In November, I traveled to Hong Kong to represent gyro at the second Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit. The trip was amazing for all of the reasons you would expect from this cosmopolitan city of over 7 million people—the fantastic culture, the fact that it’s a premier dining, shopping and entertainment destination, and the breathtaking skyline so vibrantly lit by the world’s highest concentration of skyscrapers.
Hong Kong has long been advantageous as an international business hub with its global network of supply and production. Despite being part of China since 1997, it still maintains the civil liberties it had as a British colony but without the economic restrictions that the Chinese mainland imposes.
While this was definitely a conference about issues related to women in leadership, the discussion naturally expanded to doing business in the region, which is a hot topic for many companies seeking new global opportunities. There were many questions about where to invest in Asia—whether it be in China, India, Korea, Taiwan or elsewhere. Many present said that they consult the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking when considering expansion opportunities.
Most attendees were unanimous in their feelings of uncertainty about the region. They concede that it’s initially difficult to grasp the complexities of doing business in countries like China, due to the complicated political, economic, social and environmental climate. Adapting to this idea requires flexibility.
There was a lot of discussion around political issues specific to China, like the six year-old antimonopoly law that some believe is being used to favor China’s own industrial policy and local companies. A report by the U.S.-China Business Council shows that 86 percent of its member companies are concerned about Beijing’s antimonopoly enforcement activity. It cites examples of China having upped enforcement measures, with investigations into the auto industry and “dawn raids” at foreign IT companies.
While the politics in many countries are national, those doing business in the region felt that the economics are usually local, leading to additional challenges. There are concerns about forced localization, which is when a government attempts to restrict the sale of goods and services within its territory to those that have been produced locally. These policies usually increase economic nationalism at the expense of international trade.
Also discussed was the urgency to expand the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA). The ITA provides for duty-free treatment of certain information technology (IT) products. If expanded, the ITA would eliminate tariffs on roughly $1 trillion in global sales of IT products. Once negotiations are finalized, importers of covered IT products would likely enjoy saving substantial costs on customs duties, and manufacturers should find more opportunities for their products in a more global marketplace.
Similarly, many U.S. business leaders are pushing both governments to prioritize a U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The BIT would give the United States equal protection under the law in China, and open markets so that American firms would not have to partner with Chinese players or sign technological transfer agreements. Such agreements have led to theft of intellectual property in the past. The BIT would also require China to be more liberal with its currency and eliminate state subsidies to certain industries.
While these are just some of the unique challenges and risks discussed related to doing business in the region, many of the women in attendance still see big opportunities. China has the world’s second largest economy and remains a place where many companies around the world invest. This was evidenced by many of the impressive speakers at the conference who are already making an impact on the region:
Technology titan Jennifer Li, CFO of Baidu (China’s largest search engine), talked about the importance of taking risks. She left General Motors to assume this position in China—a role that includes finance, marketing, legal, human resources, and mergers and acquisitions—as she focuses on what’s next for Baidu and how to capitalize on mobility with respect to search.
Liu Yang, chairperson and CIO at Atlantis Investment Management Group, is known as the female Warren Buffett. When she speaks, markets move. It is said that her key to picking stocks is to thoroughly study government policies and gain a good understanding of one particular enterprise. Once she visited an enterprise eight times before deciding to invest in it. She has made billions for her company and clients.
Dee Poon, CEO of PYE, and her mother Marjorie Yang, chairman of Esquel Group, are a mother/daughter duo who spoke about family business and sustainability practices. They believe that in today’s world, a product cannot be created without knowing where it is coming from and what kind of impact it can have on the world. They strive to ensure their impact is sustainable and green. Moreover, they share their values of respect, treating people well and giving people opportunities.
Susan Schwab, former U.S. trade representative, was a discussion leader at a roundtable covering global risks and opportunities. An American, she has shepherded the negotiation and approval of many trade agreements in recent years, including in China, and she was impressive.
Named a conference of the “most powerful women,” byFortune, it was truly inspiring to meet many of these global leaders who continue to demonstrate how to successfully seize opportunities in the midst of challenge in order to make a global impact. They were generous in sharing their experiences in an effort to empower others, and inspiring as strong leaders and successful women.
Adryanna Sutherland – gyro Cincinnati, President
Tenure at gyro: 10 years
As president of gyro:Cincinnati, Adryanna leads an interdisciplinary team of marketing enthusiasts focused on business building results for its clients including SAP, BP, Kelloggs, HP and Pentair. Prior to joining gyro, Adryanna was a partner at L/A/O where she headed up strategy and account management for Purina, Sears and Ethicon Endo Surgery, among other accounts.
On the client side, Adryanna served as corporate brand manager for NCR, leading the company’s multimillion-dollar global brand campaign for Teradata.
Adryanna earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing with a minor in decision sciences from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She holds a Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in international marketing from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Adryanna is a current member of the Indiana University Business Marketing Academy’s Corporate Advisory Board, the Business Marketing Association (BMA), and the Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) at Penn State University. Ms. Sutherland was named a 2013 Woman of Influence by Lead Magazine.