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Another 1st For PHBS Commercial Banking Association

The Commercial Banking Association is continuing to be a trendsetter amongst the associations in PKU Shenzhen. The CBA became tremendously popular when it initiated internship programs abroad because of its partnerships with banks and companies in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Bangladesh. This year, in its maiden attempt, the CBA welcomed international students on board making it the first and only Chinese association on campus to have non-Chinese Speakers as members.

The CBA was established in 2010 by Wenquing Zhao, Nian Xie and Yin Zhao (all of whom later on became core committee members) with the primary objective of providing members with intensive training to hone their financial skills and industry exposure by facilitating connections in the banking sector. Over the last five years, it has succeeded to become one of the most prestigious and sought after associations on campus, being ranked second thrice in a row largely due to the way its events are structured and the uniquely enriching opportunities it offers its members.

The association functions on a multifaceted level by incorporating rigorous classroom training on core topics in finance and banking, which is held every week. At the same time, CBA frequently invites renowned professionals from the finance industry, entrepreneurs and business leaders and representatives from leading banking firms in China to impart knowledge about the current financial scenario in the country.

A couple of the organizations which have graced these seminars in the past are China Merchants Bank and Citibank China. These sessions greatly help the members forge alliances with prominent institutions and experts in the field adding to their advantage when searching for employment opportunities. To augment the expansion of their extensive network of partnerships, the association also takes part in charity events. Hongyu Chen (Cherry Chen), one of the current vice-presidents of the association informed me that apart from this giving the members a chance to do something meaningful for the community, taking part in activities such activites helps the association to get to know these sponsor/organizing institutions and encourage them to come to our university with educational resources and recruitment opportunities.

And then of course, there's the signature international programs. Says Xiaofei He (Henry He), the other current Vice-President, "The core idea behind the international programmes was closely tied to the fundamentals of commercial banking on which the association was founded upon. The domestic commercial banks in China, although having quite the formidable reputation, are still limited in ways of corporate structure, international influence services, etc. We wanted to explore the international finance & banking industry instead of restricting ourselves within the borders of China, replicating exactly what PHBS stands for."

One of the reasons why the associations on campus don't have foreign students is the efficiency due to the language barrier. With the integration of international students, events, presentations, and the general functionality of the association have to be carefully rethought. The tribulations stem from the fact that the time and resources involved in organizing the activities are humongous and it is not an easy task to translate the speeches/lecture slides or hire a mediator every time the committees have a meeting.

Luckily for the CBA, Henry grew up in the United States where he completed most of his schooling. Thus, as someone who is fluent in both English and Chinese, he was able to bridge the gap between the native and the foreign students. Another factor which contributed to the disparity amongst the members is that up until this year, the number of foreign students admitted to PKU was far fewer than that of the domestic students. Additionally, not many were keen to pursue a career in China.

Since most of these associations focused on establishing a lifelong relationship with their members and help broaden their network of contacts in their respective industry, it did not seem feasible to invite non-Chinese students. However, the CBA aims to change this attitude now as having a diverse membership base will be a welcome change given that China's economy is gradually becoming a global superpower. Says Cherry, "We feel that since the CBA has a lot of activities aligning to the interests of the international students like the Grameen Bank programme in Bangladesh, it allows international students to take part in these thereby helping the club as well to enjoy the benefits of the experience that international students bring with them.

We saw that there was a rise in the international students in all three programs offered by the university and wanted to do something for them to be involved in. Not only that, our members were keen to assist them in getting to know the Chinese culture better so that they can have a smooth transition and be comfortable in a new country. Thus, it is a win-win situation for both the Chinese and Foreign students; we can practice our English and get acquainted with the culture and business ethics of the western world and the foreign students can get valuable insights on the way the money market functions in China while being able to share their expertise with us."

To overcome this lapse in communication, the CBA will be organizing one internal training session entirely in English every month, which will be conducted by the international students. The aim of the internal training sessions is to analyze the Chinese financial markets and since most of the members are Chinese, Cherry ascertains that they prefer to communicate in Chinese since it is difficult for them to conduct it in English, a language that they are not used to conversing in and hence at times are unable to translate core subject related terms and phrases into English.

She feels that having international students will help the Chinese students develop the confidence to communicate in English, which according to her is a dire necessity as China is opening frontiers to international trade and business. So the CBA came up with a novel idea to adapt to the changing needs of the association now: Post every training session, the lecture slides are shared with every member via email in both the languages. Additionally, when sessions are being conducted in either of these languages, the slides are projected in both English and Chinese.

So, how does it feel to belong to the first batch of international students being accepted into a Chinese association? Comments Piotr Polska, a student from Poland who is a first year Management candidate, "This is the first time I've been a member of an association. I do not really know what and what not to expect. The first few meetings with new members left a very positive impression on me. I hope that being in the CBA will not only equip me with new skills and friendships but also, as part of the first batch of international members, I will be able to contribute to its development."

But it's not just all work and no play! This year, to commemorate the big leap, the CBA had its ice breaking party in Futian, where they booked a party venue, peppered with lots of tantalizing food & drinks, great music and dance, all the way to the wee hours of the night! Members often go hiking or take a trip to the beaches or catch up for lunch. Another interesting thing that members get to enjoy are the inter-committee competitions that the association organizes with the other clubs on campus. Last year, they took part in an exciting badminton tournament with the Boya Finance Association.

The core committee members are aware that it is not going to be an easy task to be a frontrunner in accomplishing something new like this but they hope to inspire other associations to open up memberships for international students. Concludes Henry, "We want to build an environment where both international and domestic students can work together to achieve a common goal," confirming that the association is constantly striving towards expanding our network of business partners/alliances globally.

Reported by Gayathri Jagannathan for the Nanyan Observer