They say that travel broadens the mind, and as CEO of RSM I’ve had the privilege of travelling extensively, meeting RSM colleagues around the world, on a continuous journey of learning about different business methods, cultures and traditions. Each year, RSM’s regional conferences provide a chance for our firms to come together to build upon our relationships and to focus on our collaborative future. We have the chance to re-connect with each other and to learn about global business as well as the national business landscapes in so many countries.
Our regional gatherings also provide us with the chance to discuss the network’s strategy and growth plans and how we can continue to focus our work and efforts on providing our clients’ with the services, expertise and insights they need. We have just completed our regional conference season, with gatherings in Seoul, Dubai, Panama City, Malta and finally Johannesburg. Here, I share my reflections from the conferences and how the different economic challenges are influencing the work we do with our clients:
We are entering an exciting period for our Asia Pacific firms as the region sees the world’s second largest economy take a more confident position on the world stage. China is key, but with slower growth affecting the region, opportunities are opening in new markets such as Cambodia.
While this macro-economic change is happening, we are seeing high demand from middle market businesses for a full range of services, with a focus on investment, corporate set-ups, repatriation of profits, market intelligence and transfer pricing.
One significant issue affecting the ongoing economic growth and improving well-being is the critical role of energy – the growing demand, the prospects of renewable energy, and private investment in the sector.
What resonated with me this year was that the dynamism of the region, and how this presents many opportunities for our clients, both within and outside of Asia Pacific.
Latin America is going through a transition as clients across the region set their sights on international expansion, despite political issues in Venezuela and Brazil holding back inward investment. The region is young, facing a unique opportunity. One quarter of the Latin American population – 163 million people – are aged between 15 and 29. This demographic bonus opens a window of opportunity for inclusive growth in the region and a potential driver of domestic growth to support future progress. Couple that with youth entrepreneurship which is another vehicle for improving employability and social mobility in Latin America.
Political uncertainty coupled with challenges in South Africa have resulted in a loss of confidence which is slowing development of the region. African countries that are enjoying growth are those focusing on renewable energy, as well as those moving toward industrialisation and manufacturing. New energy sources allow countries to build new industries while stabilising their power grids and diversifying beyond fossil fuels.
Francophone Africa is also becoming a formidable force. While it was slow to benefit from the euphoria of the “Africa Rising” period of rapid economic growth on the continent, several West African countries are now seizing investment opportunities.
There are positive feelings about the future despite significant unease with regard to Brexit and the wider implications for Europe and beyond.
While growth is slow, economic stability throughout the region has helped boost confidence. Brexit is bound to affect all and planning is already in process by European businesses to protect against any risk, as well as taking advantage of any arising opportunities.
GDPR, a less publicised issue, is set to affect any business that holds the personal information of EU citizens with dire financial consequences for those that don’t adhere to the regulation beyond the implementation date of 25 May 2018. More than ever, middle market businesses need a trusted adviser who can help them to plot a route to future success.
President Trump and the House Republicans believe that tax reform is essential if the US economy is to increase its rate of growth, and so tax reform remains high on the list of potential issues facing our US clients and clients that do business in the US.
There is little inflation or deflation and so for our US member, this creates a good environment for helping clients grow their business and for international investors to use their resources. Harnessing this relative economic stability will be key to building on the already strong relationships between our firms across the Americas and beyond.
The business environment in MENA remains a challenge as there is limited international activity. The political strife between Qatar and other Arab countries reflects the rising influence of the small island in the region, but also how international policy can severely affect businesses. The political situation in many countries is inhibiting outward investment, but it remains a region to watch.
Attending the regional conferences each year gives me an opportunity to see the progress that our network is making as a complete unit. What became clear to me this year was that RSM member firms are focusing on how to move forward in this constantly changing world. A new populism is challenging the status quo and there is a clear shift towards more aggressive styles of leadership. Listening to world leaders you would be forgiven for thinking that each country is in direct competition. In business, however, there are opportunities to share in success. Why fight over the biggest slice, when we can make the pie bigger?