Hong Kong may regularly top international surveys as one of the world's most open economies, but such distinctions mean little if they do not also attract additional investment to establish new ventures and create new jobs. In the ultra-competitive world of international business, this can involve the commitment of millions, if not billions, of dollars. Therefore, any company weighing up its options wants to be sure that the advice and local support it can rely on is second to none.
That is where InvestHK comes in. As the government department which acts as a one-stop shop for overseas investors, their job is essentially to "sell" Hong Kong to the rest of the world. As Nicole Yuen, the manager for telecommunications, media and multimedia explains, "One of our team's main tasks is to help investors launch and expand their ideas, while promoting what Hong Kong has to offer."
In practical terms, that means sourcing relevant information and providing both solutions and follow-up services for overseas companies. It also means maintaining contacts with potential investors and local companies in the fast-moving field of media and telecommunications. Therefore, Ms Yuen regularly attends industry events, conferences and exhibitions in order to keep in touch with the very latest developments.
"Business networking is an important part of the job, since we have to bring together investors with the right business partners and potential clients," Ms Yuen notes. "As frontline officers, we must also constantly update ourselves on all the market information and emerging trends."
We have to bring together investors with the right business partners and potential clients
Ms Yuen's education and previous experience gave her the ideal preparation. After taking an MBA in the UK, she returned to Hong Kong and gained broad experience in customer service, marketing and quality management with various telecommunications companies. She then moved to Radio Television Hong Kong for four years as marketing and sponsorship officer, a position which increased her understanding of the media and helped her to develop public relations skills. "I also acquired a solid understanding of government structure and the business environment in Hong Kong," she explains.
With such a diverse background, it was logical for Ms Yuen to be recruited as one of the first investment promotion officers at InvestHK soon after it was established in July 2000. Since then, she has worked on projects with clients from all over the world and achieved notable results. These include the acquisition by Hangzhou Futong, China's third largest manufacturer of optical fibres, of a plant in Hong Kong. Ms Yuen guided the company through the various steps of the investment process with advice on everything from business matching to applying for expatriate work visas.
In 2002, she received the best responsiveness award from Strategic Direct Investor, a UK-based magazine which posed as a potential investor and contacted 92 investment promotion agencies throughout the Asia-Pacific region. InvestHK got the top ranking, thanks largely to the timeliness and quality of Ms Yuen's response. "It came as a surprise," she recalls, "but a very pleasant one!"
Anyone interested in following in Ms Yuen's footsteps needs a university degree and at least five years' solid work experience, preferably in marketing or account management, as basic prerequisites. Practical knowledge of government organisations is desirable, while experience in investment promotion or economic development is a definite advantage. Candidates who have lived overseas and are proficient in languages such as German and Japanese will receive favourable consideration. Knowledge of any Chinese dialects is also regarded as an asset in view of the opening of the China market.
"An outgoing personality and strong communication skills are crucial for the job, since our frontline officers stay in touch with investors and clients on a daily basis," Ms Yuen adds. Good social skills are also a must as officers frequently have to attend events hosted by commercial associations, and community programmes organised or sponsored by InvestHK.
Since it is a matter of policy to recruit only professionals with a few years' work experience, Ms Yuen advises younger people to focus on and excel in their current work, but to plan ahead for the chance to join InvestHK. "We operate various teams to promote investment in different sectors," she points out. "With our diversity, you never know what kind of expertise we may be looking for in the future."
The current slogan used by InvestHK is "Yes we can", and Ms Yuen seeks to demonstrate that in the professionalism she brings to her daily work. "We will always find the right solutions to whatever problems come our way, no matter how difficult they are," she emphasises. "Our work in attracting foreign investment is, ultimately, to create employment opportunities for Hong Kong people and to contribute to our society."
With the advent of CEPA, the number of mainland investors establishing businesses in Hong Kong is on the rise. In response to the surge in business enquiries, InvestHK recently refocused the work of one division to handle principally China issues. Under the new structure, there will be four investment promotion teams dedicated to assisting investors from different regions in China. They will organise promotional activities and coordinate with government departments and official bodies from the mainland.