Published On: Thu, Jul 16th, 2009

The Great Western Divide

I was catching up with a long time friend from Newedge here in Hong Kong inevitably talking about the electronic futures space. For those of you who don’t know Newedge is a leading agency futures broker amalgamated from Calyon and Fimat (spun-off from Société Générale) about 2 years ago.

One of the interesting topics of conversation that was raised was the way the West chooses to do business with the East. Having worked for western companies here in Asia it was something we entirely agreed upon. The general approach is typically arrogant and ignorant not only with external partners, prospects or clients but internally with their Asia branches as well. There is a distinct belief that business is done the western way all over the world but that simply is not the case in Asia.

When attempting to build relationships in Asia it is essential to understand the various cultures, customs and the way business is conducted. The Japanese have their roots in Confucianism and have a formal hierarchical approach to business. With the Chinese it’s Guangxi and the Koreans like to establish business relationships with personal relationships. Asians have been trading since before Christopher Columbus or Marco Polo and their traditions are as old as the Romans.

As we continued are discussion he told me a story of a US Based Independent Software Vendor (ISV) that approached the Osaka Stock Exchange 3 years ago about gaining access to their exchange API. They prattled on about who they were extolling the virutes of the company and its software insisting that they should begin development immediately. Needless to say they still don’t have access to that exchange and its Nikkei 225 future in their product offering. During the story he did do a very good impersonation of a pushy American who’d been in electronic trading forever but had never been as far East as Hawaii.

Another shortcoming that I have found is that working culture is different around the world. The US works 8am to 4pm. Europe 10am to 5pm but in Asia it’s 8am to 8pm. Granted western firms tend to base their regional headquarters in Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan and they have to cover markets from Australia to India but the work ethic in Asia is definitely at a higher standard.

It’s no secret that western managers know that to continue to grow their business and market themselves as truly global enterprises they must come to Asia. A focused and informed effort has to be made from management to deliver true multi cultural services and get inside the head of their partners and affiliates in Asia. It’s only a matter of time before an Asian multi national, whose managers tend to be western educated takes the game to their court.

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  1. Alastair says:

    I can do a good impression of a French person as well you know.

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