Moving Abroad? 7 Steps to Global Success for You and Your Business

Moving Abroad? 7 Steps to Global Success for You and Your Business

For many, living a life abroad would be a dream come true. For growing businesses, however, expanding globally is often a necessity. As an entrepreneur, the opportunity to do either — let alone both — means you’ve probably done more than a few things right.

But before you pack your bags, going global, like growing any business, includes new challenges. It requires foresight, adaptability and specialists to find success for your portfolio as well as your business. That’s why we spoke to experts in commercial banking and wealth management at Bank of the West, who, as a part of BNP Paribas, provide a perspective on global banking that stretches from the U.S. to Europe to Asia and South America.

Here, their specialists offer tips on making your transition a successful one.

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Assessing the Opportunity

As an entrepreneur, determine whether expanding abroad is right for you.

Take into account objectives and determine if customers and partners are available abroad to execute them, says Nathalie Doré, CEO at L’Atelier BNP Paribas North America.

“It’s very important to adapt your market strategy and to think about doing open innovation,” she says, noting that local partners can both minimize risk and maximize rewards. “We advise testing launch initiatives. You can have very quick validation on your business model in real life and, if it works, initial revenue.”

It’s also important to evaluate the future of your target region’s economic climate both from a business and investment standpoint. For example, “knowing that Europe is earlier on in their business recovery, whereas the U.S. market is in more of a mature stage … can mean that 2 percent GDP growth is not always better than 1 percent,” says Wade Balliet, Chief Investment Strategist at Bank of the West.

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Preparing to Make the Move

You’ve considered your business and personal finances goals and you’re ready to go global. But what’s next? According to Kristin Nelson, Bank of the West’s Wealth Management Head of Sales Strategy and Business Development, get expert help from someone with international experience that also understands what you’ve already built at home.

“The more groundwork you can do upfront and the more you can work with an international bank who has connections to get you set up from a financial standpoint beforehand, the better,” she says.

This goes from simple things, such as setting up a bank account, to the advanced, like being introduced to a sophisticated professional network.

“The local teams will often times make in-country introductions to experienced professionals to assist our clients,” says John Thurston, Managing Director and Area Manager at Bank of the West. “Through those referrals, our clients expand their networks to address potential legal, financial and regulatory concerns.”

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Setting Up Your Financial Future

With your bases covered, it’s time to plan for your future. For many entrepreneurs, that means diversifying their personal and professional portfolios to address new exposure from their expansion abroad.

Balliet says that limiting exposure in your personal portfolio often means investing outside the country to which you’re moving. For example, if you move your business to Paris, you might think about putting more of your money outside of Europe in order to achieve greater global diversification. “In that case, we (make sure) their European exposure is not increasing but maybe reducing to some extent because of their new business venture, and then managing around that with the other international capabilities: Asia, Japan and the emerging markets, for example.

“We have the ability to tactically overweight and underweight investment exposure to a country or a set of countries.”

Gaining Fluency in Culture and Currency

As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” — this is especially true when it comes to business. For investors entering a new market, unique culture, rules and regulations can cause serious headaches for entrepreneurs.

The most challenging aspect is often the foundation of commerce itself. It’s essential that investors have a basic understanding of different currencies in order to trade effectively. Whereas in the U.S., investors generally focus on the security itself, trading internationally involves other factors such as currency fluctuation and geopolitical considerations.

These kinds of local challenges can also affect how day-to-day transactions are handled between countries. Entrepreneurs and investors are often uncomfortable when they discover how alien basic operations in a new country can seem, according to Head of Cash Management and Commercial Card at Bank of the West Eileen Dignen.

“Clients working in certain markets tell me, ‘I’m surprised that everything isn’t instantaneous, I’m surprised that formatting is different.’ But there is no cross-border, instantaneous, real-time dollar flow and settlement that happens today without complexity,” she says. “Having a partner that knows you and can help navigate that complexity is key.”

Don’t Forget to Look at the Whole Picture

Scaling your business and portfolio globally gets complicated. That’s why keeping a singular view of all aspects of your finances is essential.

“The key is somebody has to see the global view of the portfolio,” says Balliet. “Two or three managers looking independently may be well and good on their own, but what about the overall risk of those three managers when melded together?”

For an entrepreneur, a bank with a global presence can help solve many of these problems. Companies frequently contract with more partners than they need to, according to Thurston.

“To meet specific in-country needs, many multinational companies will approach a number of different banks. However, this can result in cumbersome banking arrangements and inconsistent handling of the clients’ needs,” he says. “Instead of having six different banks to handle needs in six different countries, the client’s needs could be met more effectively with a single international network such as BNP Paribas and Bank of the West where we strive to deliver the international network locally as a single client relationship. That translates into better consistency in the products and services provided to our clients, as well as a more efficient and cost effective approach to their banking needs.”

Use the Right Set of Tools

Maintaining that global view doesn’t just happen. Entrepreneurs and their CFOs need tools that can give them the financial information they need when- and wherever they are.

“As the CFO, it’s really about understanding and having visibility into cash flows and the supply chain as they expand abroad,” says Martin Resch, Executive Vice President of Bank of the West. “Without that visibility into how the cash is moving, where it is and what currency it’s at, CFOs don’t really have visibility into their business.”

To provide this information, a modular platform that’s responsive enough to respond to the continual demands of an international CFO is ideal.

“When there’s a change in foreign currency markets, you want to make sure your foreign currency app is changing really fast, but your supply chain app may only need to change once every two years,” says Resch. “Having that separated into tactile apps that allow you to do businesses, instead of one big app, allows us to be more nimble.”

Look Ahead to Stay Secure

But no matter how advanced a company’s technology is, remaining secure means being one step ahead at all times, especially when you’re moving to an unfamiliar business landscape.

“As we say in the banking industry, we figure out how to deal with the fraudsters and then they’re figuring out the next step. We have to keep up with that pace of change,” says Dignen.

For the tech sector, where companies tend to expand internationally more quickly than other industries, it’s essential to provide robust safeguards that protect intellectual property, client information, payment details and more, says Lee Merkle-Raymond, Managing Director, National Technology Banking Head at Bank of the West.

“All of those we try to mitigate in the U.S. but when you’re working internationally you need higher levels of security — you’ve got multiple banking systems, multiple payment systems in different countries,” she says. One way to stay secure is to impose automated safeguards that may limit the size of transactions or provide extra layers of authorization if a payment is headed to a particular international destination.

That forward looking approach also spreads to how entrepreneurs should interact with their bank to begin with, working together to be at the cutting edge of all aspects of business, according to Doré from L’Atelier BNP Paribas North America.

“The pace of change is so fast today,” she says. “That’s why we like to be able to iterate. What should we launch today? It’s really about adapting because we are living in a world that is changing so fast.”

Moving Abroad? 7 Steps to Global Success for You and Your Business

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How the CFO and General Counsel Can Partner More Effectively

How the CFO and General Counsel Can Partner More Effectively

Commentators and researchers have focused on the crucial role of the CEO in leading effective corporate action to promote high performance, high integrity, and sound risk management. What receives far less attention is that, more and more in our increasingly complex, volatile, and fully-globalized business world, the effectiveness of such action depends on a powerful partnership between the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the General Counsel (GC). This critical alliance needs and deserves much greater analysis and application.

The CFO-GC alliance has always been important because the finance function and the legal function are truly the nervous system of the corporation—sending critical signals to all parts of the company about the accuracy of the financials and compliance with law. But, the integration of finance and legal is even more consequential today because what the corporation can and cannot do across the globe is affected directly not just by financial and commercial issues which the CFO analyzes but, increasingly, by evolving “business and society” issues which the General Counsel and the corporate law department must address. These issues include legislation, regulation, litigation, enforcement, investigations, geopolitical risk, demands for ethical actions, and public criticism, affecting all the functions of the corporation in their interaction with all levels of global governments (central, regional, local). Especially in light of ever-increasing variety and intensity of stakeholder demands on the corporation, these business and society issues, under the purview of the GC, must be closely fused with the CFO’s financial and commercial analysis to serve the CEO and top business leaders when they make and implement core strategic and operational decisions.

Indeed, due to increased commercial complexity in global companies as well as the growing impact of business and society issues, the expertise, quality, breadth, power, and compensation of the General Counsel have increased dramatically in recent decades. At many firms, the GC has replaced the law firm senior partner as primary CEO counselor, becoming a core member of top management and participating in decisions and actions not just about law but also about business. Also, the GC now often leads units beyond the legal department, such as public affairs, taxes, and environment. In more and more global companies, the CEO, directors and other key stakeholders see the GC as having importance and stature comparable to the Chief Financial Officer. It is primarily the GC who must navigate complex and fast-changing law, regulation, litigation, public policy, politics, media and interest group pressures across the globe, often in a public, outward-facing role as negotiator, spokesman or representative. As a result, the optimal CFO-GC alliance is now much more like a peer relationship, jointly coordinating and overseeing fundamental corporate issues of performance, compliance, ethics, risk and governance, and organization. Here is a brief discussion of how the alliance works in key areas:

Performance. Financial, legal, ethical and risk perspectives obviously need to be integrated when the corporation is making decisions about new deals, about new types of customers, new geographic markets, new technologies and new products. For example, the financial and legal staffs are bound at the hip on the various phases of mergers and acquisitions, from the memorandum of understanding, to representations and warranties, to due diligence, to definitive agreement, to closing and then to deal integration. On major deals, the GC and CFO are strong partners on a personal level because the robust integration of their complementary views on key issues can spell the difference between success and failure, both in closing and in subsequent performance. For example, failure to identify a serious accounting or environmental failure of the target company in due diligence can lead to a major criminal or civil liability for the acquiring company after the deal is sealed.

Compliance. Although the CEO and division heads should, in my view, be the ultimate leaders of the corporate compliance program, the CFO and GC jointly share responsibility for actually designing and implementing the systems and processes that ensure adherence to formal legal and financial rules. Compliance always has been and always will be a basic corporate responsibility, and any such program must be comprised of three essential elements: protection, detection, and response. What’s radically changed in recent years is complexity. Responding effectively to this means the CFO and GC, working with Compliance and Risk, together develop a robust method of process mapping, risk assessment, and risk mitigation relating to those formal rules that apply to all corporate functions—e.g. sales, marketing, manufacturing, intellectual property—in all business units in all geographies. Ideally, the legal and financial staffs together conduct compliance reviews which report up to the CEO, CFO, and GC, and also act as core investigators in the event of a major compliance failure like bribery or accounting fraud in a major overseas division.

Ethics. In exemplary corporations, the CFO and GC jointly staff the systematic processes the CEO and top business leaders use in voluntarily adopting vital global standards for the corporation, which go beyond what the formal rules require. Once the company establishes these ethical positions on key issues—whether on global sourcing or greenhouse gas reduction, or extra consumer protections—they are implemented systematically just like formal, mandated rules. In my experience at GE, what worked best is to have the CFO and GC jointly identify a range of possible ethical issues for consideration; help select a salient sub-set for analysis; and then develop options to guide the ultimate decision-making process by the CEO and the board of directors. Deciding among those options involves a combination of considerations both prudential (enlightened self-interest of the company) and moral (rights of—duties to—others) which vary with context. Decisions about not doing business in a corrupt nation are very different than those considering whether to voluntarily reduce the corporation’s emission of greenhouse gases. And then, of course, there are costs. The CFO and GC determine together whether the cost of a particular voluntary global standard is amenable to hard financial analysis (e.g. cost of reducing pollution) or if it turns on a broad-gauged judgment about corporate reputation without financial precision (benefits of imposing labor standards on third party suppliers).

Risk. The CFO and GC are key in developing together, with business leaders and other staff officers, safety processes, management practices, and a safety culture to handle both economic and non-economic risks beyond legal and ethical threats. One key to this partnership is identifying risk priorities—whether economic (e.g. leverage and liquidity risk, operational and technology missteps, or macroeconomic threats) or non-economic (e.g. injuries to third parties from company processes/products, security and safety, and country/geopolitical risk). A second key dimension is justifying the costs of instituting prevention and response steps for risk events that may not happen—especially for the vexing issue of low probability/high impact catastrophic threats. The CFO and GC can work up pro forma cost scenarios and also look to analogous disasters (e.g. the Challenger explosion, Hurricane Katrina, the Siemens bribery scandal, BP gulf explosion) to explain the types of adverse effects/costs which could happen and which investments in prevention and response make sense in attempting to avoid or mitigate the disaster.

Finally, and most importantly, the CFO and GC must support each other as “statespersons” in a corporation. This means asking first whether a corporate action complies with legal and financial rules, but asking last whether an action is “right” in terms of the corporation’s mission of high performance with high integrity and sound risk management. To be effective statespersons, the CFO and GC must manage a dynamic tension: acting as “partners” to the board of directors, the CEO and top business leaders, but also, ultimately, as “guardians” of the corporation. And they must work together to help create a pervasive culture of integrity under CEO direction. Business pressures, practices, attitudes, and internal politics (a courtier’s desire to please the CEO) can create obstacles to the statesperson’s role, the partner-guardian fusion, and the integrity culture.

A strong, respectful, mutually-supportive partnership between the Chief Financial Officer and the General Counsel is one critical way to overcome these obstacles. More broadly, that alliance has become an imperative, helping global corporations to be more responsive, resilient, and effective in a fast-changing and ever more complicated world where commercial and societal issues are intertwined.

How the CFO and General Counsel Can Partner More Effectively

Books we will need tomorrow

History has some potent lessons for business, but it is the future that really excites most corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and investors. That is not only because the future offers fresh opportunities to make money, but because it gives the ambitious and talented the chance to write their own new chapter in the lore of management, finance and economics.

Books we will need tomorrow.

World’s Most Admired Companies: Top companies in innovation, responsibility and more

Long-term investment – World’s Most Admired Companies: Top companies in innovation, responsibility and more – FORTUNE.

 

The Path to Peak Performance

The Path to Peak Performance – YouTube.

 

Developing Mindful Leaders for the C-Suite

Developing Mindful Leaders for the C-Suite – Bill George – Harvard Business Review.

Traits That Define Great Leadership

The 9 Traits That Define Great Leadership | Inc.com.

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles should be adapted to the demands of the situation.

Leadership Styles – Management – WSJ.com.