You are required to analyse the company you have chosen and make use of real and relevant data (company’s annual reports, financial report, country and industry level investment data for years 2011- 2017) to answer the following questions:
1. What were the motivations for and initial investment arrangements of the company (joint venture/ partnership) in engaging with Asia?
2. What was the rationale for choice of country or countries?
3. What was behind the choice of business segments and competitive approach?
4. What sources of market intelligence were and/or are available?
5. What are the Do’s and Don’ts in conducting business in that country?
6. What is the key competence of the company that made the expansion into Asia successful?
7. What challenges has the company faced over the years in sustaining its business in Asia?
Background of Westpac Bank
A multinational company is an organisation that has its operations and other functions of the business in different nation states. For a number of organisations one of the major objectives of the business is to expand the business overseas (Forsgren and Johanson 2014). This not only provides the company with greater opportunity in terms of target market, it also provides the company with improved turn over and profitability. Growth and expansion of the business is the long term of objective that managements look forwards to. In order for a company to ensure that the process of expansion is profitable there are a number of factors that has to be considered. International business includes a number of strategic management decisions which has to be organized on the basis of the analysis and research (Forsgren and Johanson 2014). Making a global footprint and expanding the business in other markets has a number of challenges and barriers as well. According to Forsgren and Johanson (2014), a business organisation operate in two environments internal and external, the factors in these environments have to align with each other in order for a company to do business overseas. In this report the company that is going to be focused upon is Westpac. The company has a considerable presence in the Asian countries and is among the most prestigious financial institutions of Australia. This report will focus on the countries investment and expansion decisions in Singapore.
Westpac is one of the oldest financial organizations in Australia, established in 1817 the bank was then known as the Bank of New South Wales (Westpac.com.au 2018). In 1982 the name has been changed to Westpac Banking Corporation. Over the years of operation the company has gathered significant importance and reputation among the stakeholders of the company. The organisation has played an important role in shaping the economy of Australia as well (Westpac.com.au 2018). Today Westpac has established itself a consumer oriented company that has a number of services to help the people improve their financial condition. The vision of the company is to become one of the leading organizations to support the customers as well as the community and people to grow (Westpac.com.au 2018). In order to follow this vision the management of the company ensures that there is a valuable relation in between the company and the customers provide the employees with opportunities so that people would like to work with the company and also deliver the best returns for shareholders (Westpac.com.au 2018).
Motivations for Westpac's Expansion into Asia
Thought the focus of the organisation in the initial times were on the Australian and the New Zealand market, the management decided to venture into the international market as the wanted to seize the opportunity to make a global name (Westpac.com.au 2018). Westpac has its presence in the Asian market as well. The regional head office of the company is in Singapore and has a number of branches in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Mumbai. The focus of the company is to serve the customers based in Asia better and also do business with Asian customers. The company also wants to provide a passage for Asian firms and customer with interests in Australia and New Zealand (Westpac.com.au 2018).
When an organisation chooses to venture in to a new market in terms of geographic location, the external environment factors are the initial parameters that are chosen by the company. Factors such as political scenario, social aspects, economic background and prospect of the country as well as the way technology is used and accepted by the people of the company. The Singapore head office of Westpac is set up to serve the people of the organisation. The company had ventured in the Asian Market 40 years ago and the mode of entry that had been selected is direct investment. There are two services available in Asia: Westpac Corporate & Institutional Bank in Asia and Westpac Migrant Bank in Asia (Westpac.com.sg 2018).
Asia is a market that has always been the focus of a number of companies who are based in the west. The population of the continent and the potential of the customers to be the target market provide the company with a wider opportunity in terms of business. There are a number of people who travel and settle in Australia form the Asian countries, there are also significant numbers of travels in a year who visit these countries and this provided the company an opportunity to set up the business in Singapore.
There are a number of reasons for a company to choose to invest in Asian Market firstly increase in Asia and Australian immigrants, Westpac is known as one of the major banks that focus on the domestic customers, the increase in the immigration has provided the company with opportunity to help people across borders. There are also a number of organizations in Australia that want to venture in the Asian market and in order to support these companies the decision of establishing the offices in the Asian market was determined.
Investment in the Asian Market
The motivation that drove the company was the fact that there was no bridge in terms of finance in between the two regions during the time of investment and thus the focus of the investment and the services that are provided by Westpac in Asia revolves around mostly corporate and institutional customers (Westpac.com.sg 2018). Globalization and the objective of expansion among the business environment in the country was the motivator for an institution like Westpac to invest in the Asian countries. Asia is one of the major markets for Australian investors and thus in order to support the business the company had established the operations in Asia. A number of Australian companies are looking for their foothold in the region like red rooster chain of restaurant, AAL, Australian post etc. Westpac is an organisation that has been focusing on the Asian companies operating in Australia as well (Westpac.com.au 2018).
On the other hand there are also important benefits of investing in Asia, the fact that the countries in the region are geographically at a close proximity makes it an easier market to commute and expand. Politically there are hardly any constraints; the economies of the region are looking for foreign investment either to help in the development of their economy or to boost their economy even further. Westpac has over the years of operation in the Asian market has aligned with the culture of the region which is very significant and important for any organization to operate in Asia.
The company has direct investment but in the process of establishment of the operations in the Asian market the company has built a strategic relationship with one of the major banking companies of Asia Standard Chartered Bank. Much like the history of Westpac Standard Chartered Bank has also been established a long time ago and has developed significant reputation among the people. The company has a wide presence in the Asian market and has built a strategic relation with Westpac (Westpac.com.sg 2018). As the company is focused on promoting Australian business in the Asian market, Westpac focuses on the common challenges that an Australian business organisation might face in the Asian market. In order to deal with these challenges of diversity of political economic and cultural aspect the company has developed a strategic relation with the Standard Charted Bank (Westpac.com.au 2018). The association of the two companies provides the customers of Westpac with better banking services in Asia. It has offered the company to represent the banking services of Australia unlike anyone in the market. Some of the other benefits that the company has gathered from this relation are: telephonic support to the customers during business hours in Australia for all Asian account inquiries, online banking services, and negotiated credit facilities for the customers, reputation in the industry and faith among the customers to receive better opportunities (Westpac.com.au 2018).
Strategic Relationship with Standard Chartered Bank
The company has a strategic relation with the DBS Bank in the Singapore market where the companies can share their ATMs. This is an alliance that would help the customers to avoid expensive money withdrawal while travelling in Singapore and Australia. The relation Westpac-DBS ATM Alliance is a joint partnership and is a part of the Global ATM alliance that the company has with a number of other bank all around the world. For example the Alliance with DBS is for Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. On the other hand the company also has similar alliance with other financial institutions like Bang of Nanjing in China, CIMB in Indonesia and Malaysia (Westpac.com.sg 2018).
The country that is focused upon is Singapore, with the help of a PEST analysis of Singapore, the rational of the company to expand in the country can be analyzed. Apart from that in order to understand the rational for choosing the country the intensity of competition also has to be identified. In order to understand the competition in the market Porter’s five forces will be used.
Westpac is an organisation that operate in the finance industry and has a established a strong base in the Singapore region. The objective of the operation is to provide the people of Singapore and Australia a smooth cross broader financial service. The operations of the business are mostly focused on the corporate and institutional customers. Following is the PEST analysis of Singapore in order to understand the reason why the company chooses to establish their operations in this region:
Political: Singapore is a republic based on parliamentary democracy, the government of the country is focused on providing the people with better opportunities in life so that they can lead a higher standard of living (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018). The government of the region is stable and has an understanding relation with the people as well as the business environment. The government understands the importance of international investment in the economy and encourages the same with low rates and removing other trade barriers. Australia and Singapore has a long history of healthy trade relations, from the time of the country gaining independence there are a number of companies that has invested in Singapore. The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was signed in 2003, which has made the processes in the business environment easier for the organizations (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018). In Southeast Asia the bilateral relationship with Singapore is one of Australia's most comprehensive relations and this is because of the tourism, education, defense and commonwealth ties in between the two countries (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018). Therefore, it can be said that the opportunity of an organisation like Westpac in the country is supported by both the governments of the two countries, following some of the amends in the agreement; it can be expected to see an improvement in the trade relations in between the two countries in such case the services of Westpac will be of significant importance. Foreign labour, addressing weak productivity growth and increasing wages are some of the areas of focus for the government to improve (Ho 2014).
Strategic Relationship with DBS Bank
Economic: The GDP of Singapore is 305.76 USD (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018) and is observed to have a growth trend. The growth from the previous year is recorded at 3.5 percent owing to the global demand for electronic gadgets (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018). The economy of Singapore is dependent significantly on international trade and thus is featured with an open economy (Austrade.gov.au 2018). Australia has a significant trade and investment relationship with Singapore, trade in services in terms of export to Singapore amount at 5,333(A$m) in 2017 ans import from Singapore amounts to 5,141(A$m) (Dfat.gov.au 2018).The economy of Singapore has the potential to grow further thus making the economic ties in between the two countries stronger. Financial services are one of the most dominating industries in the economy of Singapore providing Westpac further opportunity in the country (Hargreaves 2015). According to the 2017 economic freedom index Singapore is in the 2nd position (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018). This aspect of the country makes it easier for foreign investors to freely operate in the region(Austrade.gov.au 2018). This is also one of the reasons for Westpac choosing the country to be the Asian Headquarters.
Social: tourism art culture and education are some of the aspects of the society that ties the two countries together. Singapore is a country whose society is characterized to be enjoying a high standard of living owing to the developed economy. The country is a secular state and the people are accepting in terms of changes and development. Education is given importance in the society and there are a number of languages spoken the country, English is the business language and thus it is easy for Australian companies to operate in the region. The Singapore community in Australia stands at over 70,000 people, including more than 8,000 Singaporean students (Dfat.gov.au 2018). Financial institutions and banks in the country form a significant part of the society as it ensures that the people are secure in terms of their financial background (Dfat.gov.au. 2018).
Technology: Singapore has been one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and is also a part of a number of benchmarking innovations in the technology (Ho 2014). The financial industry in the country is digitalized and therefore, Westpac has a number of alliance and strategic relations based on the facilities that digitalization can provide the customers (En.portal.santandertrade.com 2018). The people of the country accept changes in technology and incorporate it in their daily lives (Ho 2014). Social media communication, digital banking, usage of Smartphone etc are some of the features of the technological advanced of the society. The government of Singapore also invests in research and development as well as technological infrastructure so that people can utilize the facilities of technology that is available ((Ho 2014).
Choice of Singapore for Expansion
The above analysis of the country indicates the prospect that the company has found in the expansion strategy. There are opportunities as well as support from the authorities which has made the process of business easier for the company.
The company was set to expand in the Asian market due to the increase in the business ties in between the two countries. The above PEST analysis indicates that the Australia and Singapore have healthy business connections. The segment of business operations carried out in Singapore is: day to day banking and corporate banking (Westpac.com.sg 2018). In day to day banking the services includes ways to help the customers move to Australia or New Zealand. This is to support the people who choose to move to the countries for education or work or just to travel. Not only that the bank also assists the people who have been living in Singapore trying to return to Australia and New Zealand. The focus on the country and the customers has made the company make a unique service in the otherwise intense market in Singapore. The services of Westpac help the people connect with the right person at the right time in the process of transition. It also helps the people to deal with finances by allowing them to use the platforms that the company has strategically built through strategic relations. These services include: ATM services, digital banking platforms, mobile banking services, customer care response etc (Westpac.com.sg 2018).
Another business segment that Westpac has developed over the years is the corporate service support. This segment in the business helps institutional clients to do business across the border and acts as a bridge in between the business environments of Australia and Singapore (Westpac.com.sg 2018). The company has the facility of customizing the services as per the clients’ requirements. This segments has a number of services like development of relations, transactional banking, international trade, assists the people in foreign exchange, focusing on the debt markets etc. this helps the clients in developing an understanding of both the markets and in the process deal with the financial process that lie ahead (Westpac.com.sg 2018).
The services of the company are focused on individuals who are associated with Australia and New Zealand in Singapore. Not only that the major clientele of the company in Singapore are corporate organisation who have their business in either of the two countries. This specialized service has helped Westpac maintain their competitive advantage in Singapore. The services of Westpac Singapore are exclusive and customizable (Hargreaves 2015). The monetary authority of Singapore is the authoritative body in the country that governs the financial institutions in Singapore. There are over 200 banks in Singapore and significant number of companies has chosen to form their base their operational headquarters in the country to service the Asia-Pacific region (Mas.gov.sg 2018). The country is well connected and has a good network with the global business access the approximately 4 billion strong Asian markets within a radius of 7 hours’ flight time (Mas.gov.sg 2018). The porter’s five forces framework will help in analyzing the competitiveness of the company in the industry.
Business Segments and Competitive Approach
Threat of new entrants: there are chances for a new company to enter the market and the segment of business that Westpac serves in Singapore. This is due to the facilities that are provided by the countries in terms of improving their trade. On the other hand, Westpac is a company that has been in the market for a long time and over this period the company has established significant reputation and goodwill in the industry (Srivastava et al. 2013). For a new company to deliver the same kind of service and gaining similar trust is difficult. Therefore it can be said that the threat of new entrants for Westpac in Singapore is medium (Dobbs 2014).
Intensity of competition: there are a number of banking and financial support institutions in the country, but the segment of the market that is served by Westpac is niche and exclusive which makes it one of a kind service provider. Hence it can be said that the intensity of competition for Westpac is low.
Bargaining power of the customers: As the intensity of competition is low the switching cost of the customers in the Singapore financial market is high for the customers of Westpac. Hence the bargaining power of the customers is low in this case (Srivastava et al. 2013).
Bargaining power of the suppliers: Both for the customers as well as for the suppliers when the intensity of competition in the market is low, the bargaining power of the suppliers falls as they have no other option than to choose from the option that is available.
Threat of substitute: The substitute to the services of Westpac is other banks of Singapore who has their branches in Australia and New Zealand. These banks provide their customers with similar options. These cannot be said to be direct competitors as the company is not based in Australia (Dobbs 2014).
From the above discussion it can be concluded that the company has built its niche market successfully in the Singapore finance industry.
While running a business in the country of origin or the host country for a multinational organisation it is important to understand and keep up with the changes in the industry. As mentioned above the external factors that impact the business environment are not under the control of the company, the managers and the leaders of the organisation has to have a contingency approach in the management in order to deal with changes and maintain flexibility in the process. In order to foresee changes and understand the ways a change will impact the situation. The information regarding the market is called market intelligence and there are a number of ways by which Westpac can gather market information (Bryman and Bell 2015). This information can be gathered from either primary sources or secondary sources. Primary information is the new data that is collected by a number of tools that the company can employee. On the other hand secondary information is collected from the data that is already available. this information can be collected form official documents, information in the official websites, e-documents, journal articles, news articles, purchased information form research papers by research organisation etc (Bryman and Bell 2015).
The market intelligence that is gathered by the company is used to make strategies by which the company can cater to the current and potential requirements of the customers as well as deal with the competition in the market. On the other hand it also helps the company to achieve the objective of the business as well. Some of the ways in which Westpac gathers intelligence are: market research, the company has a research team that conducts market research in order to address some of the problem areas that the company might face (Eriksson and Kovalainen 2015). Research gives detailed insight of the industry as well as the trends in the market. The market research helps the company to formulate policies and develop ideas which will be impactful and positive for the company. There are also cases where the company also heirs third party research organisation to conduct the process on their behalf.
Official documents that are realized by the organisations be it authoritative organisation or business organisation, which are available for the public consumption are a good source of authentic data regarding the changes in the business environment. The source of information is one of the major aspects that have to be in check as the authenticity of the information lies in the source from which it has been derived (Sekaran and Bougie 2016). For example: there are a number of treaties and trade agreements in between Singapore and Australia, for Westpac to be updated by the detailed information about the agreements they can go through the documents that are available on the website. This will help the company to formulate policies and develop understanding of the changes and use it for the benefit of the company.
A part of market intelligence is competitive intelligence where the company keeps a track of the competitors in the market. Some of the sources of getting information of the completion in are the sales and annual report of the competitor organisation (Bryman and Bell 2015). The sales information of the competitors also give out insight of the market that the competitors have been targeting and the ways in which they have been dealing with the challenges in the industry. Another way in which the company can get market information is the press releases published by the competition, based on the announcement the management can understand the policies and the steps that the competitors are taking in order to combat the other players in the market (Bryman and Bell 2015).
Do's and Don'ts of Conducting Business in Singapore
Information that is gathered from the internet or the search engines can also be used to determine the trends in the industry to gather general information regarding the market. However, there is also a certain amount of risk associated with the information that is available on the internet. The source of information should always be checked before making any decisions regarding the information. There are a number of open sources where information can be tampered with; hence the researcher should always be conscious about the source of information. For example Wikipedia is the most common address that is shown in search engines but, it is advised not to retrieve any information from the site as anyone without any authority can change the information in the website (Bryman and Bell 2015).
As a foreign company in Singapore, Westpac needs to be in sync with the external business environment in order to formulate any policies or take any other decisions for the company. In such cases the company will need to gather information regarding the industry and the market to maintain the competitive advantage (Hair et al 2016).
For a company that has planned to operate in the Asia-pacific region strategies to establish an operation center in Singapore owing to the factors that has been already discussed above. The country has a number of trade facilities and also a number of facilities in terms of its geographic locations from other major Asian markets. However, there are always barriers in the process of setting up a business internationally Singapore is also a global financial hub. Some of the factors that a company should keep in mind while setting up business in Singapore are:
Some of the factors that the companies should keep in mind while operating in Singapore as discussed below. There are a number of cultures that are prevalent in the country, which the organisations must understand and respect (De Jong 2013). There are native people and have their own set of cultural traditional however, there are also significant population of Chinese, Malay and Indian origin who follow their own culture (Chew 2017). Therefore, it is recommended for a company to understand the background of these cultures and develop the policies accordingly. The culture has to be analyzed as there are a number of etiquettes and behavioral aspects of each of these cultures which are different from the ones that are practiced in the western culture countries or even in Australia. The culture in the organization is formal in nature and thus organisations must ensure to communicate and approach in a formal way while dealing with other organisations based in Singapore (De Jong 2013). The companies in the country should be focused on innovations as the government of the country has strict rules of protection of intellectual properties. The safe and secure government and legal structure in the country helps the organization to run in a easy way, however, the companies must ensure that there is no corruption or malpractices in the company. The legal system of the country also has a number of strict regulations against corruption. In Singapore it is very important to make a good impression on the people and the customers and aligning with the cultural aspects of the country and the customers will help in creation of a good impression. The company must also adhere to the regulations of setting up the organization in the country following the legal jurisdictions (De Jong 2013).
Key Competencies for Success
Westpac has been operating in the Asian region for a significant period of time. The company has over the years of operation developed goodwill and reputation in the industry (Westpac.com.sg 2018). The major focus of the company in providing the people with better opportunities is the key to the success of the organisation in the region. The company is focuses on the customers and hence they make policies and innovations keeping in mind the needs and requirements of the customers (Westpac.com.sg 2018). The fact that the focus of the company in Singapore is on the people who are moving to Australia or has business in Australia or Australians who have moved to Singapore provides them a customized and niche market this is the core competency that sets the company apart from the other competitors in the market (Westpac.com.au 2018).
Westpac has been an organization which makes market leading strategies and the strategy that the company has been following in Singapore is successful as the company has a number of clients in the region and over the period of time the company has expanded its operation in a number of countries in Asia as well as developed several strategic relations as well (Westpac.com.au 2018). This has provided the company to serve the customers all over the world in a more effective way. Like many other organisations, the management of Westpac had analyzed the potential of the country 40 years ago, and the head office in Singapore has let the company explore other Asian countries as well. The company has seen 9 percent primary growth in Asia in 2017. However, in order to reduce the expenses of the company has reduced the expense contributed towards Asia (Westpac.com.au 2018).
Some of the challenges that the company has faced while doing business in Asia are:
- The adjustments with the difference in culture in the two countries are the most challenging aspect of doing business in Asia (Shenkar et al. 2014). The countries in Asia have a wide range of culture and cultural aspects that make the market unique as well as challenging for an organisation from Australia. Singapore is a multi-cultural country which comprises of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian communities, the company has to understand the culture and deal with the business carefully so that they process does not disrespect any of the cultures (Warner 2013).
- The focus on Australia and Australian clients has been a challenge for the company, dealing with a niche market in the foreign land requires strategic and efficient communication. In order to let the people be aware of the company and its existence is important in the initial stages (Shenkar et al. 2014).
- Another challenge that the company faced while operating in Asia is the fact that there are are issues with the convertibility of the currency (Warner 2013). On the other hand a number of economists have forecasted the stagnancy of the economic development in the countries. On the other hand, there are also a number of countries which are underdeveloped.
- Adherence with some of the legal aspects of running an organisation in the country is another challenge, for example, in Singapore it is necessary to have a director in the board of the company who is a citizen of the country (Shenkar et al. 2014). For a multinational company this can be a challenge however, this can be used as an opportunity as well. Westpac has some of the best employees in the Singapore division.
- Westpac is based in Australia and hence there are some of the employees who work in the Singapore division who are of the Australian origin, in such cases it becomes difficult to get the work pass (Shenkar et al. 2014). The Labour legislations imposed by the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore have made have incorporated a number of extra steps in obtaining the working pass in the country. Though the workforce of Singapore is recognized to be world’s most professional, there are strict employment limitations which makes the employment cost in the country high (Warner 2013).
Form the above discussion it can be concluded that Westpac has a unique take on the expansion strategy of the company. The company expands the business in order to support the clients rather than spreading the business internationally. The company is committed to promote Australian economy and the Australian clients and this is also the core competency of the company which has helped in gaining success in the foreign land.
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