Hong Kong companies looking to break into the vast China market have come to realise that the first and most important step is often to invest in training.
Tai Fook Securities Group has taken just that approach and, with a view to boosting their business activities across the border, is placing special emphasis on upgrading their staff's language proficiency.
Peter Wong, the group's chief financial officer, who also oversees marketing and business development, has encouraged this policy. "We are still at the stage of building brand awareness in China," he says, "and that means conducting promotional activities like exhibitions, forums and presentations to mainland corporations. For such activities, a shared language, which naturally means Mandarin, is essential."
In view of this, Tai Fook's business development team has been offering young professionals intensive courses in advanced Mandarin as a core part of their training about financial markets and investment strategies in China. New recruits are now expected to have a basic level of competence and a willingness to achieve fluency. This, together with a genuine interest in understanding the bigger picture about China's economy, is looked for in all candidates.
As Mr Wong points out, "During a business meeting, you have to be accurate and concise in what you say. There is no room for repetition and misunderstanding is not tolerated. Speaking the language well becomes the key to opening many doors."
An added advantage is that, with no language barrier, professionals from Hong Kong can gain a better insight into Chinese culture, local lifestyles and attitudes to work. "That is another crucial part of the professional learning process," Mr Wong notes. "It helps in appreciating the different priorities and investment needs within such a large market."
With an estimated 60 million investors in mainland China looking for financial advice, Tai Fook can be sure there will be no shortage of people to talk to in the coming years!