Geoffrey Leonard was in his third year of M&A Advisory at a management consulting firm when he decided to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
He had heard of the Bank a few years prior at a recruitment session, and its mission had stayed with him as he worked his corporate job.
“My work across Asia highlighted to me that multilateral development banks such as AIIB play a pivotal role in closing the infrastructure gap, and I wanted to be part of the process,” says the 30-year-old, who has an MBA from a Singapore university.
The Canadian was covering global infrastructure advisory across Southeast Asia and the Middle East for KPMG Singapore, a role that provided insight into the infrastructure transaction processes across private and public sectors.
Impressed by the organisation’s growth – AIIB was established in 2016 – and keen to help shape its future, Leonard uprooted himself to China and is now an investment associate, working on sovereign and non-sovereign-backed financing across the energy, renewables, and transportation sectors at the Bank’s Beijing headquarters.
“Despite AIIB being only a few years old, its mission and objectives resonated with me,” he says.
AIIB’s vision is a prosperous Asia based on sustainable economic development and regional cooperation. Its mission is Financing Infrastructure for Tomorrow by investing in sustainable infrastructure. It was established to help foster sustainable economic development, create wealth and improve infrastructure connectivity in Asia by investing in infrastructure and other productive sectors.
Similarly, meaningful work and a regional remit were factors that attracted He Pei Yi, a Chinese national working as a credit analyst in Germany, to move to Beijing and join the Bank.
“After over 4 years in the corporate banking sector, I was looking for an opportunity to expand into other risk areas,” says the former Deutsche Bank staff, who has a Master's degree from a German university.
“As a development institution, AIIB provides people like me from the private sector an opportunity to utilize my skills to contribute to social and sustainability development in Asia, which I find meaningful and fulfilling,” she adds.
“I am grateful that AIIB brought me back to my home country and provided me the opportunity to combine my personal interests with a compelling mission.”
Geoff: Geoffrey Leonard, Investment Associate in AIIB Infrastructure Investment Department
Seeking fresh talent
Vincent Nicolier, learning, development and culture principal at AIIB, says the Bank is actively seeking to attract and retain young talent, who can enjoy the opportunity to shape the organisation’s development and contribute to its unique corporate mandate.
To cultivate young talent, AIIB recently launched a Graduate Program, which will help young professionals develop skills and expertise through training and hands-on experience working within the Bank.
Aspiring analysts can apply to any of five streams in investment, finance, risk management, strategy and corporate, where they will be rotated into business functions useful to their learning, on top of receiving classroom training and mentorship.
There is also AIIB’s existing Internship Program for graduate students, which provides summer internships involving hands-on work in multilateral development. Interns will be exposed to different business functions to quickly build their familiarity with the business.
Portfolio-boosting work in high-growth Asia
For early career joiners, a key perk of working at AIIB is the opportunity to expand their portfolio through unparalleled exposure to a wide variety of projects.
This is thanks to the Bank’s Corporate Strategy targets of 50% share of climate finance in actual financing approvals by 2025, 50% private sector financing in actual financing approvals by 2030, and 25-30% financing approvals for cross-border connectivity by 2030.
In her new role as a risk associate, He manages market and counterparty credit risks of the Bank’s treasury liquidity portfolio. She is working to improve AIIB’s credit assessment framework to fit increasingly diverse counterparts, which include banks, government agencies, and asset managers.
“AIIB’s liquidity portfolio is expected to further expand over the next few years, so managing the risks of a portfolio of this size and complexity challenges me to develop a diverse technical skill set,” she says. “This provides an opportunity to learn new insights and opens up many more career options.”
As for Leonard, he’s working on a sovereign-backed transport transaction in Southeast Asia, while supporting two nonsovereign transactions in the renewables sector in South Asia.
“It’s clear the Bank has an important role to play in sustainable infrastructure development in Asia and beyond,” he says.
As a young bank, AIIB is one of the most diverse institutions in Beijing, with under 400 full time staff hailing from over 50 economies, says learning principal Nicolier. “I’m constantly amazed by the energy and passion they exhibit.”
Risk associate He adds that she likes being in an organisation with a global outlook: “Working internationally and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds is very exciting.”
As for investment associate Leonard, AIIB’s international workforce was the push factor he needed to make the jump.
“Throughout the interview process, the diversity and wide-ranging experience of colleagues stood out strongly, and reinforced my decision to apply and eventually join the Bank,” he says.
Adds Nicolier, “Asia, and China specifically, is where the future has great potential. If you want to be at the center of the action, AIIB is the place to be.”
Soft skills the key to success
So how can one optimize their chances of landing a role at a multilateral development bank like AIIB?
Nicolier’s tip is to optimize resumes to emphasize qualifications and interests that match the requirements of the stream candidates are applying for.
“The skill set and experience requirements for different streams will have a great influence on your career path in the Bank,” he adds.
For Leonard, apart from basic skills such as financial modelling and analysis, good communication and an open mind are critical.
“As the Bank works with 105 members, it is important to recognise the unique hurdles and opportunities within each country,” he explains.
“Each department plays an important role in the success of a transaction. Therefore, it’s important to communicate clearly and listen to feedback to help the deal move forward.”
He, too, identifies financial expertise and interpersonal skills as a winning combination.
“While hard skills are important and necessary, a flexible mindset, proactive attitude and adaptability go much further,” she says.
For those concerned about quality of life, both associates say pollution in Beijing has improved greatly, public transportation is ultra-convenient, and the city is full of life.
“I have been pleasantly surprised by the diverse restaurants, bars, and events that the city offers. Additionally, the location near the mountains is great if you are into winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding,” says Leonard.
Adds He,“I was surprised by the changes in Beijing compared with 6 years ago, and am impressed by the good museums, art scene, historical sights, vivid nightlife and ultra-modern business district. It’s a place where there’s something for everyone.”
Peiyi: Peiyi He, Risk Associate in AIIB Risk Management Department
Opportunities for young talents at AIIB
Young talent have a lot to contribute to AIIB; at the same time, they can learn a lot from AIIB. AIIB is a fast-growing institution and expanding in various markets and will need people who can grow with the Bank. AIIB values the fresh perspective and energy that young talents can bring to the table.
To attract and retain young talents, AIIB is building its talent pipeline through two programs: the Internship Program and the Graduate Program.
The Internship Program provides opportunities to graduate students who are interested in international development and would like to have hands-on experience through a summer internship. The internship may last for three months, and depending on the internship track, can either be done remotely if they are based abroad, or in-person for those who are already in mainland China. Candidates must be enrolled in a full-time masteral or doctoral study program from an internationally recognized institution with plans to return to school. More information about AIIB’s Internship Program can be found here.
The Graduate Program provides opportunities for talents at a very early stage of their career. The program lasts for two years and the analysts who qualify for the program will be exposed to different business functions within the Bank. They also get a chance to serve different departments on rotation, which is a valuable opportunity to try out different tracks to see which one suits them best. Rotation to aligned departments is one way for young talents to develop and port transferable skills, which is valuable in any workplace. It is also a chance for those who are interested in multilateral development to quickly get familiar with the business of financing infrastructure in Asia and beyond in a holistic manner.
As AIIB develops and matures as an institution, analysts joining AIIB at this stage will have unique opportunities to contribute to the realization of the Bank’s mandate and Corporate Strategy. Unlike the Internship Program, the Graduate Program offers a career track within the Bank. More information about AIIB’s Graduate Program can be found here.
AIIB Graduate Program Virtual Event on 28 January 2022
Click here to register: https://virtualcareerfairs.impactpool.org/event/5849
About the virtual event: The event offers an online space for young professionals to engage directly with AIIB HR representatives, ask questions and learn more information about the Graduate program and other early career opportunities at the Bank. AIIB will be hosting a Breakout room including a live video. The online event will be hosted over two sessions to accommodate participants from different time zones.