Fretting over balance sheets and managing the routine tasks of an accounting office may not be most people’s idea of fun, but for Liping Fan, it’s a dream job.
Fan was born and raised in China. As chief financial officer at Steamboat Ventures, a private-equity fund in Burbank, she travels often to her native land to manage finances at the company’s Shanghai and Hong Kong offices.
“My favorite part of the job is the China connection,” she said. “I would be happy doing this job for the rest of my career.”
After she joined Steamboat in 2006, she was given the task of setting up shop in China. At first she functioned as universal translator; every receipt that had Chinese characters on it came to her desk. But now, she can rely on since-hired bilingual personnel.
She has found running an investment company across the ocean involves plenty of surprises.
“Investing in China is very different than the U.S. with different regulations, tax issues and filing requirements,” she explained. “That’s what keeps me up late at night, but also what keeps me interested in the work.”
Fan took an indirect route to a finance career. She graduated from college in Shenyang, China, with a degree in pharmacology. When she came to the United States, she was accepted into the pharmacy graduate program at UCLA. But she ended up pursuing an accounting degree instead.
“I decided to get an M.B.A. instead of a Ph.D., a drastic change in my career path,” she recalled. “I was always interested in numbers and finance, and in the end that made the difference for me.”
Gender discrimination hasn’t factored into Fan’s career. She believes that she avoided it by luck, because she always worked for people who valued her skills. However, she thinks women who have attained success in the industry should help the next generation, and she has mentored individuals as well as spoken at public events to students and female executives.
Also, she can’t recall any discrimination because of her race, and in fact counts her cultural knowledge and fluency in Mandarin as major assets on her resume.
She helped start the China Venture Capital Finance Organization, a Beijing-based non-profit for private-equity and venture capital executives. The group has sponsored two conferences and currently has more than 200 members. Fan serves as special adviser on the board.
When not working late at the office or sleeping on a long flight from Asia, Fan likes to spend time with her husband, and two daughters, ages 11 and 13.
“Time at home and back-to-school nights may sound mundane,” Fan said, “but I enjoy it.”
LIPING FAN, 46
Chief Financial Officer
Steamboat Ventures, Burbank
RESIDENCE: La Cañada-Flintridge
EDUCATION: B.S., Shenyang Pharmaceutical University; M.B.A.
and Master’s of Accounting, Binghamton University
YEARS IN INDUSTRY: 19
YEARS IN POSITION: 6
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