Report from AFF 2013 in HK & Shenzhen

We have just returned from Hong Kong after a very successful Australasian Mission to the Asian Financial Forum. Please view our latest video, Think Global with David Thomas for a brief overview of our activities over four full days in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Our delegates developed many new connections and useful contacts for their businesses, and many have reported back on a highly successful mission. 
This year's AFF was the biggest to date with over 2,300 delegates attending. The discussion over lunch with former US Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers (click here to view) was one of the highlights.

We were delighted to welcome our Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Hon. Wayne Swan, who provided a keynote address at this year's Asian Financial Forum and also attended a private briefing with our delegates on the first day. We all enjoyed the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him in a less formal setting, and to hear his view on everything from foreign investment to the proposed Asian Funds Passport.

Australia's position at the Asian Financial Forum was elevated this year due to the special focus on food security and agribusiness and our Invest in Australia stand in the exhibition arena which attracted enquiries from Asian investors interested in investing or doing business in Australia. In addition, David Farley, CEO, Australian Agricultural Company, and Tim Hornibrook, Co-Head, Macquarie Agricultural Funds Management appeared in a panel discussion on this topic, and promoted the business case for investing in Australian agriculture.

At our third Australasian Financial Forum in Hong Kong, Stewart Aldcroft (Citigroup) provided great insights into the funds management business opportunities in Asia. and highlighted an article "Where's Asia?" published in the Asian Investor which details the dismal level of Australian investment in the Asia Pacific region. 

Authors of "Inside the Chinese Mind" Helen Zhang and Geoff Baker presented a widely acclaimed insider perspective on how the Chinese think conceptually, culturally and practically, and how this relates and applies to doing business in China. Their insights were reinforced by my old friend, Albert Wong, who also discussed some of his own observations on the use of language, gift giving and drinking when doing business in mainland China.

We also made a one day visit to Shenzhen and perhaps the most striking and memorable visit for our delegation was to the Qianhai Special Co-operation Zone, a large 15km² area which has been designated by the Central Government (and is mentioned in the current Five Year Plan) as one of three new zones to be dedicated to attract foreign companies to establish operations in mainland China. The new President of China, Xi Jinping, had actually made a visit to Qianhai only two weeks before us to underline the importance that the Government is placing on this initiative. Apart from lower tax rates and other financial incentives, foreign companies setting up in Qianhai will benefit from a special “internet free zone” (allowing foreigners to access Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other web sites which are blocked throughout the rest of China) and the choice between English and Chinese rule of law for the settling of contracts and other legal instruments. Already there is a great interest from around the world and one Australian company, AIMS Financial Group based in Sydney, has already secured a presence in what is described as a “financial services hub” between China and Hong Kong. With a vision to settle over 800,000 people in Qianhai in a new city to be built in only the next eight years, with much of the construction to take place by 2016, there is sure to be a great deal of activity in Shenzhen in the coming years.

We have received many nice comments from many of our delegates on their experiences with us in Hong Kong, but here is a sample:

"I have just returned from the Think Global delegation to the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong organised by David Thomas and his team. I was amazed how many people across Hong Kong, China and other regions know David and speak so highly of his work in bringing people together to do business. I have attended many conferences over the years, but being part of a group with David’s leadership provided insights and contacts beyond what one could hope to achieve as a single delegate. The last day was the highlight where David brought together local market participants to share views on asset management and the advice industry. I highly recommend David’s trips which provide significant value add, not to mention the business friendships and connections from fellow participants. Extremely worthwhile." Stacey Martin, Senior Wealth Adviser, NAB Private Wealth

"As CEO of the SME Association of Australia and an Asian Aussie businesswoman, I was privileged to join a great Aussie delegation led by David Thomas to the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong from 13-17 January 2013. I came away loaded with heaps of new insights, valuable information and many new contacts. David is an exceptionally talented business operator, great at making valuable connections, always generous with his time and energy in making sure that every meeting that we attended, added value to our business world. Will I come again? Sure, I highly recommend that you keep an open mind and join us in 2014 for the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong. Don't try to do it on your own. You will get the most value by joining the Aussie delegation with David Thomas , because you will start to think global if you are not doing that already! Our “Invest in Australia” booth was packed and others even started coming to our booth to join in our enthusiastic networks!!" Dr Caroline Hong, CEO, SME Association of Australia

" Thank you very much for all your assistance and organising the Mission. I found it very helpful and informative and there is much I will draw upon to help with the expansion of our China and Asia practices. In terms of feedback I found everything well organised and useful...Everything else was useful and informative. I found the practicalities of doing business in China / the cultural differences and the last day’s session generally the most helpful...I have developed many very useful connections that will help me moving forward". Luke Malone, Director, Prosperity Advisers Group

Please join us on our 2014 mission to the Asian Financial Forum from 12th to 16th January 2014 - please mark your calendar now!