It may sound absurd to you if a hospitality student wants to work for banks such as UBS? However, it is feasible and indeed happened in the past.
In fact, some of the EHL alumni built their careers in the finance or banking industry. Today we are going to share the stories of two alumni who currently work at UBS, through their stories, you will be able to find out the similarities between the two industries: Jingyuan Wang, (AEHL 2008) Associate Director, Client Advisor and Adrien Iynedjian, (AEHL 2002) Client advisor at UBS Asia-Pacific Wealth Management
UBS Group AG provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. UBS' strategy is centered on our leading global wealth management business and our premier universal bank in Switzerland, enhanced by Asset Management and the Investment Bank. The bank focuses on businesses that have a strong competitive position in their targeted markets, are capital efficient, and have an attractive long-term structural growth or profitability outlook.
How did you come to EHL in the first place?
I was raised in Liaoning. In 1998, my dad moved to Geneva to work for the United Nations, I came with him. I have spent my high school and university time in this beautiful country.
I choose EHL because of its reputation and the international environment. After researching the course description and school culture, I knew this is the school that I am looking for. I took room department related course in the first several years and finance course in the last year (the course structure was different back then).
I moved to Switzerland at a young age, so I am quite fluent in French. In school, I took Italian as my third language.
Can you briefly describe your work at UBS?
I am mainly in charge of the wealth management of high net worth clients from the Greater China region, I help to manage their overseas investments, family wealth management, sometimes also consulting. Most of my clients are individuals.
Has the experience in EHL helped you with what you do today?
People who have little knowledge of EHL might think that we are a practical hotel school, while in fact, we are a business school. EHL has a strict selection process to only select the students who are qualified.
Although I have acquired some financial knowledge while working at UBS, I think the finance course I had at EHL was enough to start my career in the finance/banking industry. Meanwhile, in EHL, not only did we acquired academic knowledge, but also opened our horizon, learned how to enjoy life and to utilize the recourses around us.
The professional knowledge covers numerous domains including psychology and marketing. It is true that EHL doesn’t prepare us to become an expert right after graduation, but it helps us to identify our areas of interest and future career path.
What do you like the most about your current job?
The most rewarding moment is when I earned the clients’ trust. My relationships with many clients have gone beyond work partners. They trust me because I understand their needs and I always put their interests first.
It is not enough to only manage the assets for clients, I also help them to solve a variety of difficult problems. For example, once I help to choose which school is better for their kids. Because of this, there is no repetitive routine in my work, every day is a new challenge. Because the needs of each client are different, the solutions I provide for them vary from person to person.
This is very similar to the service industry, we are both providing tailored services. Moreover, as long as you work hard, you can see the results very quickly.
How did you get into the work of UBS Wealth Management?
After graduating from EHL in 2002, I was somewhat confused about my future. At that time, a friend who also graduated from EHL asked if I wanted to work in an audit company, as himself is working at the PricewaterhouseCoopers in Geneva. I thought this was a very good opportunity. Under his referral, I started working at PwC Geneva. There are two types of auditing, one is financial auditing and the other is industry auditing. I was doing financial auditing which is focused on the company's financial situation. Thanks to my time at PwC, I learned a lot about the financial industry.
I went to work at UBS Art Banking in 2004. UBS Art Banking was an indispensable part of UBS at that time. It was a platform to help the art collectors with art transactions, also to provide services such as identification and valuation of art pieces.
After working in this department for two years, I moved to UBS Asia Pacific Wealth Management. I have been working in this department for a long time, almost 12 years now. I am responsible for the wealth management of Asian clients’ investments in Europe, most of whom are companies or individuals from Hong Kong or Philippine.
What do you think is the similarity between the hospitality industry and the banking industry?
Of course, there are similarities, since both are service-providing industries, both of which need to understand the customer's needs and make the right response. Each customer has different preferences and needs.
Only by understanding their real situation, we can give the service that suits their needs the best. Working in the hospitality industry, we want to make the guests feel comfortable, gives them the feeling of being at home. The same is true for the banking industry. Only when the customer thinks you are a trustworthy person will they hand over the wealth to you to manage.
The choice is in the hands of the customers, they can switch to another bank at any times. So we need to provide the best service that we can. It is also important to note that social skills are essential both in the hospitality industry and in the banking industry. Identifying and signing new clients is also a part of my job, and I met many new clients at social gatherings. How to behave in different events, how to communicate with people, this is what I learned in the hospitality industry.
In the early days of working in the financial industry, have you encountered any difficulties?
The biggest difficulty must be the knowledge gap. My financial knowledge was not equivalent to my colleagues with financial backgrounds. However, this knowledge gap has gradually been filled in the first three to six months. The second difficulty is that some of my colleagues were biased because of my hospitality background. Most people who work in banks have financial backgrounds.
When a person from a hospitality university enters the banking system, people inevitably wonder whether this person is qualified. So, in the early days, I need to work harder to prove myself. When my capability is recognized, the prejudice will gradually disappear. The third challenge is the bias from our clients. The clients give us their assets to manage, of course, they want to make sure that the advisor is trustworthy.
After knowing that I came from a hospitality school, the clients could not help but have some doubts. When this happens, I often explain to them the similarities between the two industries. Of course, I need to take practical actions to let them know that I am qualified for the job. The hospitality background also has its benefits, I am better with identifying the real needs of a client and provide corresponding solutions.
Switching from one domain to another has never been easy and it requires courage and determination. Although knowledge is a big obstacle, capabilities are transferable. Some specific abilities such as management knowledge and social skills can be used in any field.
Non-traditional professional backgrounds also allow people to think from a different perspective. Adrien gave a good example, when the office phone rings, the first one to pick up the phone is always someone with a hospitality background. The genuine care of the others and the ability to fit in different environments are what make the hospitality students stand out. These unique experiences often bring you unexpected surprises.
Author: XU Chang, EHL Bachelor Student