Media Interview

Poets & Quants
Poets&Quants’ 2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Elaine Cai

“Introverted but persuasive, curious and love to solve logical puzzles.”

Hometown: Born in Zhuhai, China and spent seven years in Victoria, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I gained a new nickname as “CEO” in my MBA cohort because I like to bring up new business ideas and make solid decisions in group work.

Undergraduate School and Degree:
Dual-degree program: Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Victoria in Canada, and Bachelor of Management from the Sun Yat-Sen University in China

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?
I worked as a Senior Financial Advisor at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Victoria, Canada

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022?
I worked as a Senior Financial Advisor at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Victoria, Canada

Where will you be working after graduation?
Unknown yet, but I hope I get the chance to explore the capital market and work in asset management industry in Hong Kong.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
Managing the Irostors Business Development student project with two other team members was a valuable experience for me during my time as an MBA student. Our team had to work together closely to develop a comprehensive business development strategy for Irostors, a technology startup. It required extensive research and analysis of the market and the company’s competitors. Plus, we had to work closely with the startup’s management team to ensure our strategy aligned with their vision. Our team members each brought unique perspectives and skill sets to the project, and we collaborated effectively to deliver a final presentation that we were all proud to have done. It was a great opportunity to develop my project management and leadership skills, and I gained valuable experience in the technology industry. Overall, the experience taught me the importance of collaboration, communication, and effective planning in achieving project success.

Being a panelist in sharing my MBA journey was also a rewarding experience. It was a great opportunity to reflect on my own journey and share valuable insights with the MBA student community. I enjoyed connecting with other students and providing them with guidance and support as they navigated the program. It felt good to be able to contribute to the MBA program and give back to the student community that had given me so much. I was grateful for the chance to share my experiences, and I hope that my insights were helpful to others on their own MBA journeys.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?
I am most proud of receiving a merit-based scholarship during this HKU MBA journey. This achievement was a significant milestone for me because it represented my hard work in the past and dedication to my academic pursuits. Throughout my time in business school, I consistently challenged myself to excel academically, and this scholarship was a validation of my efforts.

This achievement also gave me the opportunity to interact with other accomplished scholars and business leaders, further expanding my network and providing me with valuable mentorship opportunities. I used this scholarship as a motivation to maintain my academic excellence and continue to push myself in my studies.

Overall, receiving a merit-based scholarship during business school was a significant achievement for me. It validated my hard work and provided me with valuable connections and mentorship opportunities. It has also inspired me to continue to pursue excellence in my academic and professional endeavors.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?
My biggest accomplishment would be I led among peers with over CAD$10M net new investment and over CAD$10M net new credit in the first year as senior. Each ranked top 5% among peers in market. This achievement represented a significant milestone for me because it demonstrated my ability to build relationships with clients and to provide them with the financial solutions they need to achieve their goals.

To achieve this, I put in decent hours and worked tirelessly to establish a strong reputation in the industry. I consistently engaged with my clients, gained their trust, and provided them with tailored investment and credit solutions that met their unique needs. As a result, I was able to generate significant new business for the bank, leading to this outstanding achievement in my first year.

This achievement gave me a sense of pride and satisfaction in my ability to make a real difference in people’s lives through the work that I do. It also provided me with a strong foundation to continue to grow and succeed in my career as a financial advisor.

Why did you choose this business school?
HKU is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Asia, with a long-standing reputation for academic excellence. The HKU MBA program is highly regarded and has consistently been ranked as one of the top MBA programs in Asia and the world. Being born and raised in the greater bay area, I always see Hong Kong as a great financial hub that generates tremendous business opportunities. Knowing that HKU distinguishes itself as the top tier business school around the world, I am enticed towards wanting to be part of it to learn and bring back my value to the school and the greater bay. In addition, HKU is located in one of the most vibrant and dynamic business centers in the world – Hong Kong. As a result, the HKU MBA program offers us a unique opportunity to gain exposure to a diverse range of global business practices and cultures.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?
My favorite MBA professor was Dr. Weiming Zhu, and we just finished his course “Analytics for Managers”. Not only was his class engaging and full of in-depth knowledge, but his humorous teaching style made the material come alive. He had a unique ability to simplify complex concepts and make them accessible to everyone in the class. His class was always a highlight of my week, and I credit him for expanding my understanding of analytics concept and tools and making it enjoyable at the same time.

What was your favorite course as an MBA?
My favorite course during my MBA program was Venture Capital & Private Equity, taught by Mr. Marvin Lai. The course covered a wide range of topics, including deal sourcing and screening, business valuation, negotiation, due diligence, and post-investment management. Mr. Lai has extensive experience in the industry, and the guest speakers he brought in provided unique insights and perspectives. I appreciated how the course combined theoretical concepts with real-world examples and case studies. It challenged me to think creatively and strategically about investing and gave me a deep understanding of the industry that I continue to draw on in my professional life.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school?
My favorite MBA event during my time at business school was the China Immersion Program. It was an incredible opportunity to learn about the Chinese business culture and connect with local industries and businesses. We had the chance to participate in a variety of cultural activities and visit many of the top companies in the region. The program helped me develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of the unique business environment in China, which has proved invaluable in my professional career. It was also a great chance to bond with my classmates and form new friendships.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
If I had to choose one thing to do differently during my MBA experience, it would be to network more extensively with alumni and industry professionals. While I made some great connections during my time in the program, I could have done more to reach out to alumni and professionals in my field of interest. I believe that building a strong professional network is crucial for long-term success in any industry, and I could have leveraged the resources of my MBA program to build a more extensive network. In hindsight, I would have made a greater effort to attend alumni events, reach out to industry professionals, and build relationships with people who could provide valuable insights and opportunities. Overall, I think that developing a strong professional network is essential for success in any career, and it’s something that I would prioritize more if I had the opportunity to go back and do it again. 

What is the biggest myth about your school?
One of the biggest myths, before I started the MBA journey, is that we would spend a lot of time on HKU’s main campus. It turns out to be a total myth. Apparently, we have several campuses for HKU. For MBA students, we spent most of the core classes at the Cyberport campus and most electives at the Admiralty Town Centre campus, so I haven’t spent enough time at all on our main campus as an HKU MBA student. I plan to visit more on the main campus in the near future.

What did you love most about your business school’s town?
I personally love the Admiralty Town Centre because of its convenient location. It is very close to Central, which is the financial hub of Hong Kong Island. It is easy for me to connect with our part-time MBA students, who are major resources for me to understand the industry via coffee chat.

What surprised you the most about business school?
What surprised me the most about business school was the close-knit community that developed among the MBA cohort. Despite the relatively small size of the MBA program compared to other graduate programs, I was amazed at how quickly our class bonded and developed strong relationships. The collaborative nature of the program and the many opportunities for group work and team projects helped to foster a sense of camaraderie in our class. I found that my classmates were always willing to lend a hand and offer support, whether it was for a challenging project or a personal matter. The tight-knit nature of the program also provided many opportunities for networking and connecting with alumni and industry professionals. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of community and support that I found in the MBA program, and it made my experience all the more enjoyable and fulfilling.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose?
During the application process, one thing that gave me an edge was taking the time to research the specific programs and offerings of the school I was applying to. I made sure to thoroughly read through the school’s website, speak with current students and alumni, and attend information sessions to gain a better understanding of what the program was looking for in applicants and how I could best demonstrate my fit for the school. This allowed me to tailor my application and essays specifically to the school, highlighting the aspects of the program that resonated with me and how my background and goals aligned with the school’s values and mission. Additionally, I made sure to reach out to the admissions team with any questions or concerns I had, and I was prompt and professional in my communication. By taking these steps, I was able to present a strong and well-informed application that showcased my enthusiasm and fit for the program, which I believe gave me an edge in the admissions process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?
The MBA classmate I most admire is Alex Wei. He has demonstrated exceptional dedication to his family, his role as a class representative, and his academic performance. As a father of two young children, Alex has managed to balance the demands of family life with the rigors of the MBA program, which requires a significant time commitment. Despite these challenges, he has consistently been one of the top-performing students in our class, demonstrating a strong work ethic, sharp analytical skills, and excellent communication abilities. In addition to his academic performance, Alex has been an outstanding class representative, always going above-and-beyond to ensure that our class is informed and supported. I admire Alex’s ability to manage multiple responsibilities with grace and poise, and his positive attitude and willingness to help others have been an inspiration to our entire class and me.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?
The top two items on my professional bucket list are to become a CFA charter holder and to run a boutique family office. Obtaining the CFA charter would not only enhance my financial knowledge and expertise but also demonstrate a commitment to professional development and best practices in the industry. In addition, the CFA program is highly respected and recognized worldwide, which would broaden my career opportunities and potential for advancement.

Running a boutique family office is also an exciting and ambitious goal. This would allow me to continue working with high-net-worth individuals and families to manage their wealth, investments, and assets. A boutique family office can provide personalized and tailored services to clients, which can create long-lasting relationships and build a strong reputation in the industry. This can also offer opportunities to work in a collaborative and dynamic environment, where I can interact with clients and other professionals to achieve common goals.