Australia's top 200 companies are not 'Asia ready': report

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An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013.
An office worker walks past the board of the Australian Securities Exchange building displaying its logo in central Sydney April 5, 2013. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

The top 200 companies in Australia are not "Asia ready" and are not utilising local talent to tap into a swiftly rising market, a new report has revealed. It means Australia's leading businesses do not possess the skills needed to achieve business results in Asia.

Five years after the release of the Asian Century White Paper, research by Asialink Business together with PwC and the Institute of Managers and Leaders analysed 1,223 board members and 489 senior executives from the ASX 200. The report titled “Match Fit: Shaping Asia Capable Leaders” also looked at the top 30 private companies in Australia.

The research has found that up to 67 percent of ASX 200 board members show no proof of broad experience operating in Asia. Fifty-five percent demonstrate little to no knowledge of Asian markets.

Lack of local Asian talent

The report also discusses the lack of local Asian talent being deployed. Overall, companies are reportedly not tapping into Asian talent.

Of the ASX 200 board members, only about 4 percent are of Asian descent. The figure is well below the 12.2 percent of Aussies who declare their Asian ancestral background from the top 30 countries in last year’s census.

It also shows that female senior executives were at least four times more likely to display capabilities that make them ready for Asia compared to their male counterparts. Andrew Parkers, practice leader for PwC Asia, said it was unfortunate that several companies here do not value Asian skills and talent.

Parkers believes the main reason why Australian businesses are not moving into Asia is fear. He explains there is a dominant logic that says it is too risky.

Institute of Managers and Leaders chief executive David Pich suggested a shift in industry mindset towards seeking long-term growth, not short-term returns. "Asia offers businesses the chance to achieve double-digit growth but these returns are characteristically seen in the medium to long term. If you want results in Asia, it's important to have the right frameworks in place to foster these capabilities,” he said.

"If you look back over the past 25 years we [Australia] have done well by putting our commodities in boats and shipping them to the region, and that's helped feed a growing middle class," the Sydney Morning Herald quotes Parkers as saying. The big question for the nation now is whether the environment will continue for the next 25 years. Parkers suggested it should not.

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