January 22, 2018. Shanghai – When he began his MBA at CEIBS, fluent Mandarin speaker Ted Haley had his heart set on a career switch from insurance executive to entrepreneur, and aimed to bring the craft beer revolution to Shanghai. As Founder and President of the MBA Food and Beverage club, Ted arranged company visits to local breweries and kept the student lounge stocked with beer he brewed himself. “I remember the craft beer scene was exploding back home in the US but it was virtually nonexistent in China. In term six, I left for my exchange at London Business School with the plan to start my own brewery back in Shanghai after graduation. I returned from my exchange three months later to find all the bars here were fully stocked with craft beer. I missed my window, but then that’s a classic example of the pace of change that we are witnessing in China, you have to be quick!” said Ted.
When his plan A did not come to fruition Ted had to rethink his options, and ended up working for one of China’s largest investment houses, Fosun Group, in Shanghai. He sat down with MBA Admissions to share how the CEIBS MBA helped him re-evaluate his plans and transform his job role from a functional to a global level, how the right exchange programme can complement your job search, and why non-native Mandarin speakers should consider business school.
Asia was always going to play a large role in Ted’s life – he was born in Hong Kong, his father learned Mandarin in Taiwan, and his grandfather was a fluent speaker of Japanese. After graduating from Williams College in Massachussetts with a double major in Economics and Chinese in 2007, Ted joined AIG which sent him to their Taiwan office’s life insurance division. His role in product development and marketing led him to a position at Manulife-Sinochem Life Insurance in Shanghai where CEIBS and an MBA first came onto his radar.
“I wanted to stay in China, but I wanted an alternative to the long and winding life insurance career path ahead. I also wanted to step back and work out what I really wanted to do with my life. Pausing my career while developing some hard skills such as corporate finance and accounting seemed like a win-win to me,” said Ted.
Now an Investment Director at Fosun Group, Ted and his team are responsible for analyzing and acquiring insurance assets around the world. “Externally we research and analyze possible targets. Once a target is identified, we will negotiate with the sellers or investment banks overseas. Internally, it certainly speeds up the process to speak Mandarin as managing these projects requires a lot of support from Chinese colleagues on other functional teams,” Ted explained.
Ted is often asked by MBA students and applicants from overseas about the importance of speaking Mandarin. He believes it really depends upon one’s future intentions. “In general I would say speaking Mandarin will amplify the ROI from your MBA. If you already speak the language, then the CEIBS network is all the more powerful as there is nothing standing in your way to connect with EMBA students and alumni, many of whom are driving some seriously exciting innovations in China. If you come to CEIBS having only learnt a few Mandarin phrases, then I would skip studying the characters altogether and focus on improving your conversational skills. From my experience, a lot of companies who are hiring foreigners here are specifically looking for foreign talents. In this scenario, speaking Mandarin is an advantage, but ultimately those companies just want to know that you can get by without extensive handholding,” said Ted.
His Mandarin language skills aside, Ted traces the origins of his role at Fosun back to two strategic decisions taken during his MBA, namely where to go for his summer internship and where to go for his exchange programme. “Fosun came to campus to share their hiring requirements and work culture. After the presentation, I was able to approach their HR team and introduce my background in life insurance. This helped open the door to their summer internship programme,” said Ted. “It was this experience of working at Fosun over the summer that helped me get into a very selective elective at London Business School called ‘Value Investing’. The combination of Fosun’s adherence to value investing principles and its position in China certainly made my application unique, and now I am able to apply the skills learned during the MBA in my daily work.
“The big takeaway for me from my MBA was equipping myself with the skills to move from a functional role to a global role. Although my initial plan of opening the brewery didn’t come off, my MBA was a process of being open to new possibilities and ultimately selecting the right career path,” Ted said. “In the future anything is possible. Perhaps one day I will invest in a brewery rather than build one from scratch.”