2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Luvina Weilu Yao, Cambridge Judge Business School

Luvina Weilu Yao

Cambridge Judge Business School

“I believe in nature’s power to heal. I also believe in our power to heal nature.”

Hometown: Guangzhou, China

Fun fact about yourself: I love indulging in the sunrise and sunset in every city I visit.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Hong Kong, Bachelor of Economics and Finance

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to the Cambridge MBA, I worked at the Corporate Banking Division of Citi and Mizuho as a Relationship Manager, managing top-tier corporate clients headquartered in Greater China. I specialized in working capital financing, acquisition financing, and debt capital market transactions.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I worked in my full-time role during the summer of 2021. In the summer of 2020, when I decided to defer my MBA due to COVID, I volunteered at an environmental news & data platform, where I led the conservation partners outreach projects, and successfully onboarded 20+ NGOs and conservationist partners.

Where will you be working after graduation? Having been working in the banking sector for the past six years before I joined the Cambridge MBA programme, I am a firm believer that capital support is a powerful tool to accelerate the growth of a company. However, in addition to the pure financial return, I am always looking for more, namely the actual impact by deploying the capital. I am aiming to pivot to impact investing after graduation, with a focus on circular economy and inclusive finance. I am hoping to deploy capital to support the growth and expansion of ventures that are addressing the most challenging environmental and social issues.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am the co-chair of the Finance Special Interest Group of the business school. In the first few months of the MBA program, I, together with the other co-chair, had organized lunch & learn sessions, a speaker series, and curated a finance-focused newsletter for the business school students. In addition, I joined the Cambridge Judge Business School mentorship program and became a mentor for two undergraduate students at the University of Cambridge.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? (I would say it’s the Turner MBA Impact Investing Networking and Training (MIINT) Program, where I lead a team of five to put together an investment thesis with a focus on ClimateTech and MedTech, to source early-stage start-up companies that meet the criteria of our investment thesis. We are now in the process of conducting deep-dive due diligence and impact analysis of the partner company. We will be completing our investment memo in March and competing with teams from leading business schools. It is a good learning experience for the student team on impact investing analysis, building up connections with the entrepreneurs and the accelerators. For example, the team had the opportunity to connect with a founder who is using bricks made from recycled plastics to build more sustainable and accessible shelters for homeless people in Nigeria. We also met with a founding team that is building a platform to support farmers to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizer. We also got great support from the accelerators and venture organizations such as Carbon 13, Cambridge CleanTech, and 500 Startups. Moreover, it also creates value for the entrepreneurs we work with by helping them to validate the business model, conducting due diligence with customers, suppliers, industry experts, and bringing in potential funding to support the growth of the venture.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In early 2020, the supply chain was disrupted (handily) by COVID. I was working at corporate banking covering large corporates at that time. I helped one of the hardware manufacturing corporates under my portfolio to structure a USD50M invoice financing transaction for its SME suppliers within a tight timeframe. The transaction enabled the SME suppliers of my client to release the cash locked in their account receivables and reduced the working capital burden, which eventually stabilized the supply chain for my client. I took up the challenge of balancing the client’s need and risk mitigation for the bank through intense due diligence with the credit risk team, and negotiation of the transaction terms with the trade finance product team.

Why did you choose this business school? Located at the center of the Cambridge Tech Cluster, Cambridge Judge Business School provides a great connection to the research centers in different departments, incubators, and accelerators in the wider Cambridge ecosystem. This is tremendously valuable in addition to the in-class training for students, like me, who are interested to learn entrepreneurship and venture capital. In addition, the unique collegiate system in Cambridge attracted me, where the business school students live and socialize with students from other subjects across the University of Cambridge. 

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Our Indian classmates organized a big Diwali event in October 2021, where we immerse ourselves in the traditional Indian food, music, and dancing while we were in the UK! I also look forward to the Lunar New Year celebration event organized by our Chinese classmates.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I was told that the famous Mathematical Bridge was designed by Sir Isaac Newton and was built without nuts-or-bolts when I visited Cambridge a few years ago! It turns out that the bridge was designed in 1748 by William Etheridge and was built in 1749 by James Essex the Younger. The bridge is built with bolts!

What surprised you the most about business school? It is the diversity of the cohort. We have 221 students from 45 nationalities coming from a wide range of industry and educationa backgrounds. It was a very unique experience to have in-class discussions and projects with artists, doctors, Olympic champions, engineers, consultants, and so on.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I would say it was asking my direct manager to prepare my recommendation letter. They had been working closely with me on a day-to-day basis for five years, so my direct manager was able to demonstrate fully who I am to the MBA Admissions team.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  I am very impressed by the amazing stories behind every single one of my classmates. If I have to name one, I will say it’s Angela Khakali. Angela is energetic and encouraging all the time! Moreover, she has a very clear mindset on what she wants to achieve next and what she needs to do to lead her to the goal. She is very open to sharing her prior experience working with the public sector and impact investing with students who are interested in getting into the space.  

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college?  It was down to my personal decision to pursue a business degree after working in the banking industry for six years. I am very grateful that my family and partner are very supportive of my decision.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The number one priority is to make a positive impact on the environment and society by deploying capital in supporting companies that are making the world a better place. Secondly, I hope my learning and work experience can continue to inspire younger women to pursue their careers. 

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? I used to love planning and routines. The pandemic taught me to live with changes and be flexible. 

What made Luvina Weilu Yao such an invaluable addition to the MBA Class of 2021/22?

“Luvina is an exceptional student — bright, of course, and a real trail-blazer — but she has also equipped herself with that most desirable quality of all: the desire to help solve some of our most intractable societal problems no matter how poor the odds of success. Given how often challenges related to race, gender, climate, inequality, and extremism are met with demagoguery and ineptitude, toxic online behaviour or fatalism, Luvina’s commitment is refreshing. She is no dreamer: she understands that complex societal challenges require sophisticated solutions. It is here that her fluency with finance will pay dividends as she focuses on impact investing in the conviction that capital deployment must be part of any solution if we are to solve our most challenging environmental and social issues.

Mark de Rond
Professor of Organisational Ethnography, Cambridge Judge Business School

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