Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

How does it look from over there? The perspective of Asian buyers / leaders on M&A in Europe and the USA

Over the next six weeks, I will be publishing a series of interviews which I and a friend of mine, Abhay Pande, conducted whilst based in Singapore. These interviews were born of a shared interest and desire to get beyond the myth and legend of Asian corporate culture and business practice and actually get some insights from Asian leaders that we have in our network.

The facts are plain enough. Both in terms of volume of transaction and size, the bulk of global M&A activity is being driven from China and Japan, with a few other countries starting to emerge. notably Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia.

Whilst the driver for this M&A in the past has been access to minerals, real estate and perhaps some brand based purchases, the focus over the last 18 months has been financial services, manufacturing, technology, and pharmaceuticals. The perception in Europe and the US remains that this is all about intellectual property. The reality is the continuing and growing demand to create / buy a portfolio of products and services which will have a place in the Chinese domestic marketplace.

Which takes me to the starting point for this series of interviews. One of the biggest challenges for Asian corporates acquiring businesses in Europe, the USA and Australia is perception at all levels in terms of the cultural differences:

  • Leaders are uncertain on levels of authority and decision making processes,
  • Managers are worried about the impact of Asian ownership on processes and quality standards
  • Employees (beyond the issue of job retention) have a genuine lack of understanding as to what ‘good’ looks like going forward.

Whilst there has been much research and commentary for capital flows from ‘West’ to ‘East’, we’ve typically heard much less from Asian leaders in terms of their perception of this particular and complex challenge. Who can you think of, in terms of Asian leadership, who has a global presence? Let me guess:

  • Jack Ma
  • Tony Fernandes
  • Jack Ma

Compare that with the wealth of opinion, role models and in-depth research that exists in the West amongst Western leaders.

Hopefully you’ll agree, it is a good area of research then…but there are some considerable challenges to getting to something meaningful:

  • Leadership in family owned businesses (still the predominant corporate structure in Asia) is a much more complex question, both in terms of whom to speak to but also in terms of an approach to take which uncovers culture, behaviour, governance and decision making processes.
  • Candour is hard to encourage in a 25-30 minute interview. What we decided therefore to do, was to get them to tell some stories about their experience. These were both insightful and memorable.

Are the interviews groundbreaking and likely to change your approach to Asian ownership? Perhaps.

Will they make you reconsider your approach to managing Asian stakeholders? Hopefully.

As with all of my blogs, I would appreciate your feedback, comments and ideas. You can reach me through the usual channels on Linkedin and through the comments section below.

Categories: C suite leadership, China, Corporate Culture, culture change, Culture clash, Family owned businesses, Functional Leadership, Governance, Indonesia, Mergers & acquisitions, post acquisition integration, Post merger integration, Transformation

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