Gem KUA is an EDHEC alumnus on an atypical path. Before joining the EDHEC undergraduate programme in 2014, he obtained his baccalaureate, with distinction, at Henri Matisse High School in Vence. After four years of study, he graduated as class valedictorian in 2018 with an International Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, also topping his major in audit, management control and financial management. In 2019, Gem was admitted to EDHEC Business School’s MSc in Corporate Finance and Banking and ranked in the top 5% in his year. Today, he works as a venture analyst for Rockstart in the Netherlands.
Here, you can read an exclusive interview with the new face of the EDHEC International BBA 2021 brochure:
I chose the EDHEC International BBA programme as it gave me the chance to attend a major international business school as soon as I had finished my baccalaureate. Being of Malaysian origin, I was keen to obtain an internationally recognised degree from a prestigious business school. My choice was also influenced by the potential for a ‘made-to-measure’ course, as at that point, I still did not know what I wanted to do professionally. The scholarship awarded to undergraduates who had achieved a ‘distinction’ in their baccalaureate sealed my decision.
The first two years of my EDHEC International BBA taught me the fundamentals of business and management. This allowed me to hone my academic skills and to discover that the mathematical/scientific subjects (such as accounting, management and finance) appealed to me more. Consequently, I chose to specialise in corporate finance in the third year of my BBA.
Before specialising, however, I embarked on a foreign academic exchange in a bid to step out of my comfort zone and bolster my CV. At the end of my first year, I had promised myself that I would study in Asia or, more specifically, in Hong Kong. The city remains a key strategic location in the Asian economic and financial sector. In my third year, I was the only student selected for an academic exchange at the University of Hong Kong, the 22nd best university in the world. This opportunity was open to me because of my academic record, as exchange places are awarded on merit.
The international experience was exceptional. I met a huge number of people, improved my English and discovered a new culture. Above all, however, it led to a professional revelation. Among the courses I chose to take at the University of Hong Kong was one on business ethics. I was lucky enough to attend a course held by David Bishop, a former lawyer and a regionally renowned social entrepreneur. He continually questioned the myths and methods of the major players in our economy. He also led me to understand that businesses should not just be viewed as problems in today’s society, but also as potential answers to the problems of tomorrow. It was this that consolidated my interest in sustainable and ethical finance.
When I returned to France, I specialised in corporate finance, then in audit, management control and financial management. These two specialisation years were supplemented by work experience in the financial sector. After landing my first internship with Grant Thornton at a forum organised by the EDHEC International BBA on-campus Career Centre, a ‘snowball’ effect led me to undertake my other internships in this sector, too. My end-of-course internship at PwC Luxembourg enabled me to sharpen my skills in financial and accountancy methodology and culture. After a few audit assignments in the Asset Management and Private Equity departments, I had the opportunity to conduct two assignments in the Financial Services Consulting division.
At the end of my four-year course, I was honoured to be named class valedictorian for 2018 at the graduation ceremony and to top my specialisation in audit, management control and financial management. My academic record gave me the chance to continue my studies at EDHEC, on the MSc. in Corporate Finance & Banking. The programme was an obvious choice for me, as it aligned perfectly with my career goal to join an investment fund that supports companies with a high social and environmental impact. The academic requirements were high, but the BBA programme had prepared us for the challenge. I was also pleasantly surprised at how international the programme was; my fellow students came from all four corners of the earth. I even met up again with a friend I had made on my academic exchange at the University of Hong Kong a few years previously.
At the end of the MSc, I completed my internship at an impact investing fund in Cambodia. I participated in innovative entrepreneurial projects in the fields of education, agriculture and energy in India, Cambodia, Viet Nam and China. This work experience underscored my need to find meaning in my career, as I am convinced that finance can play a role in the ecological, economic and societal transition the world is experiencing.
Finally, in March 2020, I joined Rockstart, an investment fund and startup accelerator based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, as an analyst. Rockstart supports early-stage startups in the agriculture, health and energy sectors. I am in daily contact with entrepreneurs, listening to their needs and coming up with investment solutions to support projects in Europe. This work is the culmination of my years of financial study and the realisation of my passion for sustainable and responsible finance.
EDHEC Business School offers everyone a chance to succeed and discover their passions. The school simultaneously allows you to get to know yourself, discover the world and set your professional goals. Over the course of five years, it provided us with a wealth of encounters, experiences and endeavours that allowed us to grow on all levels. Looking at all my classmates, you can quickly see that everyone has a bright future. And knowing that sustainable finance is set to go from strength to strength ‒ and rightly so ‒ I will always be available to talk on the topic!