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Forbes Asia reporter Hana Alberts asked ART's Managing Director to discuss some of Asia's hottest management executive searches


Atlantic Research Technologies, L.L.C. (ART), www.atlanticresearch.com, is a global executive search firm, recruiting in the industrial, high tech and service sectors, for senior- and middle-management positions in general management, sales and marketing, finance, supply chain, manufacturing, IT, and human resources.

 

FORBES: Where is the greatest need for talent in the Asia-Pacific region and why? Which positions, specifically, in which sectors are you constantly looking for people to fill?

ART: ART recruits across hundreds of product areas and market sectors, so it is difficult to narrow down a few 'hot industries' in the Asia-Pacific region. In industrial products, consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, semiconductors, automotive parts, capital equipment, and in transportation, IT and consumer services, we continue to see many opportunities for our candidates. Some ongoing needs in these areas are for the following profiles:

 

Asia Pacific Managing Director or Regional President/ Regional VP

Global firms that really want to be serious about optimizing their opportunities in Asia need a competent regional head for the Asia-Pacific region. Some companies based in North America or Europe mistakenly believe that they are saving money by just having national sales heads in the various Asian countries report directly to headquarters. The problem is that most of the people at the home office do not understand Asia well. So travel to Asia to visit customers or vendors can be confusing and wearisome for all. Some local Asian sales managers might not be maximizing business opportunities across countries because they are not allowed to cross into other sales managers' territories. Since much business in Asia nowadays crosses borders, this kind of compartmentalization can lose money. The way to build trust in Asia with Asian customers and to build accountability with Asian vendors is to have a local chief who is entirely dedicated to Asian regional operations. That person can have regular meetings with national sales heads and can coordinate synergies between them.

 

China CEO, China General Manager, China Managing Director, China President

Foreign firms with business units in China need to make sure that they have the right person running their Chinese business. This does not merely mean a person who can speak Mandarin and English, but a person who is knowledgeable of the local customers and opportunities. S/he must be absolutely trustworthy and innovative, because strategies that worked well in 2005 might be outdated in 2010. We most frequently are asked to find China General Managers who can mentor local managers and staff; great natural leaders whom people would want to work for. While most positions are based in Shanghai, we are being asked more frequently to find people in Beijing, Suzhou, Tianjin, Qingdao, Chengdu, Guangzhou and other major cities.

 

Greater China General Manager, Greater China Managing Director

The Taiwanese and mainland China markets are integrating very rapidly, especially in such industries as semiconductors, computers, and photovoltaics, but also in nearly any electronic or industrial product. We are being asked more frequently to find Taiwanese or mainland Chinese who have strong understanding of both markets, and who could work as fair managers with people on both sides of the Strait.

 

Vietnam General Manager, Vietnam Managing Director

The growth of the Vietnam market is calling for more experienced Vietnam General Managers and Vietnam Managing Directors who could run Joint Ventures between foreign and Vietnamese corporations. Typically, we look for people who are fluent in Vietnamese and English and who have been trained in the West. Often we tap highly trained Vietnamese-fluent managers from the US, Canada, Australia or France for these roles.

 

Vietnam CFO, Vietnam Finance Director

Vietnam is similar to the China market ten or fifteen years ago. Local corporate accounting practices are still often in need of upgrading. There still are great shortages of senior local finance managers with training that is acceptable enough for western companies. For CFO and Finance Director roles we often turn to experienced candidates in other ASEAN countries, or in one recent CFO search, we recruited a Vietnamese-fluent Australian finance manager who was working in Vietnam at a top international accounting firm.

 

Korea-Based Northeast Asia Managing Director, Korea-Japan Sales Director, Korea-China Sales Director, Korea-Japan-China-Taiwan Sales Director

We are constantly impressed by the rapid and very positive changes occurring in the South Korean manager corps. We are finding Korean managers doing exceptionally well when they gained experiences in other Asian countries. In addition, the seeding of these ranks with Korean-fluent Americans, Canadians and Australians has tended to give the management ranks in many Korean industries a much more cosmopolitan feel. In these managers we see people who remind us of our European recruitment practice, where Dutch Sales Directors in particular have done well as EMEA regional heads after they have worked in Germany and France. With this in mind, we are recruiting Korean Sales Directors who are fluent in English, Korean and Mandarin, or English, Korean and Japanese. We are finding clients that are interested in basing their Northeast Asian Sales operations in Seoul, but only if the person in charge can prove that s/he has a track record of building customer sales in China, Taiwan and Japan.

 

India CEO, India Managing Director, India General Manager

We typically have two types of clients for India Business Unit heads. If it is an Indian company, the main requirement is that the person be western trained and be able to help transform a local Indian family conglomerate into a company that is more like a western global corporation. The other profile that we are asked to fill is for foreign companies entering India that need someone to build their organization in India from scratch. The latter search requires a person who is non-bureaucratic, a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-do-it-yourself kind of person.

 

India VP Sales, India National Sales Director, India Country Manager

Typically foreign companies ask us to find their India National Sales Director or Vice President. While there are many, many very competent candidates in India engaged in sales, relatively few of them until very recently have had much experience working at foreign enterprises. This is quite in contrast to most countries in Asia, and it is due to the relatively closed economy of India, which typically required foreign companies to sell their products through local distributors. Local distributors might do a very good job of selling, but they might not be the right kind of training ground that most western companies require, since Indian distributors often feature very large staffs. The person who might be in charge of sales might be called General Manager of Sales and that person might supervise dozens and dozens of sales reps. Even if that person received more compensation at a foreign firm as a lowly Sales Manager or Country Manager, would that person feel happy being the only sales rep for all of India? This challenge is what makes companies come to us, because it is not always easy discerning these differences in business cultures. While an American company might think that it is great to be a lone sales person in a vast country, an experienced Indian sales manager who has managed 20-50 people might feel that such a job is a bad fit. As the Indian economy develops and as the market opens to foreign companies, there is a constant need to find the right kind of India Country Manager.

 

ASEAN Sales Director

Whether it is from a base in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta or Manila, there is an ongoing need for multicultural, regionally oriented ASEAN Sales Directors. We are seeing a lot of integration of our client resources across the region. Whereas in the past, each country was in its own universe, nowadays we are seeing ASEAN sales teams selling to the same regional customers but out of different regional sales hubs. One group might concentrate on tech support, one on customer service, one on product development, one on marketing. The ASEAN region is developing into a great testing area for pan-Asian sales techniques and strategies, and we are often asked for experienced sales heads who understand Southeast Asian markets well.

 

Asia Pacific VP Human Resources

Perhaps the most important and least discussed need in Asian executive search is for those Human Resources Heads who have to piece together all the parts of their organization in policy and staffing, across countries that usually have tremendous cultural differences between them. The Asia Pacific Managing Director comes in to the region to manage the pieces of the puzzle, but it's the Asia-Pac HR Head that needs to make it all come together so that the Managing Director could get to work. This kind of job is as hard as any, because each country has its own labor laws and practices, and it is not easy for one single person to sort it all out across the region. We are pretty lucky, though, because we recruit across all of Asia, so we come in contact with people who have lived and worked in many Asia-Pac countries, and who have strongly developed their expertise on a regional basis, qualifying them for this kind of role.


 


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