Michigan Ross Hosts Chinese Execs for Custom Executive Education Program


They arrived in Ann Arbor last November with three months of English lessons and a desire to improve their international business and leadership skills. Now, 23 executives from China have jumped right into the culture of Michigan Ross and absorbed a wealth of information that will advance their careers and their company.

The executives came to Ross for a nine-month Custom Executive Education Program sponsored by their employer, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC). Ross collaborated with ICBC to design a program specifically geared toward emerging global leaders in the financial industry. The program encompassed 500 hours of coursework and cultural activities, including MBA classes, Executive Education Programs, workshops, C-suite executive presentations, and company visits.

ICBC student Qin Li says, “I studied specific courses in the financial sector such as financing models and evaluation and risk management, which not only consolidate the professional knowledge base, but offer updates on the newest trends in the international financial industry,” says ICBC student Qin Li. “It will be conducive for us to develop the international business of ICBC.”

Another participant, Zhisheng Xu, appreciated learning new business tools: “As a middle manager, the Executive Education customized courses like leadership, effective communication, and management persuasion will be helpful to my work in the future,” says Xu. “I have over 12 years of work experience and over 8 years of management experience, but I lacked guidance from systematic theories. I think these learnings will give me more insights.”

Unique Learning Experiences

Distinguished guest speakers Alexa Lam and Yang Yao enhanced the ICBC curriculum by offering practical insights on the financial markets of Hong Kong and China. Lam discussed her former role as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and fielded questions from the ICBC executives, while Professor Yang Yao, Dean of the National School of Development at Peking University, detailed shifts in China’s economy and shared his predictions for the future in his talk, “China's Economic Rebalancing and Current Macroeconomic Outlook.” 

The ICBC students learned just as much outside of the classroom. They visited Quicken Loans and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to experience different work cultures and processes, and the State Capitol in Lansing to learn more about American government. They also attended the U-M Spring Festival Gala, toured museums in Chicago, tasted turkey on Thanksgiving, and yelled “Go Blue!” at football and  basketball games. Xu says the field trips and visits, “broadened my horizons and deepened my understanding about America.” Students prepared in advance for these events and reflected on their experiences afterward to maximize their learning impact.

The Universal Language of Business

Professor Brian Wu worked with several ICBC students in his MBA class on mergers, acquisitions and corporate development, where he was impressed by their motivation to learn and their helpful insights on doing business in China and on Chinese firms’ overseas acquisition experiences.

Wu shares, “I got to know more of [the ICBC students] when they invited me for a wonderful homemade dinner, where I learned a great deal about their insights and perspectives. I was really amazed by how much effort they had put into improving their communication skills in English, integrating their work experiences with the academic frameworks learned at Ross, and deeply understanding American consumer and business behavior.”

Wu worked with colleagues to organize the Michigan Buddies Program, which was created to help ICBC students hone their English skills and provide more interaction with U-M students. He says, “The ICBC students actively participated in this opportunity, expanding their engagement with Michigan beyond just classroom learning.”

Similarly, BBA, MBA, and LSA students enjoyed the opportunity to improve their Chinese skills and gained valuable insights on conducting business in China. Events at Pizza House and other spots around town encouraged the buddies to strengthen friendships and develop lasting connections.

"We really enjoyed working with ICBC to create this integrative and meaningful learning experience," says Melanie Weaver Barnett, Chief Executive Education Officer at Ross. "The students have shown remarkable growth and transformation during their time in Ann Arbor, and we look forward to seeing them continue to thrive back at ICBC.”

Taking it to the Bank

Before transitioning to internships, ICBC execs summarize what they’ve learned at Ross in a capstone presentation detailing their top takeaways and how they will apply the information when they return to work at ICBC. This year’s topics include: unsecured loan management in small and micro enterprises, maintaining customer relationships through digital banking, small enterprises credit management at American banks, and competing with online companies in International banking.

Yining Yang sees immediate opportunities to make an impact back at ICBC, as his Social Intrapreneurship MBA course inspired him to find ways to spur innovation. He explains, “In China we often talk about corporate social responsibility, but we don’t have much of a concept of social intrapreneurship.” The addition of an online internal platform to submit ideas, he says, could be a way to encourage innovation. “Thus I can bring a positive change to ICBC.”

From once-in-a-lifetime experiences to transformational business lessons, ICBC students will have a lot to bring back with them to China. Qin Li sums up his experience: “Living in Ann Arbor and learning at Ross are definitely the most precious and unforgettable things in the lives of all of us. What is important is not what we saw or took pictures of, it is the real things we experienced and felt in our hearts. We really appreciated the days we spent here.”

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