Leading Chinese banker David Lei Wang wants to build a "bridge" between New Zealand and China. Wang is CEO of Bank of China (New Zealand) and for two years has been chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand, which has doubled its membership during his time.
His ambition is to increase the chamber's impact, raise its profile here and promote bilateral communication and co-operation between China and New Zealand.
"We want to help our members to be more involved in local society and strengthen the internal cohesion building," says Wang. "We do not just organise big events but also small conferences where local professional people can share their experience and advice with our members on how to do business with New Zealand."
The chamber is focusing on three areas: promoting bilateral trade; helping its members to do business in the New Zealand market ("we should comply with all the regulations and laws and to be a very good example for China"), and contributing to the New Zealand and Chinese economies.
The chamber now has around 100 members. They include well-known Chinese state-owned enterprises in New Zealand such as the Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, COSCO, Minmetals, China Southern Airlines, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Travel.
There are also large Chinese investors in New Zealand such as Haier Group and Beijing Capital, and well-known large-scale private enterprises such as Huawei, Shanghai Pengxin, Fuhua Group and Shanghai Cred.
Membership ranges across business sectors such as financial, dairy, industry, tourism, aviation, shipping, forestry, education, science and technology, insurance, trade and processing. There are also local Chinese companies where the owner is a permanent resident or New Zealand citizen, and Chinese experts who work for banks and law firms.
The chamber is very active. Each year it organises a Chinese New Year charity gala, and this year proceeds went to Auckland's Starship and the Auckland Philharmonia. Members also take part in sports events like Auckland's annual Round the Bays. Last year it hosted a successful tourism summit.
In April, the chamber will invite Chinese companies from the environmental industry to come here. And in October, some 20 private equity companies will travel from China to meet likeminded local firms and businesses that produce hi-tech products. Says Wang: "We also want to invite local companies from the same industry to have a very small forum -- maybe around 30 or 50 people -- for match-making and to share information."
We want to help our members to be more involved in local society and strengthen the internal cohesion.
Wang is the bank's inaugural chief executive in New Zealand and would like to "stay here a long time." He came here two years ago and observes that if you understand the local culture it is easier to expand business. "Although a business should break even and make a profit, the priority is to act as a bridge between China and New Zealand."
He explains the bank has a role to help achieve the target set by political leaders for $30 billion bilateral trade by 2020 by helping businesses to grow. "As the economy and bilateral business builds up our business will also build."
Bank of China has hosted e-commerce and agribusiness events, as well as co-hosting last year's tourism summit. "I also want to invite some local companies -- maybe 20 -- to attend a BOC global match-making conference in China to explore how to help New Zealanders export products to China and understand Chinese business."
He acknowledges New Zealand companies have local banking relationships but says if they wish to globalise the bank can assist with cross border transactions and innovative trade finance products.
On the M&A front, BOC used global services to support the Rifa Group's partial acquisition of Airwork Holdings.
The bank's chairman, Chris Tremain, notes that though the bank received its license in November 2014, it did not start trading until June 2015. "In less than two years we have seen significant growth increasing our balance sheet to north of $500m in assets," he says. "It's been great to see the focus on New Zealand businesses, with more than 75 per cent of our loan book with Kiwi companies.
"A highlight for me has been the RMB1.5 billion ($300m) multi-currency bank facility to Fonterra which we were able to lead and syndicate among sister banks in the BOC group. This provides a significant bridge between New Zealand and China helping to build Fonterra's business footprint on Chinese soil."