Yan Yan Li, Head of Legal & Governance at AIA Investment Management HK Ltd. shares with WiFA her experience with mentors, how she supports female talent, promotes diversity and gender equality, and much more.

Tell us about your background and the journey to your current position and organization. 

Life is about opportunities and making a choice of taking the opportunity at hand.  It was over thirty years ago, just after the Tiananmen incident when there was fear in Hong Kong as to what the lead up to 1997 would bring, that I found myself taking the opportunity with a Canadian law firm to come to Hong Kong.  From advising clients on managing their investments in their move to Canada, I took a different career path and found myself working in the asset management industry and became involved in the formation of mutual funds, hedge funds and ETFs, including the TraHK.  It was the establishment of the asset management entities at AIA that brought me to my current role at AIA. 

Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. If you have/had a mentor, what is the one take away message or inspiration that he/she passed on to you? 

I would say that the one take away message that stands out for me from my mentor is to stay true to your authentic self as this will always serve you well.  

Please provide an example where you have promoted/supported female talent.

I am a founding director of the HK Support Foundation for the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh which offers university education to young women in Asia to achieve their dreams to continue their education.  Since the opening of the AUW in 2008, there have been over 1,000 impressive graduates from 16 countries who have become champions in many facets.  In my role on the Internship Committee, we have placed over 50 AUW students, in the past 5 years, in internship opportunities in Hong Kong.  I am very proud to say that Mashiat Sharif, who is a part of AIA’s Corporate Communications Team, was one of the AUW students.   I recall the excitement and anxiety surrounding Mashiat when she started her internship at AIA in June 2019.  Thanks to a wonderful team who have, time and time again, provided Mashiat many opportunities, making her a valuable asset to the AIA team.  

How do you promote diversity and gender equality in your own life and workplace?

I am a strong proponent of equal opportunities for all, be it gender, ethnicity, age, or otherwise, to not only education but to all works of life such as employment, sports, and justice.  Having captained and coached women’s dragon boat teams for years and having a daughter who played rugby from the age of 6 to 18 years, I have experienced the value of being a part of a team, of being included, and the opportunities and life skills offered goes far beyond the physical and mental well-being.  In both my professional and personal life, I make a conscious effort to foster an environment that is inclusive of all team players and recognize the value that each individual can contribute.  

What gets you out of bed every day, either professionally or personally? What gives you hope? 

I am an optimistic person and will look for the positive side in every situation.  I believe that life provides us with many challenges and opportunities at the same time.  It is how we choose to face the challenges and take up the opportunities that present themselves that can make a positive impact to both your own life and to the lives of others. The belief that we can all make a difference every day through the choices and decisions we make gives me hope that we will move towards a better world.  Let’s break the bias and contribute in an impactful way.