More MNCs moving their top managers to Asia: Report

PHOTO: More MNCs moving their top managers to Asia: Report

Increasing numbers of Western firms are signalling their confidence in Asia's growth prospects by relocating their top decision-makers to the region.

A report out on Tuesday highlighted Asia's increasing clout in global business and noted that more multinationals are placing board members and the global heads of certain units here.

"Because emerging markets grow so rapidly, they change at enormous speed," said international law firm Baker & McKenzie, which compiled the report with the Economist Corporate Network (ECN). "It is only by having decision-makers living and working in the midst of this change that developed market companies can react quickly enough to be competitive."

An ECN survey in January of 500 multinational companies based in Europe and North America found that more than half said they will have at least one board member in Asia by 2017. This is up on last year's figure, when less than 40 per cent said they would.

And of the Western firms already operating in Asia, close to 70 per cent said they will have at least one board member in Asia by 2017, up from about 50 per cent last year.

American tech giant Cisco is one MNC to have made the move with its chief globalisation officer based in Bangalore, India.

British bank Standard Chartered's chief executive of consumer banking is in Singapore while Swiss private bank UBS has three global business heads here.

Baker & McKenzie global chairman Eduardo Leite told The Straits Times on Monday that Singapore is becoming a hub for managing business: "People are (now) moving their headquarters and decision-making groups to Singapore as they used to do until recently to Hong Kong."

Asian firms, too, are among those making big strides across the globe, he added.

"Especially in South-east Asia and China, we see a tremendous growth of businesses expanding, not necessarily within Asia but also going into other markets such as Africa and South America.

"Chinese and Indian investments in Africa are fantastic in terms of size and speed."

His comments reflect a point made in the report, which notes that Asian companies may be better positioned than their Western counterparts to take advantage of the growth in other emerging markets.

"They have a natural advantage in that they have grown up in emerging market environments," the report said.

"They are attuned to the unique challenges and risks that emerging markets present, be it weak infrastructure, low incomes, or difficult and uncertain regulatory regimes."

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