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Setting Sail: A Financial Professional’s MSGF Journey

In 2012, Tobias Westermaier embarked on a transformative journey when he joined the HKUST-NYU Stern MS in Global Finance (MSGF) program. With years of experience in global finance, Tobias wanted to deepen his knowledge and broaden his horizons through the program. Little did he know that his academic pursuits would also ignite an unexpected passion for sailing.

“I wouldn’t have got into sailing if I didn’t join the MSGF program and formed a strong bond with these alumni. Even though we are now busy with our own lives, we still try to get together and stay in touch. These friendships and connections truly last a lifetime.”

Originally from Germany, Tobias’s career began in banking in Munich. He then gained corporate finance experience with Daimler and BMW in Europe and Asia. After completing the MSGF program, he moved to Switzerland, where he later joined BNP Paribas Corporate Banking, and then his current role at Zanders Group leading a team advising clients on corporate finance, treasury and technology topics. Tobias’s story is one of tenacity and curiosity, where his dedication to continuous learning empowered him to navigate the winds of professional and personal growth.

Setting Sail for New Finance Horizons

Sailing and pursuing new finance knowledge share common characteristics in meticulous planning and execution, translating aspirations into tangible achievements. Pursuing a master’s degree had been on Tobias’s horizon since he launched his career in the early 2000s. “I wanted to focus on business, economics, and finance and I was searching for a modular-style program where I could interact with diverse professional backgrounds,” Tobias explains. “There were limited options at the time, and the MSGF program stood out for me.”

Beyond the shores of onsite modules in Hong Kong and New York City, the program also held a module in Beijing at the time of his studies. “That was a very special experience,” recalls Tobias eagerly. “In the last few decades, China has been developing from a very different perspective from the rest of the world. The program equipped me with an open mind to understand different cultural and economic contexts, while staying on top of technological revolutions and understanding its impact.”

Balancing the program’s rigorous demands and professional commitments also emulates the endurance and perseverance that sailing requires. Yet, the program’s modular approach allowed Tobias to dedicate time to learning while advancing his career. In fact, continuous learning has become a key pillar of his professional development.

“Continuous learning is vital for me to keep evolving personally and professionally. The world is changing so rapidly that not learning is no longer an option. We have to keep learning to keep up with these changes and contextualize them with our professional and personal goals.”


Navigating Through Different Perspectives

By the time Tobias started the MSGF program, he had gained international experience working across three continents. Joining the program further expanded his rich experience. “One is never complete in experiencing cultural diversity,” Tobias remarks. “I was fortunate to have accumulated lots of international experiences early on. But the program offered me a deeper exposure to meeting and working with people from various backgrounds and professions.”

Navigating through diverse perspectives and approaches echoes the intricacies of sailing, where communication, trust and teamwork are paramount. Working with a diverse cohort provided Tobias with new opportunities to gain invaluable human behavior insights. “From a consulting perspective, this is crucial when it comes to building a team that works well with the client,” he explains. “The insights I gained from the program are still valuable to this day.”

Through Zanders, Tobias also designs and facilitates training sessions with The Association of Corporate Treasurers in Europe. “I can always refer to the MSGF program materials to enrich my thinking and develop my teaching materials,” he says.


Anchoring on Cultural Diversity and Lasting Friendships

Aside from academic pursuits, the MSGF program anchored Tobias on lifelong friendships and cultural connections that transcend geographical boundaries. Having access to the alumni network at NYU and HKUST is instrumental when it comes to travelling and relocating abroad.

“It’s a great way to tap into the local network and get connected in a new location. You can start mingling with like-minded people right away.”

During his first months in Switzerland, Tobias found his personal “true north” in sailing through HKUST’s alumni network. “When I first arrived in Switzerland, I met an MBA alumnus who was so passionate about sailing that he got me involved as well. I became so committed to it that I even got a sailing license!”

With his sailing buddy, Tobias was part of an HKUST sailing team with six other alumni. They competed in the SDA Bocconi MBA’s Conference and Regatta in Italy every year and won the Regatta in 2018!

“I wouldn’t have got into sailing if I didn’t join the MSGF program and I formed a strong bond with these alumni. Even though we are now busy with our own lives, we still try to get together and stay in touch. These friendships and connections truly last a lifetime.”


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