Lilia Sham - The dedicated architect
As far back as she can remember, Lilia has always strived to work with people in an open, collaborative and stimulating environment. She finds exactly that at iA Financial Group.
After many years of working in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) on different continents, including North and South America, Europe and Asia, she applied her knowledge and experience in a different way – by teaching an MBA course on M&A. “What I really enjoyed about teaching was that I got to learn about other industries from my students. There were brilliant professionals who wanted to apply what they learned in my class in their respective fields. I also had international students who shared different perspectives about the business environment in their home countries. In other words, it was very much a two-way learning process.” After this experience, she started a new chapter of her professional life at iA Financial Group in May 2019.
She is inspired by the idea of continuing on her path in an organization that cares and offers all of its employees new and challenging opportunities. She rapidly embraced her role as Executive Vice-President of Strategy and Corporate Development. She is first and foremost the architect of business acquisitions, responsible for transactions across North America worth hundreds of millions of dollars. She is also highly recognized as someone who is social, loyal and transparent and she thrives on being at the heart of the action and tackling new challenges. Lilia is passionate about giving the very best she has to offer, day after day.
As the Executive Vice-President in charge of iA Financial Group’s diversity and inclusion efforts, she is committed to her quest of creating a workplace environment built around learning, understanding, and development. As a woman of Chinese origins with a keen interest in psychology, she embraced the role for this people-centric endeavour. “This is a priority for the organization,” she says, proud to have been put in place to train the entire staff on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias. Lilia Sham felt there was an urgency to provide a healthy and flexible channel of communication that would give everyone a voice and help us to avoid blind spots.
As a result of these efforts, the first employee resource group, the iA’s Women Network, was launched in March 2022. Then, three months later, the LGBTQ+ network was formed. She readily admits that such healthy communication practices have been beneficial in the context of managing remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, which turned out to be a period during which employees spoke up in large numbers. One of the major responsibilities she also had to take on was to ensure that everyone’s unique challenges—balancing their professional, educational and familial responsibilities while working from home—was heard and supported. “I learned a lot because of this mandate. It was extremely rewarding.”
This enthusiasm for others and for learning also informs the way she approaches life. She has always enjoyed food and travels, from her youth in Hong Kong to her current life in Toronto, where she lives with her husband and her son. She is always on a mission to find good food that doesn’t break the bank. She believes there’s no other place in the world besides Toronto where one can find some of the best variety of cuisines in one neighborhood, “although I think my colleagues in Montreal would beg to differ!”
Looking forward at iA Financial Group, Lilia hopes to, with the help of her colleagues, “foster an inclusive workplace environment, where everyone feels valued, respected and supported so that we can pursue our individual and collective success.”