In acknowledgement of this exciting anniversary and achievement, we spoke with Nova Li, FDM’s first ever APAC employee, who helped establish the APAC Graduate Programme. She now works for the president of a large international financial institution.
Read on to learn more about Nova’s career journey.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am currently the Principal Adviser to the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). I joined EBRD in 2016 where I started as a Principal Officer at the Corporate Strategy Department before I became the Principal Advisor to the Manging Director, Economics, Policy and Governance Department. I am the first Chinese employee at EBRD and I am part of the China Strategic Guidance Group.
I have worked in both the private and public sectors with various organisations including the Office of the President of the African Development Bank, International Labour Organisation Geneva, FDM Group, The United Nations Environmental Programme and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
I have a Master’s in Philosophy in Development Economics from the University of Cambridge, a Master's degree in Investment Appraisal from Bradford University and a Master's degree in Public Policy and Management from the Tsinghua University. I also studied at the University of Hong Kong and Xiamen University where I received my Bachelor's degree in Public Management.
Can you tell us about your most exciting placement?
I have always been passionate about international development and working in Africa has been my dream since I was young. Therefore, my experience in Tunis and Abidjan was unforgettable. I truly value the opportunity of witnessing the positive impact of my work and the amazing development prospects of the continent. From a serious dialogue with a head of state, to designing a programme that can resolve the long-standing challenges of infrastructure development in Africa, to strategical debates in a roundtable discussion with top business leaders and policy makers from all over the world - the most important sense of a mission is that what I did can make a real difference.
You have worked all over the world. Where has been your favourite place to work?
Each place is unique but out of the many cities that I have worked in, I would favour Tunis. It has gorgeous weather, nice people, good food, great scenery and historical sites, a diverse culture with a large expat community and an easy lifestyle. It is also a fantastic tourist destination.
What was your role at FDM and what were your responsibilities?
I joined FDM in 2010 as an APAC Sales and Marketing Executive. My main responsibilities involved providing support to the Hong Kong centre and the establishment of the Graduate Programme, designing and implementing marketing and sales strategies, recruiting and training potential consultants and market exploration for business development in Hong Kong and mainland China.
As APAC’s first FDM employee, can you describe your experience expanding the business into the region 10 years ago?
The job market in the UK 10 years ago suffered from a financial crisis, similar to the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at that time, the financial sector in Asia showed better business prospects as the salary packages offered by the financial institutions were very attractive and there was a demand for high-calibre talent with international experience and financial knowledge. This provided a good business rationale for FDM to expand into the APAC region.
It was a highly rewarding experience for me to be a founding member of the APAC programme and be a part of the success of this great initiative. I still remember one of my first conversations with the senior management at HSBC where they expressed their high appreciation of FDM’s business model and its ability to create very cost-effective solutions for their organisation in Hong Kong.
With the support and trust from FDM’s senior management and a great team, I was extremely driven with the belief that nothing was impossible. I was brave enough to try different approaches and was fearless of failure. I am pleased to see that the APAC programme has been growing extremely fast since then.
What were some of the challenges you encountered and how did you overcome them?
The key challenges of bringing FDM to the APAC region were uncovering the unknowns and increasing brand awareness to clients and talented graduates in Hong Kong. Having an extensive network, the ability to leverage those networks, commercial sensitivity and entrepreneurial spirits are important attributes that helped me overcome these challenges.
How has FDM helped you progress in your career journey?
I completed several financial training modules at FDM, which have been very useful for my career within the international finance space. My marketing and sales experience also enhanced my business acumen and my ability to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, which is critical in my line of work.
What advice do you have for women who are pursuing a career in a male-dominated industry?
Women have their own natural advantage of a flexible mind-set, the ability to adapt to different challenging circumstances and a softened approach to very tricky and difficult conversations. I advise them to discover their other areas of comparative advantages and leverage them when an opportunity arises. Follow your heart, be curious and challenge yourself by trying different things and stepping out of your comfort zone.
Interested in building an exciting and rewarding career with FDM? Apply today!