Why learning more about trade finance makes for a satisfying career

14 April, 2023Ouida Taaffe

Huan Zhang, who works at the Agricultural Bank of China, talks about the challenges of taking exams alongside a professional role and what LIBF’s trade finance qualifications have meant for her day-to-day career.

Why did you choose to specialise in trade finance?

I had no initial plan to work in trade finance. When I joined the Agricultural Bank of China in 2012, after graduating with a degree in International Economy and Trade from Henan Normal University, I started as a bank teller. After working at different posts for five years, I began pursuing my career in trade finance.

What do you enjoy about your work in trade?

I love helping people and challenging myself. The fact that different clients have different needs makes working in trade endlessly interesting. I really enjoy the feeling I get each time I present a tailored solution that helps my clients. It’s just satisfying being able to provide excellent service to them.

How do you see your career developing?

To be honest, since the start of my career, I’ve just concentrated on the work at hand, and on learning as much as I could – rather than on planning a career per se. When I started working in trade finance, part of me was excited and another part was nervous. I was very eager to learn more to keep up. Then my supervisor, who is a CDCS holder, told me about trade finance qualifications and strongly encouraged me to study them.

After I passed the Certificate for Specialists in Demand Guarantees (CSDG) in 2019, I sat and passed the Certificate for Documentary Credit Specialists (CDCS) in 2020. I completed the Certificate in Trade Based Financial Crime Compliance (CTFC) in 2021, and got the Diploma for Qualified Trade Finance Specialists (QTFS) in 2022. Then I completed the Certificate in Supply Chain Finance (CSCF), the Certificate in Trade and Finance (CITF) and the Certificate in Principles of Payments (Cert PAY). All of which have helped me grow, embrace challenges and evolve rapidly. That said, when I put my learning into practice, I feel more of a sense of accomplishment than I do when passing the examinations.

I love my work. Whatever the post is, I can find my passion there. I now work at the head office of the bank. But my career progression is not just about the work I’ve put in personally, the effort I devoted to preparing for the exams also counts for a lot. Continuous learning and updating skills helped me move on. All in all, through taking the qualifications, I gained a lot.

What was studying for your exams alongside a full-time job like?

Studying alongside a full-time job is not easy but, along the way, I received inspiration and motivation and had many role models. I was also given lots of help by the team in the CCPIT Training Center, and by LIBF.

Unlike studying at school, learning alongside a full-time job is about practical aims. I learnt things that were directly applicable to what I needed to solve for in my work. For example, studying for Certificate in Supply Chain Finance (CSCF) meant I was better able to use financing and risk mitigation to help my clients manage the working capital and liquidity in their supply chain processes and transactions.

Not all the qualifications are directly related to my day-to-day work, but what I gained from studying helps me progress in other ways. I believe that life-long learning is a great thing in itself.

Is there any advice you would give to other people on taking the exams?

‘Do not rush’ would be my advice. Try to enjoy what you are learning and be happy to engage with something new each day. Along the way, you might be wondering how far you can go. All I can tell you is that you are sure to go farther than you think.

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