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Li-Kai Chen

Senior Partner, Kuala Lumpur
Leads our Education Practice globally; advises public- and private-sector clients in education on large-scale transformations and strategic challenges; and brings deep expertise in change management, corporate finance, and regulatory management

About Li-Kai

Li-Kai leads McKinsey’s Education Practice globally. He works with school systems and vocational and higher-education institutions to improve students’ learning outcomes, employment prospects, and day-to-day lives.

Over the last 10 years, he has partnered with more than 30 education systems in regions such as Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and Oceania. In addition to school systems, Li-Kai serves government agencies and other stakeholders on issues including school-system reform, private-education strategy, educational investments, public–private partnerships, and public-sector delivery.

Recent examples of his client work include the following:

  • supporting a ministry of education in Asia in developing and implementing a blueprint and delivery unit to transform the national education system, raise standards, and close achievement gaps
  • developing a national plan to broaden access to vocational, technical, and skills training, including initiatives to improve enrollment rates, establish dual-pathway systems, and revamp student funding
  • helping to design a national framework for public–private partnerships in schools, including setting up performance contracts, facilitating stakeholder engagement, and supporting the evaluation of school operators

In addition, Li-Kai advises private-sector clients and principal investors across Asia on large-scale transformation programs, corporate finance, transactions, and regulatory management. Recently, he supported a leading Asian financial institution in postmerger management, including developing a merger master plan, setting targets for value creation, building capabilities, and reconfiguring retail branch networks and multichannel operations. For another leading bank in Asia, Li-Kai helped turn around its small-to-medium enterprise business by transforming the operating model and revamping risk-management systems.

In his spare time, Li-Kai serves on the board of trustees of Teach for Malaysia—which is a partner of the Teach For All global network—in fighting education inequity globally. Prior to joining McKinsey, he worked in investment banking with a global banking firm and as a quantity surveyor with an international infrastructure group.

Published work

School-system priorities in the age of coronavirus,” McKinsey & Company, April 2020

The leerKRACHT foundation: Continuous improvement in Dutch education,” McKinsey & Company, February 2020

An interview with former Peruvian Minister of Education Jaime Saavedra,” McKinsey & Company, September 2019

Education reform in Norway: Looking beyond politics to bring sustained change,” McKinsey & Company, June 2019

Bringing major improvements to education in Colombia,” McKinsey & Company, May 2019

Transformation 101: How universities can overcome financial headwinds to focus on their mission,” McKinsey & Company, May 2019

Drivers of student performance: Asia insights,” McKinsey & Company, January 2018

Partnering for outcomes: Public-private partnership for school education in Asia,” McKinsey & Company, October 2014

The $250 billion question: Can China close the skills gap?,” McKinsey & Company, June 2013

Past experience

Barclays Capital

Balfour Beatty
Quantity surveyor and cost engineer


Harvard Business School
MBA, business administration

University of Reading
MSc, risk management

University of Central England
BSc, quantity surveying