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Li-Kai Chen

Senior PartnerKuala Lumpur

Advises companies and public sector institutions on major organizational and performance transformation programs

Li-Kai advises private and public sector clients on large-scale organizational and performance transformation programs. He works with executives, leaders and boards on modernizing organizations and building successful, sustainable institutions in the face of industry or economic discontinuity.

Prior to this, he was the global leader of McKinsey’s Education Practice. In this role, he advised school systems, vocational and higher-education institutions on improving student learning outcomes, day-to-day experiences and employment prospects. He has experience in the education sector in more than 30 countries across Asia, North America, the Middle East, Oceania, and Europe.

Recent examples of his client work include:

  • designing and helping implement large-scale programs to drive performance transformation, accelerated digitization, and improved productivity across a leading Asian conglomerate
  • working with sovereign-wealth funds and government investment companies to maximize value and transform performance across their portfolio companies
  • advising an Asian government on the reform and transformation of the school and higher education systems towards improving student and system outcomes
  • developing a national five-year economic strategy, blueprint, and detailed implementation plans
  • helping establish new forms of public–private partnerships to increase employability among students and graduates
  • supporting a global foundation on a major portfolio-management effort.

Formerly, he was the managing partner of McKinsey’s Malaysia office and has served clients in a range of industries – including financial services, telecommunications, retail, private equity, agriculture, education – on issues such as strategy, corporate finance, corporate governance, and talent development.

Li-Kai serves on the board of trustees of Teach for Malaysia—a partner of the Teach For All global network. Before joining McKinsey, he worked in the investment banking sector with Barclays Capital and as a quantity surveyor with Balfour Beatty.

Published work 

Teacher survey: Learning loss is global—and significant,” McKinsey & Company, March 2021

Reskilling China: Transforming the world’s largest workforce into lifelong learners,” McKinsey & Company, January 2021

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