Hong Kong is home to more than 300 alumni, both Chinese and Western. François Courtin (E10), Head of ESSEC Alumni’s Hong Kong Chapter and co-founder of thriving start-up KintoHub, tells us more about the local community.
ESSEC Alumni: How many alumni are there in Hong Kong ?
François Courtin: I believe we can safely say that we are one of the most active alumni communities here. We are about 280 on the dedicated Facebook group, and about 330 on the local newsletter mailing list. About 70% are Western (mostly French) and 30% Asian (mostly Mainland Chinese). I’d guesstimate 40-50% work in finance (and affiliated, like consulting or insurance), mostly from Grande Ecole or MS Finance, such as Eran Benichou (E06), CFO at CIB Asia-Pacific; Antoine Da Costa (E02), COO Investment Banking Asia at BNP Paribas; or Anthony Pecenicic (E12), Senior Manager Financial Services at Accenture. 30-40% work in luxury, with a good proportion of Chinese alumni who attended MBA Luxe and French alumni from the Grande Ecole, such as Nicolas Morineaux (E99), VP Finance and Operations Fashion Group at LVMH; Laurence Ouaknine (L03), President at Au cœur du luxe; Michelle Huang (L11), COO at Leonard; or Pierre Abadie (E04), Senior Director Marketing at Estee Lauder Asia Pacific. Then 10-20% work in other sectors (spirits, industry, tech, etc.), such as Cyril Sayag (E90), VP Public and Legal Affairs at Pernod Ricard Asia; Laetitia Falessi (M09), Founder at Spotlime; and Maxime Danjoux (M14), Talent Acquirer at Chengbao.
EA: How famous is the ESSEC brand in Hong Kong?
F. Courtin: Let’s face it: for now, our diploma doesn’t really pop onto employers’ wishlists… that is, unless the employer is a major European company; and/or some of the management is French; and/or the sector is finance or luxury. Note that with the fast-expanding French community in Hong Kong and the fact that more and more Chinese alumni start their careers here, the recognition level of ESSEC is getting higher over time.
EA: What opportunities are there in Hong Kong for alumni?
F. Courtin: We kind of covered it above. Beyond that, Hong Kong is also an amazing place to fast track a career like Francis Duan (M12), Head of Chanel’s flagship boutique in HK, or make daring and successful moves like Romain Rouquier (M13), Practice Manager at Maltem Consulting Group. It’s a city that rewards work, networking, ambition and hustle. Bonus points if you are dual-culture.
EA: What advice do you have for alumni moving in Hong Kong?
F. Courtin: Come and meet people to get a job, don’t just apply from afar. Apart from that… Hong Kong is basically “Asia/China for Dummies”: it’s English-speaking, very practical and very expat friendly. Getting a work visa is quite easy: you get sponsored by your employer, which is very straightforward compared to the US or Singapore.
Hong Kong also is the true city that never sleeps – sorry not sorry NYC! There is always something interesting to do, some interesting people to meet, or some side business to start.
What we do lack is affordable housing – and, as often lamented by the French, more cultural outlets. Otherwise, we have it all: a crazy, bustling, cosmopolitan city with a majestic skyline combined with beautiful nature (70% of HK’s territory is made of unconstructible national parks ripe with forests, mountains and beaches).
EA: What is ESSEC Alumni’s Hong Kong Chapter’s offer?
F. Courtin: Our baseline is one afterworks drinks per month. On top of this, we organize casual events such as summer junks, Christmas parties, beach barbecues, family-friendly picnics or hikes, and professional events such as networking visits, experience sharing breakfasts or brand partnerships nights. We also have more ad hoc events depending on the opportunites, such as cooking classes and sports outings. We even had an actual Gala a few years ago with 250 people in evening wear, complete with dinner, charity auction and party!
Naturally, we also help coordinate activities with the school (student visits, master classes, etc.).
EA: How and why did you become ESSEC Alumni’s Hong Kong Chapter’s President?
F. Courtin: I always felt very lucky and very proud to be part of ESSEC, and was very involved with community life during my time on campus (I was a proud member of AVE, ESSEC Japan President and L’Impertinent, and a candidate for BDE). When I arrived in Hong Kong back in 2013, I went to a couple of afterworks, and just met great, diverse people, both very sharp and very friendly. It felt right – so I stuck along. In 2016 I started helping with some events, and when Michelle Huang stepped down in early 2018, I took over carrying the flame. It takes me 5 to 20 hours a month, and it’s worth it. There are so many things to be done, from fuelling a vibrant community here to tightening our links to the school and to ESSEC Alumni’s community.