Victor Xu is lead partner and chief executive of Liakada Capital, a Toronto advisory firm. Before founding Liakada, he worked in corporate strategy, banking and private equity. He grew up in Xi’an, China, and came to Canada in 2009. Xu graduated with an MSc from Ivey Business School in 2012 and lives in Canada.
From an early age, I gained a love of finance and entrepreneurship from my parents. My mother, a corporate banker, brought me to informal business meetings as my father worked in another city and she was the sole carer after school.
I was fascinated by the entrepreneurs. I was intrigued by the progress of their plans and the role that injected capital played in helping turn their visions into reality. Seeing the evolution from the idea to funding, to launch, to execution and, most importantly, the positive impact on society crystallised my goal of running a business helping entrepreneurs achieve their aspirations.
Fast forward to 2009, and I decided the best place to pursue my passion for finance was in Canada. Through my research, speaking with students and alumni, Ivey Business School became my first choice. Its MSc in international business provided the ideal entry point given that I had undergraduate degrees in software engineering and accounting.
Ivey not only gave me the technical skills for complex work in finance but also reshaped my view of the world. Aside from the left-brain technical skills one can learn at any business school, Ivey encourages students to enhance their right-brain soft skills, too. A balance of the two is a great help when launching a career. Ivey instilled the importance of diversity, networking, communication, confidence and big-picture thinking.
Being educated in China, I was not used to mingling with people from other cultures. I was a little anxious when put in a class of students from around the world. Some classes had more than 20 European students and we spoke some 20 languages. During my term in Japan I was the only Chinese student.
I did many group assignments, including the infamous 24-hour report and group presentations. All types of Ivey assignments require you to work as a team and I developed a strong curiosity about different cultures and appreciation for the diverse talents of others. Our “United Nations” group also went on trips to Ottawa, Montreal and New York.
I remember many exchanges of opinion and insight that stretched my thinking. These happened socially, when I was staying at the exchange student house for a party or running to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market with a German classmate at 4am. They also took place in group sessions and during classes among students eager to contribute their thoughts (40 per cent of the grade came from in-class participation).
I came to appreciate more fully that people from different backgrounds are fundamentally the same. By being open and unbiased, I was able to foster friendships beyond barriers of language and nationality and could learn from a much broader network of people.
After graduation, I was lucky to be helped by Ivey alumni who graciously gave me — still relatively new to Canada — opportunities to learn skills and to demonstrate my dedication and capabilities. Their support and encouragement, combined with my Ivey education, empowered me to step outside of my comfort zone and start Liakada Capital in May 2015.
I was always proud of Ivey’s mission statement: “To develop business leaders who think globally, act strategically and contribute to the societies in which they operate.” I decided to incorporate the themes of thinking globally and making the world a better place into the mission statement and culture of my firm. At Liakada, we believe the pursuit of finance should encompass building long-term value by bringing new ideas to the marketplace for the betterment of society, rather than focusing on short-term gain irrespective of its consequences to the world as a whole.
Our team, including many Ivey students, is building an institution focused on helping people with good ideas to do positive things for their local and global communities. For example, we do pro bono consulting work for Devs Without Borders, an online platform connecting software developers with international development organisations.
In line with Ivey’s principles, it is our goal to create bridges between cultures and countries, and draw the best from each to drive innovation more rapidly by using diverse ideas, visions and skillsets.
A world-class education shapes our future by instilling values and beliefs that shape people’s decisions as they move through their careers and become leaders. To the professors at Ivey, my classmates and Ivey alumni from whom I have learnt so much, thank you.