In 2010, when every other op-ed piece is overflowing with the rise of Asia as a financial superpower – it still surprises me that many Western companies are stumbling over that most Anglo-Saxon of problems – language.
A friend in the derivatives industry based in Singapore recently told me the story of “vendors going into China telling clients how great their system is, how it can do all your investor reporting, all your administration – and then being shocked that investors want to see their reports in Chinese!”
It turns out this applies even in some of the oldest financial markets, and across the board, from investment managers to vendors. “Another firm had a bad experience in Japan trying to sell its web-based reporting capabilities,” he continued. “Most of the client base had quite substantial assets, but they were in their 50s and 60s, and they weren’t exactly net savvy. Report download options and boutique online capabilities were not exactly unique selling points to these clients.”
In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare said “but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.” I’m sure a modern setting of the play, with a Shanghai boardroom as the stage, would be apt in more ways than one.