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5 Minutes with… Lola, Chief Financial Officer for China

Lola Cui joined Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) in 2013 as Deputy Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for China, before being promoted to country CFO in January 2015. She is based in the heart of China – Beijing.

Here, she talks about her experience at LDC, her views on women in the workplace and the advice she’d give to her younger self.

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How did your journey with LDC start?

I was contacted by a headhunter who encouraged me to apply for the Deputy CFO position at LDC China. Because of my experience in finance up until that point, from the very first moment, I knew it was a role I would be interested in. After a thorough interview process, I joined LDC officially in June 2013.

Tell us about one specific challenge you were proud to overcome at LDC.

Each day at LDC brings a new challenge, but regardless of its complexity, I enjoy problem–solving. Overcoming challenges to drive the success of the business is very rewarding.

What do you enjoy most about working at LDC?

What I enjoy most about LDC is the ‘business-focused’ atmosphere. Everyone is focused on doing what is best for the business, which means we always work as a united front towards achieving common goals.

Was it always part of your plan, to work in Finance?

Originally, I must admit that Finance wasn’t my main interest. But after working in banking and financial services, I can say that somewhere along the career path, I realized that I had the confidence to be good at what I do, and that I very much enjoyed what I was doing. As a function, be it in a banking or corporate context, finance revolves around the markets and the economy, both local and international; as such, you must always be prepared and think ahead. Because I am someone who is interested in making new things happen, being in this industry suits me, and feels natural.  

Was there a marked difference between working in a banking environment and a corporate environment?

The focus in the banking environments where I worked was to manage relationships to strengthen them over time, and to grow the business. Finance in the commodities sector plays a supporting role for the different business lines, and we are continuously looking for new ways to add value. In this context, my experience in banking is helpful, as I understand the traders’ perspective. Our team takes a forward-looking approach, watching our local market and economic environment closely, to ensure we are prepared for the future.  

Did someone’s guidance have a particularly strong impact on you throughout your career?

On a personal level, my father is a very inspiring presence in my life. He taught me to be positive and focused, and to be determined when pursuing my professional objectives. At work, as I started my career, I was fortunate to count on the guidance of mentors, who mainly taught me to be detail-oriented, without losing sight of the big picture. When I started at LDC, one of my more senior colleagues encouraged me to speak my mind, and to not overthink my point when I knew my perspective would bring benefit to the team and to the company. This was new to me, as our culture communicates in a very different way. But over time, I learned that, in a global company, the more you advance in your career, the more important it becomes for your communication to be efficient and clearly understood by all your stakeholders, many of whom might be from other regions.

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Do you think it’s harder for women to rise to the top?

I don’t think it’s particularly easy for women to hold senior positions at any company. Women tend to take a softer approach than men – but we also must know when to be tough, sometimes.

There is also the societal pressure that women should focus not only on their careers but also their families, and this may put us in a position to make difficult choices from time to time. Before I joined LDC, when my son was much younger, my work at the time required me to be in Shanghai and Nanjing during week days, and I would only see him, back in Beijing, on weekends. This was a very difficult time for me, but I needed to experience it and make that choice for myself. I am proud to give my son the example that hard work is important.

And times are also changing: it’s refreshing to see that LDC and other companies support female employees by providing flexible work arrangements as well as career development opportunities.

If you had the opportunity to give the ‘young you’ advice, what would it be?

Follow your instincts! Don’t be afraid to take big steps and learn from your mistakes!


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