As global company Herbalife enjoys impressive growth, vice president and regional controller Catherine Yu is playing a key role in its Asia-Pacific and China operation
Against a global backdrop of increased obesity and a growing health-conscious middle class, international weight management, nutrition and personal-care product powerhouse Herbalife has enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past decade – not least in Asia Pacific (APAC), where the company now operates in 15 markets.
Challenges are part and parcel of a rapidly growing market and this is also true of a successful career, as Catherine Yu, vice president and regional controller, Asia Pacific and China, testifies. ‘Although APAC is a growth market, competition has intensified over the past few years,’ says Yu, who is based at Herbalife Asia Pacific Services in Hong Kong, the group’s regional headquarters. ‘Sustainable growth depends on well-developed business models and sales strategies.’
Yu’s main duty is to maintain oversight of the overall accounting operation as regional finance leader. ‘I act as a team member collaborating with the management to formulate business strategies and execution,’ she explains. ‘I also work as a business partner supporting other functions’ operations and initiatives. My governance role requires me to ensure the financial reporting and the internal controls comply with relevant laws, meet the requirements of various regulatory bodies and mitigate compliance and operational risks.’
Yu has also helped Herbalife tap the potential of its finance professionals in APAC. Under her leadership, the regional team’s capacity has strengthened in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, implementing many efficient strategies to fulfil the back-office function and leverage ‘business partnership’ to support growth.
She also focused on lifting competence levels. ‘We help increase staff’s exposure by giving them opportunities to learn other skills, such as presentation. Instead of just manual duties, we let them handle projects so that they can engage other stakeholders in the process, and subject matter experts have been recruited to help with training. I have personally helped nurture several ACCA accountants; they were promoted to managers after they had successfully accomplished projects.’
To narrow the gap of professional knowledge, Yu encourages her team members to take professional examinations such as the ACCA Qualification. ‘We share our best practices in APAC at meetings, and experienced finance sub-regional controllers mentor local finance managers and provide guidance.’
Yu has entrusted ACCA with the professional knowledge and skill upgrading of her staff in Hong Kong as well as other APAC markets. ‘ACCA is always among the first to establish its presence in new markets, bringing international professional standards to university graduates and giving them the global perspective,’ she says. ‘For instance, my team members in Cambodia have been enrolled in ACCA training.
‘ACCA helps build a talent pool of professionals in various APAC markets, and I have confidence in the consistent quality of ACCA-qualified staff. It has helped me build a strong and competent team, while its events, conferences and other activities have let me enrich my network.’