After my early years growing up, living and working in London, I left the UK in 1987 to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, thought leader and speaker in the Asia Pacific region, living in Hong Kong and Sydney and pursuing my passion to link emerging markets, particularly in Asia, with the developed world. Since 2003, I have been travelling to and from China, working with investors and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Australia-China bilateral relationship, and my learnings over 30 years have recently been documented in my first book 'My China Insights - How Business Gets Done' which I hope you will read by ordering your copy here
Earlier this year I was invited to participate as 'The China Expert' at the Global Expansion Summit in the intercontinental 02 Hotel, London in June 2017. As a regular visitor to the UK for family visits and holidays it seemed like a good idea to see whether my knowledge and experience of facilitating business and investment in/with China and Australia was relevant to the UK market, and to position myself as a thought leader and speaker for UK audiences.
Over the course of the two day GXP Summit and during the week before in London, I met with a diverse and well connected mix of entrepreneurs, SME business leaders and facilitators, including the China Britain Business Council, PWC UK, the Department of International Trade, Professor Kerry Brown of the Lau China Institute, Theresa Booth of The Chopsticks Club, Eddie Wong of Ubiquity Global Services and Adam Breeze of Breeze Strategy. I also attended the Sino European Entrepreneurs Summit (SEES) in London and gave an interview covering the next BRICS Summit on CGTN America. All of this at a time when the UK was coming to terms with the prospects of a hung parliament, an uncertain ‘Brexit’ and heightened security following a series of terrorist attacks and a catastrophic fire in West London.
Here's what I learnt from many conversations during my time in the UK:
1. In terms of doing business with China, the issues and questions raised are quite similar to those I encounter in Australia. The main difference is the UK's strong emphasis on technology (particularly ‘Fintech’) and innovation (notably ‘Artificial Intelligence’ AI) which are hot topics.
2. UK companies appear to have better access to capital than their counterparts in Australia - particularly during the start up phase. It was even suggested that this is a ‘golden age’ for UK start-ups and SMEs due to an abundance of available capital looking for the right home
3. The UK is evolving regionally, notably Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Essex, Scotland and even Kingston-upon-Thames, which is a suburb of London. Each of these centres have a small specialist team dedicated to promoting their unique value proposition to international investors and foreign companies entering the UK market, and each had a strong presence at the GXP Summit. Australia could learn a lot from the UK’s focus on regional development and decentralisation which is regarded as a high priority for the UK in a 'post Brexit world'.
4. I was surprised by the level of interest in Australia which is regarded as an important trading & investment partner for the future. In fact, some people were more interested in Australia than China! This is surely going to lead to many opportunities as the UK actively pursues new trading partners and relationships.
5. I have thought for some time that the potential for a “triangular relationship” between UK, Australia and China is an interesting concept worth pursuing. There are so many complimentary strengths (particularly in education, healthcare, tourism, food and financial services, all priority sectors for Chinese investors) plus long term historical, cultural and political ties between the UK and Australia and a common interest in China. It was suggested to me that a reliable British born entrepreneur living in Australia and dealing with China could be a valuable facilitator between the three countries, and I was encouraged to pursue this idea. Watch this space for future developments.
I have recently appointed Speakers Associates to follow up interest and enquiries from the GXP Summit and to manage my future bookings in the UK. If anyone is interested in discussing how I can add value to their Conference, Event, Strategy or Boardroom discussions, please contact them on 0203 811 0494 or email email@example.com