Mark Zubov ’14, ’15

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, alumnus Mark Zubov ’14, ’15 came to the University of St. Francis to study finance and international business while also playing on the men’s tennis team. Before coming to Joliet to study at USF, Zubov had never been to the U.S. However, he believes the transition could not have been easier.

USF Helped Make Transitioning to U.S. Life Easy

“The International Programs Office did a fantastic job of taking care of all the issues that international students come across (related to visa, employment), so I could fully focus on my studies and tennis,” Zubov credited.

Beyond the smooth process of coming to America to study at USF, the friendships he made with his tennis teammates played a big part in making him feel welcome.

“From day one they became my international family away from home,” he noted.

During his tennis career, the team won the CCAC regular-season title in 2013, and individually, he played no. 1 singles at USF and ranked as high as no. 36 in the nation.

Learning in and out of the Classroom

Learning in a foreign country is an adjustment, but Zubov benefited from USF’s small class sizes, which currently averages about 16 students per class.

“Small class sizes at USF meant easy access to USF professors who I could always ask for advice,” Zubov mentioned.

As a student within USF’s College of Business and Health Administration (COBHA), Zubov was able to study closely with professors with years of experience in the field, such as Dr. Stephen Morrissette who taught Zubov’s business policy/strategic management class. Throughout his sophomore year, Zubov interned with Dr. Morrissette at Providence Advisors, Inc. as a research analyst intern, which introduced him to the world of mergers and acquisitions.

“Getting that experience confirmed my interest in pursuing a career in investment banking. I also have to say that the finance degree was not only beneficial in my current line of work, but it also gave me a good head start to prepare for the CFA exams,” Zubov reminisced.

The Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) program is a professional credential for financial and investment professionals. Zubov recently became a CFA charterholder after successfully passing all three exams on his first attempt.

Of course, getting education under COBHA was not limited to classroom.

“Actually, what got me into finance initially was joining a campus club called FREE that organized an investment simulation competition, which I found fascinating,” Zubov recalled.

Life After USF

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 2014, Zubov continued at USF to complete his master’s degree in 2015 before moving to Los Angeles to start his career in investment banking. He worked as an investment banking analyst for WestPark Capital, an investment banking firm where he focused on structuring equity private placements for clients across the U.S. and China markets with capital raise amounts ranging from $5 to $100 million.

Since January 2018, he has been working as an investment associate for IFG Capital, a Luxembourg-based investment firm with a focus on Central Asia markets – Uzbekistan in particular. This position moved him to Uzbekistan, where he is responsible for sourcing, developing and analyzing investment opportunities in metals and mining industry.

One of the projects he was involved in was a $300 million investment in a tungsten mining and processing project, which happens to be the largest foreign investment in the Uzbekistan metals and mining industry. He built a financial model to support project evaluation and deal structuring efforts, and developed the investment memorandum for the fund’s shareholders. He was also responsible for putting together a financing package for the project, which entailed negotiating with debt providers and tungsten traders as well as the Uzbekistan government.

Looking Forward

Excited by the world of investing, Zubov would one day like to combine his passion for emerging and developing markets with his deep-rooted interest in entrepreneurship.

“Spending time in off-the-beaten-path places like Uzbekistan and Southeast Asia made me realize that the opportunity to create value and real impact can be so much higher in developing countries vs. more developed markets. That can be achieved through having a better understanding of macroeconomic or political affairs, and doing rigorous on-the-ground research, which is the angle of finance that I have always enjoyed,” Zubov said.

In a near term, Zubov does not dismiss taking a chance to do something more entrepreneurial.

“As I’m still very early in my career, I’m a big proponent of taking measurable risks and trying things that have unlimited upside and rather limited downside, such as building a startup, which is what I might focus on in the near future,” Zubov noted.

“In general, wherever my career takes me, I expect to continue working on challenging problems with the smartest people out there, so I’m continuously motivated to become better at what I do. Instead of looking 10 years down the line, I prefer to take it one day at a time, but I hope that the skills I learn and meaningful professional relationships that I build over the years will sooner or later put me in a good position to run an emerging-markets-focused investment fund or a venture capital firm,” he continued.

Whatever the future holds for Zubov, fingers crossed it will one day lead him back to USF for a visit.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back to campus hopefully very soon,” said Zubov.