Ellena Au FCMA CEO, KanTec business consulting, Beijing, and past president of the CIMA Hong Kong Division.

Position:ONE2ONE - Interview
 
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How badly has the global downturn affected business in China?

In Guangdong in the south of the country, where exports are the crux of the economy, the situation is pretty bad. But here in the north, where it's not so export-orientated, the downturn isn't affecting livelihoods.

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In fact, for a lot of people things are getting better and better. I help western companies that want to set up a base in this country and the global recession has had quite a positive effect on them. More people are coming into China now because it's one of the few areas of strong economic growth. And it's not only westerners: a friend of mine who's a Japanese consultant tells me that even noodle companies are queuing up to start businesses in China.

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What are the most significant factors limiting growth?

Recruiting and retaining talent is becoming much more difficult, particularly at graduate level. There are lots of opportunities for graduates, but we rarely see the quantity or quality we're seeking. We have a problem with generation Y. First, they're very picky: they may have little experience but they still want high salaries and comprehensive benefits packages. Their expectations are often unrealistic. The other problem stems from the Chinese government's one-child policy for urban married I couples. Young people spend a lot of time hanging around at home being supported by their families as a result.

On the positive side, this provides a good opportunity for graduates and CIMA members from other countries to fill the skills gap. There is a real need here for finance professionals who are talented and ambitious. We are seeing a lot of expatriate workers--both junior and senior--who speak very good Chinese and who are often more creative and original in their thinking. China would benefit from having more of this type of talent.

Is recruitment and retention a special interest of yours?

I'm just beginning a doctoral programme in business administration. It's about optimising the human resources model in China and focuses on how foreign businesses devise HR strategies to bring out the best in their employees. My experience has shown me that staffing problems are the most prevalent issue for many companies. People move around a lot more these days, which makes it extremely difficult for employers to retain talent. I'm working on a pilot study to see what solutions I can find.

Which companies are enjoying the most success...

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