CKGSB Prof: China Provides Great Career Path for “Sea Turtles”

March 14, 2016

Eight years after the first wave of Chinese bankers returned home from Wall Street, another group is following suit – and CKGSB Professor of Finance Cao Huining says that opportunity awaits when they arrive.

Eight years ago, when Wall Street erupted in crisis, a large group of Chinese who had studied and worked abroad, started to return to China, and were collectively labeled as so-called “sea turtles”. While US firms were slashing bonuses and cutting jobs, these returnees understood both the nuances of Chinese culture as well as the Western business practices that had helped with overseas expansion – a combination that was highly valued by Chinese firms. Eight years later, another group of frustrated Chinese bankers on Wall Street are heading back home, but this group is rather different from the first lot.


A recent article by Bloomberg News claims that there are two forces driving this move: the fact that many feel they are hitting a bamboo ceiling in the US and the belief that Chinese growth, while slowing, is shifting into areas that will benefit bankers. The article cites CKGSB Professor of Finance Cao Huining commenting on this wave of returns:


“China has a huge demand for good brains as the labor-intensive economy is behind us. A lot of people see better career paths in China than in the US, where they probably could just make a mediocre living.”

With the slowing-down of the Chinese economy, Beijing is attaching more and more significance to entrepreneurship to drive growth, pushing the financial markets in China to be more and more competitive. What’s more, venture capital funds poured a record $37 billion into China last year, providing sufficient funding for entrepreneurs. All these have led to the creation of some of the world’s most valuable startups, including smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi and peer-to-peer lender, needing some of these “sea turtles” to help with their expansion and as a result offering them great opportunities.


Though the current economic situation in China has presented an unprecedented number of opportunities to returnees, not all the “sea turtles” have swum back for good. Some of them will become “seagulls” – those who remain uncertain which country is their true home – flying back and forth between the two countries, after finding that they found it harder to fit back into their home country than they imagined.


To read the original article by Bloomberg News, please click here.

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