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Yang Wang (40) is from China and started his own business in the Netherlands, after obtaining his MSc in International Finance (MIF) at the Amsterdam Business School (ABS). It was the vibrant Dutch business community - plus the ABS’s excellent reputation - that made Yang choose Amsterdam over London and Berlin. How did the MSc contribute to Yang’s entrepreneurship? What were his experiences, and does he have any advice for (inter)national professionals who are considering the MIF programme?
Yang Wang

‘In China, I worked as managing director at a company in the asset management industry. Meanwhile, I was a board member for a tech company that provides IoT solutions to track animals for scientific research and smart management of livestock. Because I wanted to explore career opportunities and life experience in Europe, I decided to make a bold step: to follow an executive business programme in Europe.  After some research, Amsterdam seemed like the best choice for me. In retrospect, I am glad that I made the right decision. Not only because of ABS’s high-quality education, also because of the internationally-oriented Dutch business community and the vibrant ecology research base that the Netherlands offer. All of which are relevant to my entrepreneurship following the degree. 

The MIF programme is well-designed and of high quality in general. I did my first master's degree in America (Harvard University) and I feel the programme is at least as rigorous as that of an equivalent Ivy League university. My intention of starting a new business developed gradually during the programme. With our coursework, I found out that in the European financial world, ESG and sustainable investment is already a hot topic. The biodiversity crisis is now even looming as a dominant issue for the business and the financial community. No sizable company nor financial institution can afford to overlook biodiversity and nature-related issues. Odds are, that in the financial world biodiversity is going to be “the next carbon”.

That is why asset management firms already offer biodiversity theme funds, and consultancies begin to provide services related to biodiversity.  A key issue here is to measure the impact on nature and the risk associated with nature, what we call double-materiality. However, the real missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle is high-quality non-financial data, especially raw data about animals. That’s where I got the idea to set up a new Dutch company powered by the existing technology. The ambition is to provide data to fuel biodiversity financial products, and thus bridging the financial and scientific world.

In that sense, the programme gave me a new business idea in which I can combine my passion and expertise in both nature and finance. Plus a powerful boost to actually start this entrepreneurial adventure. During the FinTech Venture course, we gained an advanced insight into start-ups and growing a business. To learn even more, this year I’m taking the extra elective Sustainable Finance offered by ABS, which wasn’t available yet when I was a student.

Another benefit of the MIF programme is definitely your classmates. They all have different backgrounds; varying from the financial industry to consulting companies and data providers. This makes the dialogues about theories and concepts you have in class, very educational. Classes are small, making it possible to engage in prompt questions and feedbacks with the professors and among students. During the programme, we all developed a close bond, which really added to the whole learning experience. For me, it was also great to realise that my classmates can potentially become my business collaborators, investors or clients.

Because of my positive experience with the programme and the ABS I wanted to return the favour and at the same time keep the connection alive. That’s why I joined the ABS alumni board. Besides this, it’s also a perfect way to make connections beyond the MIF programme.

If you’re considering the programme, I would definitely recommend it. Do be prepared to do the work, because the study load is quite heavy. In that sense, it’s more of a solid Master's than typical executive education. Apart from that, my advice is to be brave and reach out to classmates and professors. Make connections beyond the classroom, so you can discover something unexpected. Last but not least, if you’re from another country and plan to stay in the Netherlands, go and study Dutch from day one! During my study at UvA, I made best use of their education resources and learned the language up to the advanced level. It is a challenging yet highly rewarding process. Speaking the local language really opens new doors.’