Xi Li – Finance & General Manager – Interfood Beijing
We have a diversified, dynamic, and fun team in Beijing office.
Hi Lixi, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Xi Li, or Lixi as my colleagues call me. I am the Finance & General Manager of Interfood’s Beijing office in China, being part of the Asia Pacific Hub.
After graduating from Peking University with a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2007, I joined the graduate program in Alstom and worked 5,5 years in its Paris, Lille, Beijing, and Baden Switzerland office in multiple finance functions. Then I joined Louis Dreyfus Company in 2012 and remained in the fascinating commodity trading world ever since. I worked 8 years in LDC Beijing, Dubai and Geneva office, in finance and operation fields such as corporate finance, controlling, project implementation, M&A integration, risk management, etc.. Then I happily joined Interfood in the spring of 2020.
I love travelling while I also really enjoy the time with family and friends in Beijing, my hometown. I love hiking in nature, playing the violin, and playing volleyball. I also speak just the right level of French to order food in a restaurant.
What was your motivation to start a job at Interfood?
To make a real difference. All my previous experience was with big corporates, in which the business model tends to me more matured and process standardized. It certainly provides many bright aspects, yet after working in the same position for a while, potential improvements will be marginal while implementing those improvements requires a lot of change management energy. Thus, when the recruitment agency approached me about Interfood, I did feel the urge to learn more about such a career opportunity in the commodity trading industry that I constantly found fascinating and in a company that is still (relatively) young but (absolutely) dynamic. In the first ever interview I had with my future boss, the conversation inspired me to have lots of thoughts what I could do in this company. It was never a difficult decision to say goodbye and reject to the other big company offers I got at the same time. And luckily it was the right decision.
What is your favorite thing about Interfood?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions when I interview candidates that might potentially join us. My official answer is always the chance of making a real difference – you get an idea, do your best to carry out the analysis and present it to get the resources and support you need. You work really hard to make it real and then you have a high chance of getting a GO to accomplish what you believe is the right thing to do. It sounds simple but the trust and responsibility given is so precious and valuable. However, I also have a personal answer to this question: the team. Working with my colleagues in the office every day, is simply enjoyable.
About your job at Interfood, what does your average working week look like?
My finance job got its own rhythm but given that I cover a wider range than purely finance, my daily life is more random. The most challenging yet interesting part is to keep an up-to-date full picture vision at all times of everything going on regarding Interfood China. My work also requires lots of internal communication with colleagues in the Beijing office, the Singapore Hub and in The Netherlands BV headquarter, as well as communicating with many external stakeholders. But I suppose it makes no difference than others that sometimes it goes well, and many other times things did not go as expected. Yet we just be resilient, sleep it off, and continue the endeavor with a fresh new day.
What do you like the most about your job?
Something new pops out almost every day and it was never boring. Luckily I always get the support I need from my colleagues when I reach out for help. Also I was given the full trust to make decisions based on my best judgement, even if most of the time I can’t be 100% certain.
Since you’re working for Interfood for over 2 years, what is your best memory of your time at Interfood until today?
We were all in the beautiful Hangzhou city last year to attend the Food and Ingredients Conference. During the daytime we received the good news that we closed a record high volume deal with a major client in China. We celebrated it in the hotel lobby that same night. Almost the entire team was there. Everyone supported the bidding or will contribute to the deal delivery in the future. It was a moment of candle lights, wine, extreme happiness of great triumph, and sentimental expressions of gratitude.
What can you tell about the culture and atmosphere of our office in Beijing?
We have a diversified, dynamic, and fun team in Beijing office. Our colleagues come from various educational, professional, and personal backgrounds. Many of them have international exposures either studied abroad or worked overseas. We encourage fully transparent communication to build strong trust with each other. Although we are a relatively small office comparing with the hub offices, we have all the functions in the office: commercial, supply chain, technical support, and finance. Apart from being professional at our own specialties, we always support each other as a team.
Karaoke, barbecue, and bubble tea Friday are the most popular team leisure activities so far. And I somehow feel the atmosphere of colleagues competing each other on who hits the gym most frequently.
What is your expectation for the Beijing office for the years to come?
We went through a rapid growth period in the past years. The increasing overall uncertainty, especially in the short run, casts shade in many industries. However, in the commodity trading business, we face uncertainty all the time and we manage it to thrive. Beijing office will handle even higher volume in the future, provide in depth understanding of the local market, continuously improve operation excellence and control the risk associated with the growth. I have the full confidence the positive momentum will continue with the team getting stronger and striving for better.
What would you say to potential Interfood team members?
Join us if you would like to work in a fair opportunity environment, where individual employee and teamwork are both valued. Together for better.
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