Fiducia Management Consultants Asia

THE SCOOP

A family affair

How did a German wind up founding a Chinese management consultancy? Jürgen Kracht completed his university studies in Bremen, Germany, and in 1970 took a position at Jebsen & Co., an international trading company with an office in Hong Kong. Relocating to Hong Kong in 1971, Kracht immersed himself in Chinese investment and trade practices over the next decade, eventually joining Continental Engineering (now Techtronic) in its Hong Kong office. There he served as finance director, overseeing the export of electronic consumer goods to Europe and the United States.

In 1982, Kracht took everything he had learned about business in Greater China and founded Fiducia Management Consultants along with his wife, Cynthia. It was an auspicious time for the couple, as the birth of Fiducia coincided with the Krachts starting a family of their own. The company was founded shortly after the couple welcomed two small children into the world and had another on the way. Cynthia, a Malaysian national and former legal executive, became the firm's second director.

Fiducia celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007 by bringing things full circle: Stefan Kracht was appointed head of the China consulting department. He had previously been responsible for human resources, infrastructure and administration firmwide. Stefan, who shuttles between the offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, entered the family business in 2005. Before joining Fiducia alongside his parents, Stefan worked for three years as a management trainee at global mail order leader Otto Versand (now known as Otto), as a consultant for two years at Bain & Co.'s offices in London, and co-founded a Shanghai-based materials trading company which he sold in 2004.

Building a bridge to China

With just four offices (in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai) Fiducia remains small and private, operating under the motto, "Your Bridge to Doing Business in China." Jürgen remains the firm's managing director, while Cynthia runs the corporate services department, which focuses on the incorporation of Hong Kong limited companies. The firm has a staff of approximately 100, consisting of multilingual Chinese, American and European consultants, many of whom have experience in Europe or the U.S. as well as in Asia. In addition to his duties at Fiducia, Kracht has served as an investment promotion ambassador for the Hong Kong government since 2004. He's also a board member of the Hong Kong Management Consultancy Association.

As a "one stop shop" for clients looking to do business in Greater China, Fiducia offers market intelligence, strategy development and realization, corporate advisory, accounting and controlling, trade support and personnel services. The firm prides itself on years of experience adjusting to China's fast-changing business trends and regulations; its teams are also well grounded in navigating the infamous mazes of Chinese bureaucracy. Fiducia's clients include large European and American multinationals, midsized companies with international operations and private-sector institutions from a wide range of manufacturing, trade and service sectors.

Consulting engagements generally focus on both industrial firms and business services firms, and have recently included assignments such as a distribution and customer demand analysis for a leading European steel manufacturer, a market assessment and China growth strategy for an international clean-tech solutions provider, and a competitor benchmarking study for a European multinational corporation that manufactures lighting and electrical components. For the most part, Fiducia works with multinational corporations that are already active in China, but need new strategies to compete with local and international firms moving into the region. In this regard Fiducia provides target search and commercial due diligence services to support international companies’ growth via M&A in China.

Alliances, alliances everywhere

Since 2001, Fiducia has been the China partner of Corporate Development International (CDI), an international company search firm with 50 offices in 35 countries worldwide. The firm also became a partner of AT Consult, an international consulting network of firms dedicated to internationalization and foreign business, in 2002. Fiducia then joined London-based Accountants Global Network (AGN) International in 2004; AGN International is an association of independent consulting, auditing and accounting firms. It's also affiliated with Platos, an independent operating consultancy with offices in Shanghai and Germany, and with Nuremberg-based consulting firm Schaffer & Collegen.

Read all about it

To disseminate its ideas, Fiducia publishes China Focus, a monthly newsletter that covers such topics as leasing in China, the cultural challenges that go along with employee retention in the country and the relative merits of establishing local headquarters in Beijing versus Shanghai.
The firm also produces a series of China province reportsâ€"overviews of the primary industries, investment strategies, industrial parks and economic development plans for some of the country's fastest-growing regions.

Clients (and potential clients) can also search Fiducia's China Biz Library, an online archive of articles and publications about business trends, regulations and strategy. For further reading, firm founder Jürgen Kracht is the author of the 2004 tome Successful Marketing and Distribution in China: Sector by Sector Case Analysis.

On the road again

Fiducia's consultants can frequently be found at speaking engagements and conferences throughout Asia and Europe, sharing their expertise on China. In November 2008, Fiducia consultants made a few stops in Europe, including at a briefing held by the China-Britain Business Council in London, to give a speech titled, “China Risksâ€"How to Identify, Manage and Avoid Them.†The speech was delivered in English or in German, depending on the location. Following that, in March 2009, Jürgen Kracht gave a speech in Munich on corporate governance in China and how to deal with thorny issues like corruption and fraud.

In addition to giving frequent talks, Fiducia consultants are regularly published and quoted in industrial/trade publications and newspapers on matters relating to China and Asia. In March 2009, Matthias Pfister, a business development executive for Fiducia in Shanghai, published an article in Business Forum China titled “Shanghai vs. Hong Kong vs. Singapore†comparing the positive and negative aspects of setting up a business in each of those cities. The article discussed things such as tax rates, office rental costs, and even the average cost of renting a hotel room. An article written by two other consultants at the firm analyzing the consolidation in China’s steel sector was published   in two separate industrial publications. 

 

Partners, partners everywhere

Since 2001, Fiducia has collaborated with Prima Consulting Group, a California-based consulting firm that specializes in creating partnerships between companies in Asia, Europe and the United States. Fiducia has access to the resources of Prima's offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, where consultants offer business development, technical development and public relations services.

For over six years, Fiducia has been the China partner of Corporate Development International, an international company search firm with 47 offices in 31 countries worldwide. The firm joined London-based Accountants Global Network International in 2004, and in 2002 became a partner of AT Consult, an international consulting network of firms dedicated to internationalization and foreign business. It's also affiliated with Platos, an independent operating consultancy with offices in Shanghai and Germany, and with Nuremberg-based consulting firm Schaffer & Collegen GmbH.

Read all about it

To disseminate its ideas, Fiducia publishes China Focus, a monthly newsletter that covers such topics as leasing in China, the cultural challenges that go along with employee retention in the country and the relative merits of establishing local headquarters in Beijing versus Shanghai.

The firm also produces a series of China province reports--overviews of the primary industries, investment strategies, industrial parks and economic development plans for some of the country's fastest-growing regions. Clients (and potential clients) can also search Fiducia's China Biz Library, an online archive of articles and publications about business trends, regulations and strategy. And for further reading, firm founder Jgen Kracht is the author of the 2004 tome Successful Marketing and Distribution in China: Sector by Sector Case Analysis.

Eventful ways

Fiducia's partners and consultants can frequently be found at speaking engagements and conferences throughout Asia and Europe. In summer 2007, they packed their bags for a number of events, including the China International Private Equity Forum in Tianjin, the FMC Sourcing Seminar in Shanghai (as part of a delegation from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute), a London workshop on private equity investment in China, HSBC's India Conference in Shanghai and the Asien-Pazifik Forum Bayern in Nuremberg.

Are you a "PowerPoint ace"?

Fiducia participates in campus recruiting at schools throughout Asia. The University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Fudan University and Beijing University are all on the recruiting list. For candidates interviewing at the associate or consultant level, an insider reveals that the hiring process consists of a CV review, a general written test and two interviews. For more senior positions, several rounds of interviews are conducted, including peer reviews and meetings with senior consultants and the firm's owners.

Candidates will encounter at least one case study during the interviews. A source advises, "Be able to do cases and think methodically, be a PowerPoint ace because it will be tested. Other than that, be nice and be professional." A colleague provides some examples of the kind of cases that are typically given during interviews: "Establish the market size for specialty chemicals in China," and "How many bottles of wine are consumed in Shanghai on a Friday night?"

The Fiducia family

Sources insist that because the firm is "family-owned and managed," the culture is distinctive. One says that what characterizes the work environment at Fiducia is a "very close-knit team with a family feel." An associate relates, "At Fiducia, your colleagues quickly become your close friends. We have a wide range of personalities and backgrounds, yet everyone gets along well. Team building is considered an important responsibility of project leaders, and the workplace is kept free of politics." Respondents tell us the "strong team spirit" endures even after employees have gone on to work somewhere else: "Our relations with alumni are amazing. Consultants who left years ago stay in touch and continue to join us in activities outside of work."

Furthermore, close relationships carry over between junior staff and the firm's management, we're told. An insider insists that "supervisors are always approachable." Reports also indicate that consultants get a good amount of direct exposure to clients. A staffer explains, "There is close contact with superiors and direct contact with clients, even when new to the firm. Our consultants develop skills at the most junior levels that others won't even begin to work on for several years at other firms. These are some of the best things about the company."

The lighter side of travel

Travel doesn't seem to affect the life of these consultants as much as it might at other firms, though the amount of travel "depends on the projects the consultants are assigned to." "I enjoy traveling and it has no harmful effects whatsoever," says an insider. Another source qualifies, "We have less frequent travel than many other firms, but because we focus on industrials, you often end up going to hellholes."

Some travel is actually desirable, though, according to one consultant: "For me, travel is still often the fun part of the assignment. It's when a team gets a chance to bond and there is just something fun for me about interviewing senior decision-makers and inspecting factories. By the end of an assignment, I'm usually tired of the industry or the main focus cities, but there are always some surprises."

Even keel

Because hours are relatively sane and travel is minimal, insiders say work/life balance falls into place. Asserts a source, "Fiducia employees maintain a lively after-work culture." According to another, "Work/life balance isn't such a serious problem at Fiducia. During critical project times, the hours can become a bit excessive, but overall, Fiducia is largely at the same levels as other firms. Overwork or doing work at the wrong time or in the wrong context is greatly discouraged."

In addition, the firm tries to make work hours as pleasant as possible. "They bring in fresh fruit a couple times a week. It's a small thing, but it does show consideration and effort. On the downside, eating McDonald's because of deadlines is still too common in the office," a respondent tells us. And insiders indicate that while hours might get tough sometimes, the firm is fairly understanding about taking time off. Notes one staffer, "For personal issues or family emergencies, Fiducia is quite accommodating."

Loyalty bonus

Insiders give mediocre marks to their salary, noting that for new consultants, compensation tends to be under market value at first. "Salary varies greatly by position, experience and special skills, but is generally in line with industry. Starting salaries are low, but loyalty and performance are rewarded, which can quickly make up for this if you're ambitious," a manager explains. A colleague reports, "A loyalty bonus is given after two years with the company--you receive a special bonus that increases each year."

The firm offers a few other perks like "birthday leave and special leave (compensating for work on weekends/public holiday)," as well as "small presents for birthdays, Christmas and Chinese New Year."

More mentors needed

About the only thing Fiducia consultants aren't too pleased with is the availability of official training. "Training can be improved," a source states, and a colleague elaborates, "Training is mostly informal and done through a mix of project leaders and seniors. Formal training is minimal, for better or for worse." Another insider confirms, "Most training is on the job and informal mentoring by direct supervisor." A co-worker mentions that training may be lacking because of the "limited number of mentors" to go around, a fact attributable to the size of the firm. As one staffer explains, it's difficult when there is no one to look out for junior staffers' training needs: "Taking care of and pushing for my own development sometimes falls a little behind."

A "mini United Nations"

Insiders give positive reviews to the firm's diversity, especially with regard to gender balance. While one insider in Hong Kong claims that "Fiducia employs more women than men"--"a good mix in most departments," a colleague adds--a source in Shanghai notes, "I think 30 percent of our consultants are women." The firm also does a great job, we're told, of employing individuals of different backgrounds: "Fiducia can be considered a mini-United Nations with 16 different nationalities," an associate says.

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Fiducia Management Consultants Asia


15/F, OTB Building
160 Gloucester Road
Hong Kong
Phone: +852-2523-2171
Fax: +852-2810-4494
www.fiducia-china.com

STATS


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Managing Director: Jürgen Kracht
  • 2009 Employees: 80

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