Hebi Gong - Analyst, Trading - HSBC Global Banking and Markets - Hong Kong

"Business schools not only prepare students for the immediate job market, but also cultivate them to become business leaders in the future. Top schools distinguish themselves by giving their students access to prominent leaders, to see their visions of their industries, the scopes of their attentions, their ways of thinking, and their charisma.

Students in the ESSEC Finance Chair are privileged in having such an access. On a regular basis, the Chair invites key decision makers from various types of key financial institutions. Unlike textbook knowledge which is easy to replicate, face time of business leaders is a scarce resource. The very fact that the financial industry has only a handful of key players and that their executives tend to have tight schedules means that such an access privilege, once enjoyed by ESSEC students, is less likely to be enjoyed by others. Last year, the president at Ardian only accepted two invitations to speak to students, and one was at ESSEC. This privilege must be cherished, appreciated, and utilized.

The sessions are designed so that the students may benefit the most from the valuable encounters. Usually a brief introduction in the beginning warms up the theoretical background and the critical thinking of the students, and the topic quickly turns to the most important issues currently faced by the finance sector. The discussion (Q&A) session that follows tends to be very fruitful, as students’ questions further provoke the speakers to explain their views and their reasoning behind. The answers generally involve a plethora of balances between pros and cons, as if the audience actually sees the decision process of a key strategic decision made in a board meeting earlier in the day. The speakers are very open and understanding of challenging questions, which probably also explains the openness and inclusiveness required for top leaders. A cocktail usually follows to allow participants to net-work and discuss the issues presented, which turns the one-to-many communication into a multi-dimensional brainstorming.

On the school side, Prof. Poncet, the director of this Chair, is a star professor in options. His books are widely read by option students. Despite his fame, Prof. Poncet is an open, kind, modest, approachable, and interesting person. His involvement in both the academia and the professional world ensures that speeches delivered in the seminars are appropriate for students.

I have personally benefited much from these sessions. They have elevated me to topics higher than the daily operations of financial institutions, which proved to be very helpful to understand the reasons behind many decisions and operations I saw on the trading floor. I would strongly urge fellow ESSEC students to take advantage of the events organized by this Chair, benefit the most from them, and eventually return to contribute to the sharing and transfer of knowledge to the next generation."