Mark L. Yu, CFA: The financial and oil industry maven

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Early in his career, Mark L. Yu made a drastic move: quit a high-paying job at a Silicon Valley-headquartered semiconductor company called PMC-Sierra because he felt something was missing. “I wanted to be exposed to an industry that directly interacted with the consumers,” he said.

His resignation came as a shock to his boss, who, in a vain attempt to coax him into staying, offered to give Mr. Yu a raise and the chance to spend his time volunteering once a week (Mr. Yu once took a year off to do volunteer work).

He decided to come home to the Philippines in 2002 to help with their family business — SEAOIL Philippines, Inc., a leading independent oil company, which his father, Francis C. Yu, established in 1978.

At first, it didn’t seem like a good idea. “When I came back, we were insolvent. We were restructuring our obligations as a result of the ’97 Asian Financial Crisis,” Mr. Yu said.

“It took several years to be able to get us out of insolvency and up to a point wherein we had an ample amount of bank lines to support the growth of the business,” said Mr. Yu, president for retail and chief financial officer of SEAOIL.

The financial expertise of Mr. Yu certainly played an enormous role in the revival of the company. But it’s interesting that his experience in finance — he majored in Engineering Physics at the University of British Columbia in Canada — began fortuitously.

While he was still at PMC-Sierra, he said, “I was given stock options and the value of those stock options was worth quite a significant amount, enough to sort of intrigue me in the field of finance.”

He then took and passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams administered by the US-based CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals.

According to CFA Institute, over 150,000 professionals all over the world — including Mr. Yu — hold a CFA credential. “The charter gives a strong understanding of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills,” the association says on its Web site.

Last August, Mr. Yu was named the “Outstanding Charterholder of the Year” by CFA Society Philippines, a member society of CFA Institute.

Mr. Yu was once the president of the CFA Society Philippines. (He now sits on its board of advisers). He spent a lot of his time promoting the association’s programs and attracting more finance professionals to become members.

But he considers his efforts to improve the organization’s corporate governance to be his greatest contribution. It was during his term, he said, that a secretariat was formed, which serves to provide institutional stability, among other important things.

Mr. Yu has also worked — and continues to work — toward improving the corporate governance of SEAOIL. And his efforts have borne fruit.

“Growing the retail network and improving our credit standing with the banks significantly are results of a good corporate governance,” he said.

To date, SEAOIL has more than 400 retail stations in high-growth areas — a far cry from the 28 that it had when Mr. Yu started working for the company.

Though he has helped the family company get back on its feet and grow, which are no easy feats, Mr. Yu still has a big goal to achieve. He aspires to further grow the SEAOIL — and by grow he means capturing a larger market share — by promoting innovation to lower costs and spearheading the developments of products that create value for its customers.

Mr. Yu is now concerned with not only one, but two sets of customers: the franchisees of SEAOIL gas stations and the end-users of the fuels the company sells. “We want to grow our retail network to a point where everyone can access our fuel,” he said.