2018 Best MBAs: Richard Higgs, CEIBS

Richard Higgs    

CEIBS (China Europe International Business School)

Father (to a fat ginger cat), Husband, Adventurer, Friend, Beer Enthusiast, Lover of Travel.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa

Fun fact about yourself: Qualified as an HIV Counsellor during undergrad and led the marketing for the testing campaigns on campus.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Stellenbosch – Accounting Sciences

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

One Capital – M&A Analyst

KPMG – Supervisor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017?

Infosys – Bangalore, India

Where will you be working after graduation?

Siemens – FEP Associate (Starting in Munich, Germany)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice President of the Student Committee
  • MBA2018 Student Leader Award Recipient | Nominated and voted by the student body
  • Tutor to University students from migrant communities through the CEDAR English Club, Shanghai
  • Tutor to migrant’s children through the COIN Foundation, Shanghai
  • CEIBS representative to:
    • World Government Summit in Dubai, February 2017
    • VCIC venture capital global MBA competition, March 2017
    • Graduate Business Conference in Hong Kong, May 2017
  • INSEAD representative to RSM Private Equity Competition in Amsterdam, November 2017

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Creating a student-led simultaneous translation service to enable international students to attend Mandarin language events. This solved a legacy pain point for both Chinese and International students. Now more top business leaders can be invited to speak to students even if they are not comfortable to present in English – and International students are able to also learn from them and get more “China Depth.”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Successfully led the audit and financial engineering advisory for the investments of the largest life insurer in Africa. In the process I managed, coordinated and motivated five different teams totaling more than 25 people to work in parallel. The outcome was a happy client who had been delivered top quality service within the required deadline and budget.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? David Gosset. Being a native French European who speaks Mandarin fluently and engages with Chinese government officials at the highest level, he is able to provide insight into China’s global strategy while also bringing an international perspective.

What was your favorite MBA Course: China Within the World. Key takeaway: There are going to be many business opportunities with China going forward, but – like geopolitics – there can only be a positive outcome where common interest is found in even the most difficult of circumstances. Relationships are key when it comes to doing business in China and this needs to be embraced by anyone that wants to do business in China.

Why did you choose this business school? I wanted to go to the best business school in Mainland China. I googled the best b-school in China and applied. With China-Africa relations growing stronger, it was the logical step for me.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? For international students: Be curious about China’s burgeoning role in the new global order and be open-minded to immerse yourself into the fascinating Chinese culture.

For Chinese students: GMAT and test scores are just one aspect of the application. Also focus on having a holistic application where it is clear what you a bringing to the table.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not being able to organize a good job for my wife for the duration of the program in Shanghai – so we had to settle for a long distance relationship with her working for Al Jazeera in Doha.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? William Yan – William joined the MBA after a career in journalism with fluency in Russian, English and Chinese. He hit the ground running with business subjects that were foreign to him while leading the Media Club which organized more than 25% of all club events on campus. He is the type of person that every single person he comes across are blown away by his genuine curiosity and friendliness.

 Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father (a South African navy Admiral) gave me the option – join the navy or study business.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an investment banker in Johannesburg focusing on the mining industry.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would make agreements with surrounding top Universities in Shanghai to allow CEIBS students to attend certain classes (for credits) in the post-grad departments to get even more exposure to Chinese thought-leaders.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Complete the full Camino Walk
  2. Speak fluent Mandarin

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Richard was someone that cared about everyone around him and only succeeded in something if he had helped everyone around him succeed.

What is your favorite movie about business?

Movie: The Pursuit of Happiness

Lesson: Even when the odds seem stacked against you, you can still make a success of it if you have the right mindset

What would your theme song be?

Genesis – “Don’t Stop Believing”

Favorite vacation spot:

Hibiscus Coast, South Africa


Open water swimming, running, travelling on a shoestring budget (Borneo, Botswana, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Malaysian, Qatar, Thailand), reading (biographies, allegorical novels, financial & inspirational documentaries), spending time with my wife and fat ginger cat (named Simba)

What made Richard such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Richard Higgs was a pleasure to have in the classroom at CEIBS.  He is a naturally inquisitive and generous member of the student body. As part of his role on the Student Committee, Richard helped to resolve a prominent challenge for the CEIBS community in that international (non-mandarin speaking) students were unable to learn from visiting Chinese executives if they themselves were not confident conversing in English. By establishing the student-led simultaneous interpreting service, Richard has ensured more students are empowered to further their understanding of China’s business landscape. Richard is also extremely passionate about the future of China-Africa relations and helped the MBA Admissions team to host their first MBA outreach event and panel discussion in Johannesburg. During his summer placement in India and exchange semester in France, he has been a great ambassador for his country and business school.”

Dr. Shameen Prashantham

CEIBS Associate Professor of International Business & Strategy


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