Sir Win Bischoff to young professionals: “Look East”

Sir Win Bischoff gave a speech at Asia House during a young professionals networking event. Photo by Miles Willis

Sir Win Bischoff gave a speech at Asia House during a young professionals networking event. Photo by Miles Willis

Sir Win Bischoff to young professionals: “Look East”

16/12/15

By Naomi Canton

The former chairman of Lloyds Bank Sir Winfried Bischoff made an impassioned appeal to young professionals to ‘look east’ and work in Asia in a speech he made at Asia House.

Sir Win, who is currently Chairman of the Financial Reporting Council in the UK, the UK’s independent accounting regulator and Chairman of JP Morgan Securities plc, the major operating subsidiary in the United Kingdom of JP Morgan Chase Inc, was speaking at a networking event for young professionals.

More than 100 young professionals from 30 companies attended the event organised in partnership with the AIG Young Professionals Group, where they exchanged business cards and networked with each other and with Sir Win.

Charlie Kitson, Head of Client Engagement at AIG, who has lived in Asia for 14 years, introduced Sir Win. “I have very fond memories of that time. It is a very exciting place to live, work and learn. AIG was founded in Asia in 1919 so it will be our centenary soon, so it is fantastic to be holding this event at the centre of Asian expertise in London,” he added.

Anglo-German banker Sir Win, who is former CEO and Chairman of Schroders, and former Chairman and former acting CEO of Citigroup, singled out China, Japan and India as countries offering opportunities despite lower than hoped for growth rates. He said: “I am a great believer in the long-term prospects of Asia, particularly those countries that appear to be doing badly at the moment.”

He also said that Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines were countries to watch. “Don’t buy at the top. There is still something to look forward to in Asia,” he said.

“Many countries in Asia have used low interest rates to increase their debts – but they also have memories of the 1997/1998 Asian Financial Crisis and they know it will have a huge impact on their profits,” he added.

On the recent slowdown in China, the City grandee said “I think it is the natural way of going. We tend to look at these things from a macro point of view, not micro. China will continue to grow but it will be less in percentage terms than in the past. Hong Kong remains a very exciting place. It’s growth-oriented and a wonderful place to live despite having the problems major cities face, but that is the result of attracting the right people.”

He said growth in China, the world’s largest economy, was forecast at six per cent or less in the coming years. “I think it may come down to less,” he said. “We must remember that the equivalent of 10 per cent in 2007/2008 is in fact the current base of six per cent growth which we have in China. It’s a big economy. 3.5 to four per cent would be a fantastic growth rate for the USA and we have to get real that four to six per cent is where China will be ultimately.”

Sir Win first visited China in 1973. He recalled at that time that travel from Hong Kong to Beijing was “an expedition” by rail and plane. “You never knew if you would come back,” he joked. “It was laborious but very exciting. China has developed enormously since then,” he added.

He then moved on to talk about Japan, which he said was an extraordinarily talented country with great skills in high-class manufacturing – only equalled by Germany.

Sir Win Bischoff talks to a young professional at the networking event. Photo by Miles Willis

Sir Win Bischoff is pictured talking to a young professional at the networking event. Photo by Miles Willis

“Japan has a very high degree of social cohesion and education but it suffers from a rapid reduction in the population,” he said. “Abenomics is trying to increase inflation but I suspect Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will retire without having achieved the two per cent interest rate. “

He said the solutions were either to increase the birth rate – difficult for any government apart from perhaps the Chinese Government [who recently relaxed their one child policy] to do, he said. Or Japan should encourage greater immigration, he said, but again Japanese people were concerned social cohesion would be impaired.

“I am cautiously optimistic about Japan,” he said. “It is inconceivable to me that Japan for all the talents it has won’t find a solution to its problems.”

Sir Win then discussed the India growth story. “It’s a democratic country so getting things done is not always that easy. There is indecision and prevarication but Indians are entrepreneurial.  By 2030 India is expected to have the biggest country in the world by population. There are lots of positive things about India so I think India is one to watch.”

Charles Kitson, Head of Client Engagement at AIG, made a few remarks at the networking reception. Photo by Miles Willis

Charles Kitson, Head of Client Engagement at AIG, made a few remarks at the networking reception. Photo by Miles Willis

Sir Win explained that he became interested in Asia in a rather unconventional manner.

He said he was a junior at Schroders when a colleague first asked him to move to Hong Kong to start a merchant bank. He said he initially responded ‘No.’

At that time he was travelling to the USA every second week and he said “I was loving the USA and the fact your washing was taken care of.” Then on the golf course one day he was given the book The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years (1968) by Kahn Herman, co-founder of the Hudson Institute.

In that book Herman said that Japan would grow so fast that it would overtake the USA. “I got to page 65 and I said ‘I will go,’” Sir Win told the gathering,

He moved to Hong Kong in 1970. “Even then it had great potential,” he said.

Sir Win also spoke about how Asia was more diverse than Europe from an ethnic and religious point of view.

“Chinese ethnicity is very powerful  particularly in business but these countries are very different from each other. There are more similarities between Germany and the UK than there are in some Asian countries,” he said.

He concluded that Asia continued to offer vast opportunities and great potential to career-minded young people. “Asia is a wonderful place to work and build up a business. I would recommend that all of you look east,” he concluded.

To see a slideshow of the young professionals networking reception click below:-

Sir Win Bischoff speaks at Asia House

Some guests at the networking event also dropped into the opening reception of a preview show by Japanese artist Kumi Machida in the Asia House Gallery below. Machida, who lives in Tokyo, gave a talk about her two pieces of work on display, Three Persons (2003) and Honeymoon with Life (2013).

naomi.canton@asiahouse.co.uk

FCO Middle East and North Africa Director Jane Marriott will Asia House brief corporate members on Wednesday 13 January about the economic climate and the investment hubs across the Middle East. For more information click here.

To read an interview that Asia House Digital Editor Naomi Canton conducted with Sir Win Bischoff click here.