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Financial Services Group trip to China - August 2019

Frank Brown Reports on the recent FSG trip to China:

At the start of August I visited China with the Financial Services Group of Livery Companies (FSG, and Sheriff (elect) Michael Minelli, for the ‘City to City Engagement Tour’. The team visited Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Nanjing and Shanghai, covering some 13,250 miles. We were warmly welcomed everywhere we went and met with some very senior political and business personnel. The trip was a follow up to the successful visit, to the City of London, by a delegation from Nanjing, last year.

Of the many places visited, Chengdu was the stand-out for me, in terms of illustrating the development objectives of the Chinese, and opportunities available. Chengdu is a city of 15 million people, in central China (3-hours flight time from Hong Kong). It is the capital of Sichuan Province (and yes the food was as spicy as one might expect). Forbes, Fortune and the World Bank have listed Chengdu as one of “The Next Decade’s Fastest Growing Cities Globally”, “The World’s Best Emerging Business Cities” and the “Benchmark City for Investment Environment in Inland China” respectively. It is central to China’s ‘belt and road’ strategy – with daily freight trains trundling manufactured good to the heart of Europe. Chengdu is also one of the targets of “Go West”, a strategy aimed at raising the economic strength and living standards of Western China to match those of the Eastern coastal cities. One of the projects is a joint Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Zone – this will link Chengdu to Chongqing, one of the fastest growing cities in the world. To support this, Chengdu has been designated a ‘tier-1’ city by the Chinese government, and is in the middle of an ambitious infrastructure growth plan (for example, 291km of metro and a new 6-runway airport built within 5 years).

So, what are the opportunities for WCoMC and the wider management consultancy profession? I would say significant. The scale of change and development within China is huge. Infrastructure investment dwarfs the ambitions of others, with the new airports, metro and high-speed rail coming on stream. The developments are all planned and regimented like a Sim City videogame, but they do have a surprising nod to ecological concerns. The ‘Green New Deal’ is alive and well in China, with a huge focus on expanding renewable energy, and reducing the environmental impact of growth.

The social change is significant too with a growing middle class, and an emerging High Net Worth sector (not always something you might expect in a supposedly Communist country, but the plethora of Hermes and Gucci boutiques bear it out). Clearly, China is a management consultancy opportunity accelerator – all the work we do, in one (admittedly sizeable) place, at the same time.

As with any trip of this nature, the next steps are important. I will be working with the FSG team to ensure we build on these good foundations. Particularly in terms of maximising the visibility of the skills and experience of livery Companies such as WCoMC to the Chinese market. China’s ‘great firewall’ presents challenges to this, but this can be resolved by establishing a digital presence directly in China.  I will be returning to China in January to follow up on opportunities, and in the meantime, I am hosting a number of Chinese delegations, over the next few months. I welcome input from fellow WCoMC members who are interested in emerging opportunities in China, please contact me for further details.   

Frank Brown.    email:  franc.brown@hotmail.com