Cheng began his career as an Analyst at KPMG Corporate Finance in Shanghai. He then moved to London to take up a Senior Consultant role with CAS, an international management consulting firm. During this period he completed his Masters in Finance degree at London Business School; he is now Managing Director of CAS China and based in Beijing. Cheng holds a BA(Hons) in International Business Management from the University of Nottingham, China campus.
I had always intended to go to business school, but my initial reason for joining a postgraduate programme was actually for networking opportunities. When I started my job with CAS, I moved to London from Shanghai; it was my first time in the UK and I didn’t know many people. I wanted to invest in my professional future, but going to business school was also a way of establishing a wider network of likeminded friends.
Although my company has strong engineering and business management expertise, we recently started providing physical asset management advisory services to infrastructure investors. As a result, we needed to strengthen our finance offering. My background is in finance, so I was charged with developing this side of the business. Even though I have passed the first two levels of my CFA exams, I still felt that I needed to strengthen my technical finance skills to lead this area effectively. Masters in Finance is globally recognised as a strong and technically orientated programme, so it was the ideal opportunity to underpin my challenges at work. It also allowed me to develop a network of experienced financial professionals and investors.
The programme is very flexible, so I was able to tailor it to my specific needs and areas of interest. One elective, Private Equity and Venture Capital, taught me all about the workings of PE companies, from fund raising and value creation to exit.
Guest speakers made a real impact, particularly one of the founding members of Bain Capital’s London office who shared his insights and real deal experience. This gave me a very solid understanding of both the PE industry and what investors are looking for at each stage. It has additionally helped me define our innovative due diligence service back at CAS.
One of my favourite events was the London Breakfast Series where senior alumni reflect on their careers and share their successes and failures. I found these talks to be both honest and inspirational and a great incentive to think about less typical career paths. The Masters in Finance project was another major highlight for me. I was interested to learn more about project financing, so I partnered with a colleague who was a subject expert and had worked for the largest construction company in South America. We spent one month in Peru working closely with another major construction firm assessing their strengths and weaknesses - it was a fascinating experience learning from a real practitioner on a genuine project finance case.
Masters in Finance is extremely international, as well as professionally diverse. My classmates included bankers, lawyers, management consultants, project financers, asset managers and industry professionals, all of whom were expert in their fields and had a wealth of knowledge to share. The opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and to reflect on my own life choices and options in such a diverse environment had a major impact on me.
China is regularly discussed and debated in class discussions – finding out how others see my country has broadened my perspective, and enabled me to better identify opportunities for our business in the local market. The School community is also incredibly global and responsive. I’ve used the alumni network to get introductions to contacts and to find business associates in China on a number of occasions.
London is a truly international city, and one that is very open and progressive. I love the local pub culture – they are on nearly every street corner and are often hubs for social and professional activities. Coming from China this environment was unfamiliar to me at first, but I quickly saw that it was a fantastic way to network, and socialise with people.
Throughout my time in London I developed numerous professional relationships and friendships; most importantly, I never once felt like a foreigner, simply like a Londoner.